Guide to IOWA Testing: Rules for Homeschool

By Sandi Johnson

The Iowa Test of Basic Skills is one of many options available to homeschoolers who want or are required to administer periodic standardized testing to their students. However, there are certain rules parents must follow in order to use this assessment option.

Iowa Test of Basic Skills, Homeschool Version

In terms of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, homeschool families will note little difference between the test taken by public elementary school students and those taken by homeschoolers. University of Iowa’s College of Education developed the test in 1935 to meet the educational goals of Iowa’s elementary education system. As the program expanded, school systems outside the state of Iowa began participating. The purpose of the test is not to indicate the effectiveness of teaching methods or lesson plans. Rather, the purpose of the testing is to identify a student’s academic strengths and weaknesses, while measuring skill development, much like other assessment tests.

Measuring student skill development In the early grades, the test consists of questions read aloud by parents to young students. Students fill in bubbles to select pictorial representation of their answers. Once students reach the equivalent of third grade public school skills, they must read questions and select their own answers without assistance. Again, students fill in bubbles on answer keys, relative to their responses to test questions. Most questions are multiple choice.

Deciphering Test Levels and Their Purpose

In terms of testing skills, development divides into two primary groups for the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. Homeschool families should therefore determine where their child falls in terms of their own skill development and prepare for testing accordingly. The first group encompasses Levels 5-8, while the second encompasses Levels 9-14. The primary division between levels is the ability to read and write independently. Levels 5-6 are intended for students in kindergarten to first grade. Levels 7-8 are for students up to second grade. Levels 9-14 are used once students are able to read and perform in more traditional test settings. These levels are recommended for grades 3 and higher.

Levels 5-8 test students on listening vocabulary skills, where students match pictures to spoken words. There is limited reading comprehension testing only in Levels 6 or higher, most with pictorial cues. Math skill assessments are limited in Levels 5 and 6, and cover basic numbering and sequencing, with students progressing to simple word problems in Levels 7 and 8. There are no Science or Social Studies skill assessments until students reach Level 7 testing. As with other skill areas, students are given oral questions and select pictorial or numeric answers.

Levels 9-14 graduate in complexity as students’ skills develop, beginning in the third grade and culminating in the eighth grade. At this level, it is assumed students are able to read as well as write. Therefore, reading comprehension, spelling, proper grammar including capitalization, punctuation, and other language arts skills are tested appropriately. Likewise, the ability to compute mathematical problems, use math skills to estimate, problem solve, and interpret data is tested with increasing complexity for each level. Science and Social Studies test students’ ability to read and decipher maps, diagrams and other reference material. In terms of Science, students must demonstrate the ability to infer and hypothesize using basic scientific principles.

How to Administer the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, Homeschool Rules

Unlike public school environments, testing for homeschoolers is not automatic or unlimited in terms of who can administer certain tests. Concerning the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, homeschool families must meet teaching criteria in order to fill requirements. The test publisher requires homeschool parents to hold either a bachelor’s degree or teaching certificate. Therefore, in order to administer the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, homeschool parents must submit an application to test providers for approval before ordering the full battery of tests.

Once the parents’ application is approved, tests can be ordered, administered, and scored year round by a variety of vendors and test providers. The testing is intended for yearly assessment of students’ skills and development. However, homeschool parents often choose their testing schedule according to their own needs and state requirements. In terms of test scoring and results, most providers offer machine scoring and result interpretation for parents via return mail. Others will provide hand scoring and a more detailed analysis of test results for an additional fee.

Each state has guidelines for standardized assessment or achievement tests such as the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. Homeschool parents should familiarize themselves with the rules of not only the Iowa test itself, but also their own state requirements and laws governing homeschool students. Some states, such as Georgia, require parents to administer tests on a regular basis, but parents need only retain records for three years. Other states, such as Colorado, require submission of test results to prove minimal achievement and maintain eligibility for homeschool education.

References and Resources

The Iowa Test of Basic Skills: Laws by State:

BJU Press Iowa Testing Options:

Triangle Education Assessments, LLC Iowa Testing Options:

Image courtesy of Flickr