The Arkansas home school law requires home school students to take a nationally recognized norm-referenced achievement test in the same grades that norm-referenced testing is mandated for public school students. The norm-referenced test must be approved by the State Board of Education.
This means that if public school students are required to test every year, home school students must do the same. If norm referenced testing is eliminated for public school students, home school students would not have to test at all.
In 2003, the Arkansas Legislature mandated norm referenced testing for public school students in grades 3 through 9. The State Board of Education has approved use of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills for both public and home school students. They are required only to take the reading comprehension and math problem solving portions of the test, which takes approximately 1/2 day to complete.
In 2006, the State Board of Education chose a hybrid test for public schools, consisting of both the ACTAAP and SAT 10. Home schoolers continue to take the Iowa Basic Skills test.
In April of each year, home school students will take the reading and math portions of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. It is the responsibility of the local Education Service Cooperative to notify home school parents about when and where to take the test. In Pulaski County, notification is done by the local school district. The state-mandated test is paid for by the State of Arkansas.
Penalties for Not Taking the State Mandated Test
Arkansas law states that home school students who refuse to take the state-mandated home school test can be charged with truancy. Truancy is a crime punishable by penalties ranging from a simple fine to imprisonment of the parent and loss of custody of children. Refusing to take the test would involve a parent knowingly not submitting their child to state-mandated testing or willfully disobeying the law that requires students to take the test.
Students may fail to take the test and not be penalized. Students might miss the test due to illness, family emergencies, or other legitimate reasons. To avoid investigation by authorities or possible truancy charges, parents who’s children miss the test for legitimate reasons should contact the AHSTO to explain their reasons for missing the test. A contact number is usually included with material sent regarding when and where to take the test. Once the appropriate person has been contacted, the home school family and those in charge of testing will need to work out acceptable arrangements regarding testing.
The Purpose of State-Mandated Testing
Home school test scores are compiled by the Arkansas Department of Education in Little Rock for statistical purposes only. This enables the Department to average the test scores of home schoolers in a certain grade and compare them with public school students in the same grade. Parents will be mailed a copy of their student’s test scores. This provides parents with a measure of how their child is doing compared to other students who take the test. There are no penalties for students who do poorly on the test and there are no rewards for students who do well.
Arkansas law allows home schoolers to conduct alternative testing. An alternative testing plan must be approved by the AHSTO. Home schoolers wishing to conduct alternative testing must use the same test that has been approved for all home schoolers by the State Board of Education. They must find a certified test administrator to give the test and they must order and pay for the test themselves. The test dates may differ from the dates established for annual testing by the State of Arkansas, as long as they are approved by the AHSTO. Alternative testing may be set up for as few as one student. Tests of home school students who participate in alternative testing are not sent to the Arkansas Department of Education nor are they calculated as a part of Arkansas’ overall home school test scores.
Currently, there are 47 state-sponsored test sites. Testing traditionally occurs during the month of April. Parent information packets will be mailed in January. If you do not receive your packet by February, contact the home school testing office. The deadline to register for testing is usually mid March.
For more information on home school testing contact the Arkansas Home School Testing Office.
Arkansas Home School Testing Office (AHSTO)
101 Bulldog Dr.
Plumerville, AR 72127