Wednesday, September 20, 2006

To test? Or not to test?

That is a question Michigan high school homeschoolers are going to have to decide by the spring of next year. (And if you're not in Michigan, read on because this probably happening in your state as well.)

Currently, Michigan has very relaxed homeschool laws. No testing, no reporting, no anything. However, the state is desperate to get homeschoolers back into the system. No Child Left Behind means exactly that. ALL children must be in the system so the state can track the children from preschool to college. But we homeschoolers are just a tad too independent to just willingly jump back in. Educrats have also failed in the legislature to change the requirements for homeschooling, so the state is looking for creative ways to make sure we're not "left behind" in the global economy. They are using online charters as one means to lure homeschoolers back into the fold, another is through testing.

In our state, testing isn't required but that doesn't mean we're not affected by state and federal testing requirements. Michigan's state exam, the Michigan Merit Exam (MME) is now facilitated by the ACT. The ACT and the state exam are now ONE exam. This legislative slight of hand will impact homeschoolers ability to enter college and gain employment. Previously, the ACT was an independent test paid for by the parents. Now it is a state funded exam run by the state through the public schools. Due to the change in the law, the only way homeschoolers can take the ACT is by going through the government. Pending approval of the test by the Department of Education, this change affects homeschoolers planning on taking the ACT in the Spring of 2007 and thereafter.

Michigan government officials want you to know you're still welcome to take their state exam and that it is definitely tied to college admission.

Students who are home-schooled also have the opportunity to participate in the MME - and in this way, obtain ACT scores that can be used for college admissions.
It's not that the ACT can be used for college admission. It will be. The MME is now required in our state to graduate. Taking the exam provides the "credentials" colleges and employers will look for in a candidate. Homeschoolers who don't take the state exam will not be as "desirable" a candidate for college admission or employment as those who have taken the state exam and acquired the credential. They will be at a competitive disadvantage. I already had one friend tell me her fifth grade public schooled son was recently declared "unemployable". How much more a high schooler who doesn't meet state "employability" standards whatever the state decides those are?

So why not just take the test?

In short this is not the same ACT test we may have taken to enter college. It has some of the same components but they've added an additional component, WorkKeys. In order to take the exam, homeschooled students MUST identify themselves to the local high school and they MUST participate in all assessments required of public school students. WorkKeys is included in those assessments. This is the state's way of bringing us back into the system. They even offer monetary incentives (commonly known as a bribe) to convince us it's in our best interest to submit to their test and credentialing process.

What is WorkKeys?

Quoting from the ACT document on Work Keys preparation,

The WorkKeys system consists of job profiling (finding out which skills are needed on the job), assessments (the tests you'll be taking plus several others), reporting (telling you how your skills match job requirements), and instructional support (guidance to educators related to improving students' skill levels).
How are these results used?

You can use your WorkKeys results to get a better picture of jobs you are ready for and to improve areas where your skills are weak. Employers can use the results to determine how qualified you are for positions in their organizations. And schools can use the information- along with input from employers - to ensure that their curriculum provides adequate work skills training to meet the needs of businesses.
This is career tracking and the primary goal of state testing all along. Colleges and employers will use these scores to select candidates for admission and job placement.

The whole purpose of education from the state's perspective is to do well on a test, to get a good job, to compete in the global economy. A uniform standard and test taken by ALL students will move us toward the goal of a state managed workforce. That's why Florida will require middle and high school students to declare a career major. I expect to see a similar measure introduced here in Michigan soon.

What is tested is what is taught, what is taught is what is thought. And that's why we homeschool. We don't want the state controlling what our child think. Nor is it the state's business what my child want's to be when they grow up. This is what John Taylor Gatto referred to as Fourth Purpose Schooling. Those that submit to the state and its "assessments" are at a competitive advantage to those that don't. Link government testing to college admissions is the state's back door way of regulating homeschooling without actually passing a law specifically requiring homeschoolers to take the state exam.

So homeschoolers the question is, do you take the test or not? What would you do if you lived in Michigan and your child's college entrance or employment depended on submitting to the state's "assessments"?

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