Explanation of CHEC’s "No On-site Exam" Policy
The CHEC board has evaluated the option of allowing exams to be given on-site during CHEC’s Friday classes, and after discussion and evaluation, the board has decided that on-site exams will not happen at co-op. The board determined that this approach (1) honors and respects the autonomy of individual homeschools, and (2) protects CHEC from unnecessary management of an exam schedule.
At a glance, this may seem unnecessarily restrictive. This document seeks to explain how on-site exams will create a variety of unintended consequences and infringe on the autonomy of homeschool parent-teachers.
We want to begin by emphasizing that co-op teachers are always free to offer any assessment tools to parents to use as they see fit, and parents who desire group testing are of course free to arrange test days for one or several classes on their own time.
There are three primary reasons the board decided that individual homeschools, rather than CHEC teachers, should choose how, when, where, and whether to give their students offered course exams:
First, when a school gives major exams, the school usually dedicates a period of preparation time sufficient to the seriousness of the task. For instance, colleges and high schools often have dead week to remove barriers to success. Those schools stop extracurricular activities, and some colleges (Texas A&M, for instance) even call off classes during the time set apart for serious studying for cumulative exams. At co-op, we cannot choose the week that individual homeschools should set apart for such serious studies. In the last week that CHEC meets each semester (not usually or necessarily the last week of each homeschool’s semester), there are likely many competing activities in our students' lives (sports, lessons, church activities, travel, etc.). CHEC obviously cannot speak for our small segment of the homeschool community and ask that all these competing activities cease in all the realms in which our various families participate.
Parents are best able to decide when (and if) their homeschools are going to give exams based on when they can simplify life and optimize the particular assessment tools they choose. If a CHEC teacher makes an exam available for individual homeschools to use, the assessment tool’s very purpose of assessing students’ knowledge is optimized when given at the best time for the students in that homeschool. Giving an exam on CHEC’s schedule, rather than the various families’ schedules, actually compromises the exam’s very purpose, which is accurate assessment.
This happened with a student in co-op last year. The week that an exam was given, the family had an unusually full week. The student also had temporarily fallen behind pace because of a family trip. Wisely, realizing that if the student took the exam at co-op, the exam’s purpose would have been compromised, the student’s parents opted him out of the exam. He took a study hall. He did take the exam later at home and did very well. There were other families with students in the same class and similar circumstances (busy week, not an ideal time to prepare), but opting out of the exam did not occur to them. Their students took the exam and many did poorly. Most of those families set apart time later and re-tested their students. Opting out is a great solution that allows families to choose the best week to test their students. Unfortunately, however, every time an exam is given, we will have large numbers of students sitting in the foyer. If co-op is going to have some students in the rooms testing, and some kids opting out on the last day of co-op, why not let parents do it on their time in their homes? This meets the goal of allowing parents to test on their schools’ schedule and the goal of maximizing the participation during the last week of co-op. For parents who desire a deadline and the experience of group testing, they are of course free to arrange a day to give one or many exams for interested families.
Second, a school has to decide what type of assessments it values and uses in deciding mastery and overall grades. Co-op cannot decide what tools parents must use, so again, opting out becomes an option.
For example, an exam offered could be cumulative for the whole year. Some homeschools among us may not value that type of exam enough to dedicate time and effort to studying the entire book or course. Weighing the amount of work and preparation time, they may decide they are content to compute overall grades from the chapter or module exam grades. Families will disagree on the value of that type exam, but we are not the masters of others’ homeschools. The exam could be offered at co-op, but again, with the option not to take it, we would have some kids in class and some kids sitting in the foyer. Why not let parents who desire the test to do it on their time in their homes? Again, if they want a deadline or the experience of group testing, they are free make that happen without CHEC’s assistance and organization.
Third, a school that takes examinations seriously staggers major exams so that the students are not taking them all on the same day. CHEC has one class day the last week of each semester. When parents give exams in their homeschools, staggering exams is easy. Privately-arranged group testing would also be able to accommodate a staggered schedule.
These three issues are easily resolved if families continue to handle assessment at home. If CHEC were to schedule and accommodate on-site exams, a new layer of co-op management would be necessary to make the exam process wise and valuable (and optional). CHEC is successfully meeting the objectives of its current mission. That mission is enrichment of content through lectures, activities, shared love of the particular subjects, and necessary pacing to make this collective enrichment possible. When an organization tries to do more than it can do well, it sometimes messes up what it was doing well to begin with.