WyCAS Testing — Yes or No?
The following articles appeared in the Thermopolis Independent
Record. They are opinions on testing homeschoolers in
Wyoming. The first opinion was written by the editor, who
brought up the subject of testing all students. A letter was
printed in response to the editor's opinion followed by an
Home School Legal Defense will be addressing this dialogue at
the State Convention this spring. They have encouraged
homeschoolers - even outside Thermopolis - to write a
response or make a phone call.
Thermopolis, WY 82443
Our state government has answered the cry for more
information about how Wyoming youngsters are doing in public
school. For the second year, students in grades five, eight and
11 are taking the WyCAS tests to measure how much they are
learning in some of the key subjects.
The tests come from outside the state but are based on
learning goals set after extensive meetings and research
across our state. The tests aren't perfect, but then none are.
Most importantly, the results by school are released for
everyone to see. We don't see how individual students did,
only the averages, highs and lows by school. The results must
be taken with a grain of salt, especially for the first few years
while we develop a basis for comparison. However, there is
good, solid information in the results which will allow local
school districts to spot some of the weaknesses and work on
finding a way to help students in those areas. All youngsters
in public schools, including those with learning disabilities,
must take the tests.
But there is a major weakness with the Wyoming testing
system. Students who are being taught at home or in private
schools are not being required to take it. If we really care
about all the children of Wyoming, we must find a way to
encourage or even force every youngster to take the test.
Those who support private or home school education should be
willing to show just how well their children are doing; after all
that group includes some of the people who have been most
critical of public education.
It would also go a long way toward helping solve another
problem in Wyoming. Some children are not going to school at
all. We are letting them withdraw from public school, then not
making certain those children are getting the education they
will need to cope in a modern world. While there may not be
many, even one youngster not being offered the opportunity to
excel is a blot on the record of a generation which had parents
and grandparents who found a way to develop a mandatory
education system which catapulted American into its role as
the nation which is leading the world.
Not everyone finds it possible, or even considers education
their own children at home. For this reason we are grateful to
public and private schools for filling in for parents.
The logic expressed in the recent editorial suggesting that
home schoolers should be tested just like public school
students is missing. The purpose of the statewide testing of
public schools in Wyoming is not to assess how each
individual student is doing, but to compare school district to
school district to see how they are doing.
Obviously, the students are being tested frequently over the
materials that they are being taught in the classroom, which is
an accurate reflection of how much the individual student is
learning. The statewide testing in many cases will not be an
accurate representation of how an individual student is doing in
The purpose of the test is to compare one public school to
another and the overall performance of public schools in
educating students. Those purposes do not support
mandatory testing of home school students. Since there is no
logical purpose for comparing one home school to another (the
student population is too small in each school for valid
comparison), the only logical basis for testing home school
students is to find out how homeschoolers, in general, do.
That information is already available. There have been
numerous studies testing home schoolers across the nation on
how well they do. Their test scores exceed the national norm,
which is the 50th percentile, by at least 20 percentile points.
Home schooling has already demonstrated that it is a superior
method of education pupils. The comparison between how well
home school students and public school students do is really
Educators tell us that the three basic foundational blocks for a
successful education program are low pupil to teacher ratio,
individualized instruction and a strong nurturing, disciplined
environment for learning. home schooling majors on these
three building blocks, which largely explains why home school
students test far above the average students' test scores.
The editorial states that testing would make sure that those
withdrawing from public school would get the education they
need to cope in a modern world, and even if only one youngster
benefited from mandatory testing for home schoolers, it would
be all worth it. The U.S. Supreme Court has indicated that this
kind of thinking is repugnant to the American tradition. In the
case of Parham vs J.R., 442 U.S. 548 (1979), Chief Justice
Burger wrote that parents can be trusted with the upbringing
and education of their children.
The statist notion that governmental powers should supercede
parental authority in all cases because some parents abuse
and neglect their children is repugnant to the American
There is no evidence in Wyoming that home school children's
education is being neglected. To the contrary, they are
required to file an annual notice with the local school district
and provide the curriculum that they will be providing. To
saddle Wyoming home schooler with mandatory testing
because of the suspicion that at least one youngster might be
saved, in un-American and shows extreme distrust of parents.
This type of thinking is statist. the notion that we cannot trust
parents because a few are not responsible must be rejected in
our nation and in the State of Wyoming.
We consider it a great responsibility and privilege to raise,
train, educate and enjoy our children. How we prepare our
children for life should be our choice, not the government's.
If you would like test scores and other proofs that home
schooling does work, write to:
National Home Education Research Institute
P.O. Box 1393
Cottage St. N.E.
Salem, OR 97309
Or call 503-364-1490. Ask for a reprint of "Home Education
Across the United States." Cost $2. Or visit their web site at
www.nheri.org for fact sheets.
-Dennis and Libby Meier
Despite a letter (and one other contact) to the contrary, there
was nothing in our editorial on making all the children of
Wyoming take the WyCAS test that criticized educating
children in private or home schools. What was criticized was
the fact we have some children who are sliding through the
cracks with little or no schooling. While some people would
have you believe otherwise, there is no law which local or state
school officials (or law enforcement) officials can use to make
certain every youngster is getting an education. There is
merely a procedure which orders reporting home school
students to local districts; it has no teeth. The editorial also
asked why home and private school students should not be
treated the same as public school students and take the same
test. Please don't cite out-of-state studies as proof that all
private or home school education is better; instead prove it by
supporting laws which would allow giving the same tests to all
Wyoming children. The claims against such testing sound
almost identical to those of people in public education who
opposed testing; yet those fears are being ignored and testing
has gone ahead. Our children are our future. Call it "statism"
if you must, but there is nothing wrong with using statewide
testing to make certain every Wyoming youngster receives at
least a minimum education.