Every state has different homeschool laws. Some have no requirements for homeschoolers, some have very strict requirements, and others fall somewhere in the middle. Here in Arkansas we have a few requirements. We have to file a Notice of Intent before Aug 15th or Dec 15th of the semester you want to begin homeschooling, or 15 days before you pull your child out during the year. We also have to sign a waiver stating that the State of Arkansas is not responsible for the education of our children, and finally we have to take the same norm referenced standardized tests in the same grades the public school is required to take.
The test we have taken for years is the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. Grades 3-9 used to have to take the full battery, but a few years ago that was changed and now they only have to take the math and reading portion. The parents are the only ones who get the individual results. The state get results for homeschoolers as a whole, not individual results. You cannot pass/fail the Iowa Test, it just shows how well you answered the questions compared to other students in the country.
Personally, I thin the requirement for homeschoolers to take standardized tests is absolutely ridiculous. It makes me take a day off from our productive school work to take a test that means nothing and cannot accurately gauge what your student knows or doesn't know. But, we do it because it is part of the law.
There are some homeschool parents who like to know where their child is compared to public school children, but I don't believe a standardized test is a good judge of that. We do not test with the public school, we have our own testing site, but for many students it is the only time they are in that kind of testing situation. When each of my children reach third grade, I have to sit down and shown them how to fill in the bubbles on a test answer sheet because testing is not something we do. Plus, many children just do not test well. That doesn't mean they do not know the answers, but the testing situation itself makes them nervous enough that they don't do as well as they should. Also, many children have tons of strengths and talents and knowledge that just cannot be measured on a standardized test.
When they call the test a "Basic Skills" test, it is truly what they mean. The questions are VERY basic and not a true measure of what a child at that grade should know. Also, the questions are repeated from year to year. When my oldest son took the test in 3rd grade he remembered some of the same questions from that test the next year, and the next.
So, if standardized testing is not a good measure to see what your homeschooled child knows, what is? In a homeschool, you are right there alongside of your child. Even with older children who may be completing much of the work on their own, you still have the opportunity to discuss and go over their work. You will know what they know. You will learn their strengths and weaknesses and what areas they may need to work more in. No two children are alike and we do not have to compare them to other children in the country in their grade to know that they are doing ok in school.
If you live in Arkansas, you may already know that there will be changes in our testing requirement voted on this year. I strongly suggest for Arkansas homeschoolers and also homeschoolers in other states to know the laws in your state and stay informed as to what is going on in the homeschooling world.