Though some states don’t require standardized testing, many cover schools (aka umbrella schools) require standardized testing yearly. There are many varying opinions on the pros and cons of giving standardized tests to homeschooled children.
I rode the fence for a while because we homeschoolers often don’t stick to teaching what is expected at certain grades. For example, you may plan to teach Alabama history to your 3rd & 5th grade children the same year rather than teach one child at a time. In most public and private schools however, Alabama history is taught in the 4th grade. If you were to give a standardized test to your oldest child, a 4th grader, he would be certain to score lower in the Social Studies section simply because you hadn’t covered Alabama History yet. As long as you take that into account and don’t stress over it, it’s not a big deal.
Some of the most common standardized tests given to K-12 are the Stanford Achievement Test, Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS), and the California Achievement Test (CAT). Commercial test publishers developed standardized tests to give you a snapshot of the academic skills and abilities of a large number of children in the same grade level. Many people think standardized tests indicate how your child compares academically to grade-level expectations, but really the test shows how your child compares to other children of the same grade level, during the same time-period. (7th month of grade 4, for example).
Even if your cover school doesn’t require standardized testing, you should consider having your child tested every 2-3 years starting around 3rd grade. (Though there are tests for the younger grades, I personally feel the hours spent testing puts too much stress on such young children.)
Think of standardized testing as a way to reassure yourself, your spouse, and other family members that your child is learning on-par with other children at their grade level. The key here is to go into testing with the knowledge that your child will very likely be below average in some areas, average in some areas, and above average in some areas. The results are simply comparing your child to others in the same grade and does NOT reflect on your child’s overall intelligence, nor your teaching ability.
How should you use your results? On the days you’re short on teaching time, work on the areas your child scored lower in. Don’t forget to use a variety of teaching methods that include listening, reading, writing or drawing, and hands-on elements when applicable.
Sample results from a homeschooled 3rd grader.