Portfolios, evaluations and tests Oh my!
It’s that time of year when you are getting your samples together for your evaluator or portfolio. Don’t panic, especially if you are new to this whole process. If you were organized throughout the year, there is really nothing to worry about. If you learn nothing else today, remember you don’t need every single item to show to the evaluator. It can be overwhelming sure, but believe me – I always bring way too much, and they tell me every time.
HSLDA has information on a state by state basis that shows what is required of your student to be promoted. You may be surprised, you may not need very much for your evaluation. You want to start by knowing all the facts, do some research and you will be prepared. One more thing is don’t make this a big deal for your child. They will sense if you “panic”, so do your best to keep cool. From past experience, homeschooled students, for the most part are usually over achievers (parents are anyway).
There is a list of guidelines by Robin Sampson with checklists for evaluating progress in language arts, math social studies and science (k-8th) as well as character development. Most parents find it reassuring to have some guidelines for their children’s progress. Check out this book:
What Your Child Needs to Know When: According to the Bible, According to the State–Expanded Edition
By Robin Sampson / Heart of Wisdom Publishing
God and the state are not always on the same page when it comes to your children’s education. Sampson looks at their differences and explains how to teach and evaluate your kids from a biblical perspective using the “Heart of Wisdom” approach—a strategy of reading the Bible while incorporating all academic subjects. This edition of Sampson’s bestseller includes new evaluation checklists. 296 pages, softcover from Heart of Wisdom.
Some states may require periodic progress reports, while others require standardized testing or some other for of evaluation. No matter what the legal requirement, you may want to have a more formal assessment done for your own personal peach of mind. You know when the results come in, you feel like the results are about you, and if you did a good job with your child.
The three most commonly used methods of assessment are standardized testing, evaluations, and portfolio submission.
Make sure you are aware of your state’s deadlines for the tests and assessments. You will need to have everything in hand before the testing materials are due – so order what you need ahead of time. It could take weeks to get some standardized testing results back, so be prepared. Below are a few of the commonly used tests. You can go
online and familiarize yourself with all of them, and decide which would be appropriate for your child.
- Basic Achievement Skills Inventory (BASI) for grades 3–12
- California Achievement Test (CAT)
- Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS)
- Stanford Achievement Test (Stanford-10 or SAT, not to be confused with the College Board SAT)
No matter what test you decide to use, it is very important to test with integrity. You must make sure you honor the time limits on the test, if this will be an issue with your child, I suggest you choose a more fitting test for your child (Standard 10). If we, as homeschoolers, don’t faithfully complete and follow all the directions, this will only hurt our chances of using these options in the future.
Evaluations are used many times for the pure non-pressured environment this gives your child. This is simply an assessment given your child to see and learn the progress of your child. It is given by an educational professional, usually a certified teacher or other professional. In some states this can even be someone with a master’s degree in any certain discipline. Again, you can check this on a state-to-state basis as to what would be appropriate for you. The evaluator will normally let you know what will be expected before hand so you and your child can both be prepared. You will most probably need a portfolio of your child’s work, and your child will have to spend some time talking to the evaluator.
A few things to ask a potential evaluator:
- What do you charge?
- Do you have any references I may call?
- What are your educational credentials?
- Will you include recommendations or suggestions for me?
- What will you need from me/my child when you arrive (or we meet you)?
There are, of course, other questions you can ask, and don’t be afraid to get some feedback from other homeschoolers who have used certain evaluators. Word of mouth is usually the best idea when searching for something as important as this. Remember all of this is at the discretion of the school superintendent in your state/county. They will want to make sure your child is making adequate progress in the areas of language arts and math especially.
A portfolio is really no big deal either, it is just a sort of scrapbook or a collection of your child’s work for the year. Some states will let you turn this in without using a professional evaluator, so again, so important to find out your state’s law. You will automatically have all these items on hand, especially if you kept a month by month folder perhaps, to keep track of those extra special items you are proud of. Some items you may want to include in your portfolio are:
- Reading log – books that were read though the year
- Scope/sequence of the curriculum used for language arts and math
- Photos of your child doing school work, on field trips, on sports teams, socializing with others, etc.
- List/description of projects and achievements.
- Samples of your child’s work at various times during the year- make sure these are in chronological order so progress can be seen
Again, if you have been prepared throughout the year, this will not be too much of a hill to climb for you. As I stated at the beginning, you do not need a ton of work, just enough to show progress. Some parents can lug around huge 3-ring binders full of book reports, science projects, math quizzes – well don’t get carried away. You really only need “one” 3-ring binder! Make this part of your child’s everyday schedule – let them start to make a scrapbook of the things they are most proud of.