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Evaluating Evaluation

In Massachusetts, homeschooling parents, as the teachers of their children, are responsible for evaluating their progress. CARE AND PROTECTION OF CHARLES & others, 399 Mass. 324 (1987) clearly outlines three forms of evaluation: “Other means of evaluating the progress of the children may be substituted for the formal testing process, such as periodic progress reports or dated work samples, subject to the approval of the parents.” (Charles at 340) Parents may choose one of them to fulfill their responsibility.

Charles is clear that parents are the instructors and it is appropriate and acceptable for parents to evaluate their students’ progress. AHEM’s research shows that almost half of Massachusetts homeschoolers choose to submit a progress report, making it the most popular choice.

Recently, AHEM has heard from homeschoolers in various districts where school officials are hesitant to accept the authority of evaluations by parents. In these cases, schools request standardized test scores, extensive work samples, third party evaluations, or a parent-produced progress report combined with a second form of evaluation, such as work samples.

While school officials in the professionalized world of education may not want to accept parental evaluations as valid, the law in Massachusetts clearly allows parental evaluation. Homeschooling parents who want to choose a progress report as their form of evaluation need not be intimidated by demands for more.

Here’s one example of a way that a district might question your authority to evaluate the education of your children: In some districts, school officials create forms to facilitate their responsibility for homeschool oversight. Sometimes, the list of evaluation choices offered doesn’t include “progress report,” but may or may not include “other.” Homeschoolers can either write in “progress report” under the “other” category, or create an “other” category and write in “progress report.”

Some districts send out “conditional” approval letters stating that the education plan approval is “conditioned” on the submission of extra forms of evaluation. The response to such a letter could be based on various factors including the homeschooling family's past experience with the district, or the school official's track record with homeschoolers. One response could be to do nothing and submit the evaluation outlined in the original plan. Another option could be to respond with a letter thanking the school for the approval and reiterating that the form of evaluation outlined in the original plan will be submitted at the appropriate time.

Individual circumstances play a big role when determining how to respond to requests from school officials. As always, AHEM representatives are available to talk through options; find the contact in your area here.

This legal summary was not drafted by practicing lawyers and is not intended to constitute official legal advice, but rather is presented by AHEM volunteers and is based on their reading and understanding of Massachusetts homeschooling requirements as they have followed those requirements throughout the years. Readers still need to make their own decision on how best to proceed.