Methods of Evaluation
The Charles court recognized that certain factors may be considered by the superintendent or school committee in determining whether or not to approve a homeschool proposal. One of these factors is a form of periodic evaluation of the children to ensure educational progress and the attainment of minimum standards. Charles says that school officials and parents should agree on a method of evaluation that may include one of the following approaches: standardized testing, periodic progress report, or dated work samples. Home visits may not be required as a condition of approval.
Parents in Massachusetts who prefer testing can choose from a variety of standardized tests. Some are administered by parents (ex: California Achievement Test), some by school officials (ex: CTBS), and some by a third party (ex: Stanford).
Dated work samples mean just that: a few samples of work with dates on them. You do not have to compile an extensive portfolio with narration to submit to the school although you might like to keep such records for your own use.
Narrative progress reports can double as your plan for the coming year if you include information about how current learning will be extended into the coming year, and what new areas will be added. WhileCharles does not specify that a homeschooling plan needs to be submitted annually, many towns expect annual plans. If you live in a town that stipulates your approval is valid for only one year, you might also add pertinent information such as length of homeschool year, qualifications of parents, along with the fact that you plan to submit one such report a year. There are links at left to sample progress reports that have been accepted in various towns in Massachusetts.
It is important to include in your education plan what form of evaluation you plan to use. That way if the school later asks you for a form of evaluation that you'd prefer not to use, you can refer them to your approved education plan in which you stated that you would submit your preferred evaluation, be it test scores, a progress report, or work samples.
Adding a line such as, "An annual progress report/dated work sample/standardized test results (parents pick one) will be submitted upon request" is a good idea if you aren't sure whether or not they'll ask for anything; if they don't ask, you don't need to submit anything. If you know your town consistently requires people to report, then it's somewhat pointless to stipulate "upon request" since you know they'll ask and it just creates more work for them to have to.
Data from the 2011 AHEM policy and practice database summary about what form and frequency of assessment Massachusetts homeschoolers provide is interesting:
Forty-five percent of respondents write a progress report. Some people who write progress reports indicate that the schools expect them to also submit work samples (a report combined with work samples is commonly referred to as a portfolio). Please note that Charles requires homeschoolers to submit only one form of evaluation. A report alone should suffice, or work samples without any written narrative, should suffice. While a portfolio is nice to have as a record for your own use, there is no need to give that much information to school officials.
Fourteen percent of respondents submit no evaluation at all.
Twelve percent of respondents submit work samples.
Nine percent of respondents choose to test. Tests used include the California Achievement Test (CAT), the Personalized Achievement Summary System Test (PASS), the Wide Range Assessment test (WRAT), the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS), the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, the Stanford Test and others.
Some respondents indicated their evaluation method varies; parents choose from year to year. A few indicated use of a form of evaluation other than testing, progress reports, or work samples.
Sixty-eight percent of homeschoolers who indicated frequency submit evaluation once a year, eight percent submit twice a year, less than one percent submit four times a year.
Collecting this data is an ongoing project. If you would like to contribute, or read the report in its entirety, click here.