Your Progress Report Questions Answered
This time of year we begin to receive questions about progress reports. Some are already worrying about what they will submit at the end of the year; others are being asked for a midyear report. The following is a revised version of our article on progress reports.
Progress reports written by the parent are an acceptable form of 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.
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
If your district asks for more
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.
What about midyear reports?
As quoted above, Charles mentions
periodic progress reports. The
period is not specified. However, Charles is clear that
…the approval of a home school proposal must not be conditioned on requirements that are not essential to the State interest in assuring that all the children shall be educated. Since many towns accept annual evaluations, a district would be hard pressed to argue that more frequent reporting is
essential. Again, your response to such requests will depend on a lot of factors. If you specified that you would submit an annual report, one option would be to respond with a letter reminding them that in your approved plan you specified an annual report.
What should be in my progress report?
A progress report may be a simple list of subjects with progress in each area noted. A very simple sample progress report is available on the AHEM website. Your school district may request more
evidence of progress. If they do, you can resubmit the report adding info to it.
AHEM is here to help
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.
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.