Advocates for Home Education in Massachusetts, Inc.

Frequently Asked Questions: End-of-Year Evaluations

It’s that time of year. Many of us are finishing up one school year and thinking about reporting for the next. Whether this is your first year reporting or you are an experienced homeschooler, AHEM has answers to all your evaluation questions. For more on each of these topics, please visit our website.

What forms of evaluation are acceptable?

CARE AND PROTECTION OF CHARLES & others, 399 Mass. 324 (1987) 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. Other methods of assessment, if mutually agreed upon by parents and school officials, are also allowed.

How often do I need to send an evaluation? What if my town asks for a mid-year report?

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.

Does my evaluation need to be approved?

Some districts will say next year’s education plan approval depends on previous year’s evaluation. The law gives no bars for an individual's progress, just that they have progressed.

If my town doesn’t request an evaluation, do I need to send one?

Many homeschoolers add a line in their education plan such as, An annual progress report/dated work sample/standardized test results [parents pick one] will be submitted upon request. This is a good idea if you aren’t sure whether 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 you may want to submit your report proactively.

What should be in a 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 with additional information.

How many work samples do I need to send?

Dated work samples mean just that: a few samples of work with dates on them. You do not have to compile an extensive portfolio to submit to the school although you might like to keep such records for your own use. Many homeschoolers who use this method choose to send two samples, one from the beginning and one from the end of the year, in each major subject area (i.e. language arts, math, science, and social studies).

What about a portfolio?

Sometimes, homeschoolers use the word “portfolio” to refer to the method of evaluation they use. The word portfolio does not appear in Massachusetts homeschooling law. Some may use the term to refer to a collection of dated work samples, but others mean more—work samples along with written text that might qualify as a progress report, for example. Since the term portfolio isn’t used in the law and isn’t clearly defined, AHEM recommends avoiding it.

What if they ask for more?

Some districts may ask for two forms of evaluation—work samples with a progress report perhaps—or midyear evaluations. Some send out conditional approval letters stating that the education plan approval is conditioned on the submission of extra forms of evaluation, or a specific form not stated in the education plan. The response to such a letter may be based on various factors including the homeschooling family's past experience with the district or the school official’s track record with homeschoolers. In many cases, the district will not press the issue and the homeschooler can simply submit whatever method they originally stated in their education plan. If a further response is required 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.