Evidence of Progress – Evaluation or Assessment

Option (ii) of the Home Instruction Statute (§22.1-254.1 C) provides an alternative method of meeting the evidence of progress requirement. Alternative methods which have been accepted under option (ii) in the past include:

  • Written evaluations stating that the child has made evidence of progress this past year
  • Report cards or transcripts from correspondence schools, distance learning programs, or colleges
  • A portfolio submitted directly to the school division
  • The results of a standardized achievement test which is not nationally normed

To read the complete text of the law: §22.1-254.1 Declaration of policy; requirements for home instruction of children

Under option (ii), Superintendents have discretion over what they will accept. For example, some school divisions will only accept independent evaluations and will not accept portfolios. Superintendents are required to consider letters, report cards, and transcripts as valid forms of proof of progress. However, the superintendent still has the right to determine if what you have submitted constitutes adequate proof of progress. You may wish to contact experienced local homeschoolers to determine what is commonly accepted in your school division. See Virginia Homeschool Groups for a list of statewide and local homeschool groups.

Option (ii) requires the superintendent to make a determination, based on the evaluation, that the child is achieving an “adequate level of educational growth and progress.” While this determination is subjective, most superintendents are fair and reasonable.

Evaluations

How do I choose an evaluator?

There are no “state-approved” evaluators or requirements for evaluators. Any person who has a valid teacher’s license from any state or a master’s degree or higher in an academic discipline may write a letter of evaluation. However, the superintendent still has the right to determine whether the evaluation letter constitutes adequate proof of progress.

Note: The law does not directly address whether parents with valid teacher’s licenses or master’s degrees can write letters of evaluation for their own child. However, as this option is at the discretion of the superintendent, a parent-evaluated letter may not be deemed acceptable, since schools strongly prefer independent evaluation. VaHomeschoolers recommends considering this when deciding who is to evaluate your child.

For more information on choosing an evaluator, see Choosing an Evaluator.

What is a typical evaluation like?

Evaluations vary depending on the evaluator. Some include testing, some use portfolios, and others may use a combination. Most include an interview (or conversation) with the student. The evaluator will write a letter attesting to the “educational progress” of your child. Most evaluators are looking for what your child has accomplished rather than what they have not done. They recognize that an education extends beyond the workbooks.

What subjects do I need to cover in my evaluation?

The law does not define what subjects should be covered in the evidence of progress; however, many nationally normed standardized tests cover only math and language arts and as those tests are acceptable under option (i), they would be the only subjects required.

As a result, most school divisions have come to request evidence of progress in only these two subject areas regardless of whether you choose option (i) or (ii). Since subjects are not specified in the law, superintendents could ask for evidence in other subject areas if you choose option (ii).

You may wish to contact experienced local homeschoolers to determine what is commonly accepted in your school division.

What is a typical letter of evaluation like?

There is no minimum or maximum length for a letter of evaluation. Whatever is submitted has to be sufficient for the superintendent to make a judgment. We recommend that the letter of evaluation include a copy of the credentials of the person doing the evaluating, verification that the evaluator has actually met with the child and/or reviewed his/her work, and information that indicates that the child is achieving an adequate level of educational growth and progress.

You are not required by law to teach to the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs), nor are you required to reference the SOLs in an evaluation. Some professional evaluators believe that letters which reference the SOLs are more likely to be accepted by school divisions; while other evaluators choose not to mention them in their letters. Before hiring an evaluator, talk to him or her about what role the SOLs play in their assessments and how that might affect your family.

Portfolios

Many option (ii) filers choose to create portfolios of their child’s work. Some parents share the portfolios with an independent evaluator, while others submit the portfolios directly to the school division.

Should I submit a portfolio of my child’s work directly to the school division or submit it to an evaluator instead?

While you may under law submit a portfolio directly to the school division to fulfill the requirements of option (ii), VaHomeschoolers does not recommend it. Unevaluated portfolios can be lost, misplaced, or misinterpreted, and are less likely to be routinely accepted by the superintendent than a letter of evaluation.

If you do choose to submit a portfolio directly to the school division, we strongly recommend sending it by certified mail with a return receipt. Keep a copy of the portfolio for your records.

What do I need to include in a portfolio?

Portfolios can be very simple or as elaborate as you choose. It does not have to be a daily record. It does need to include examples from the beginning, middle and end of the year.

Possible items to include:

  • Booklists – include title, author, date read
  • Brochures, tickets, pamphlets from theatre shows, museums, festivals, concerts, historic sites (have students write or dictate reviews or impressions of the event)
  • Pictures – include commentaries written or dictated by the child – they are great conversation starters for the evaluation. Include pictures of: Legos®, cooking, lemonade stand, experiments, field trips, art projects, working on the car, presentations, performances, woodworking, volunteering
  • Worksheets
  • Writing samples – including samples of creative writing, poetry, letters, emails, ads, reports, cards, shopping lists
  • Lists of computer software used
  • Lists of videos watched
  • Whatever else the evaluator requests

Make copies of everything and keep the originals. If you are submitting the portfolio directly to the school division, include a brief cover letter to clarify the purpose of what you are sending should the mail be opened and sorted by an assistant unfamiliar with the homeschooling requirements.

Tips for Organizing and Assembling

It is easiest to create a portfolio if the organization is kept up with at least monthly but as long as you have samples from throughout the year it can be done all at once.

  • Have a box, file folders or designated location to keep materials (flyers, worksheets, etc.)
  • Date each page
  • Use three ring binders with page protectors to keep information orderly and protected over time
  • Use dividers to create sections for each subject
  • If using digital pictures, create digital pages with commentary
  • Have students help assemble the book
  • If desired, use colorful paper, borders, corner punches or stickers to create a scrapbook
  • Have student review portfolio prior to the evaluation so they will be comfortable discussing the contents


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