Ask Pauline - Home Education in PA:
Evaluators and Evaluations

About Evaluations   /   Evaluator Qualifications   /   Evaluating by Prior Consent   /   Sample Evaluator’s Report   /   Special Ed Pre-Approval Forms   / Becoming an Evaluator /   Evaluator List

Need an Evaluator? 
See my List of Evaluators!

There’s lots more homeschooling info on my site! Check out my Homeschooling Main Page.

Homeschoolers have a lot of choices available to them. Please take the information you find useful from these pages and ignore the rest.

Many people, including me, will give opinions on the PA home education law. I believe that everyone should read the law for themselves, read a few opinions about it, and decide for themselves what approach makes sense for their family.

I might be wrong! I am not a lawyer! This page is not intended as legal advice! Please double-check legal information with appropriate sources!

This Web Page by Pauline Harding for Art Nurk.
Please do not copy the information on this page without permission.

About Evaluations

  • "The evaluation shall also be based on an interview of the child and a review of the portfolio … and shall certify whether or not an appropriate education is occurring."  ""Appropriate education" shall mean a program consisting of instruction in the required subjects for the time required in this act and in which the student demonstrates sustained progress in the overall program." --PA Homeschool Law
  • The parents hire an evaluator of their choosing.  Evaluators must meet certain legal requirements.  Since evaluators vary widely in what they’d like to see in the portfolio, some people prefer to find an evaluator at the beginning of the year, so that they can be clear on what documentation the evaluator will expect.  Others wait until the spring to find an evaluator and make an appointment.  (See my list of evaluators.)
  • Be a Good Consumer
    A nice blog entry from an unschooling family, with some positive thoughts about choosing an evaluator.

Evaluator Qualifications

There are several categories of people who can do evaluations.  You do not have to use someone who has done evaluations before.  Many folks use a friend or family member who qualifies.  Make sure the person you choose respects homeschooling!

·         "a licensed clinical or school psychologist"

·         "a teacher certified by the Commonwealth" ... "The certified teacher shall have experience at the elementary level to evaluate elementary students or at the secondary level to evaluate secondary students."

·         "a nonpublic school teacher or administrator. Any such nonpublic teacher or administrator shall have at least two years of teaching experience in a Pennsylvania public or nonpublic school within the last ten years. Such nonpublic teacher or administrator shall have the required experience at the elementary level to evaluate elementary students or at the secondary level to evaluate secondary students."

·         "At the request of the supervisor, persons with other qualifications may conduct the evaluation with the prior consent of the district of residence superintendent." (See Evaluating by Prior Consent)

·         "In no event shall the evaluator be the supervisor or their spouse."

Teachers or administrators who evaluate must have the following experience.  Licensed clinical or school psychologists, or those who evaluate with the prior consent of the superintendent, need not have this experience.

·         Elementary level: "A teacher or administrator who evaluates a portfolio at the elementary level (grades kindergarten through six) shall have at least two years of experience in grading any of the following subjects: English, to include spelling, reading and writing; arithmetic; science; geography; history of the United States and Pennsylvania; and civics."

·         Secondary level: "A teacher or administrator who evaluates a portfolio at the secondary level (grades seven through twelve) shall have at least two years of experience in grading any of the following subjects: English, to include language, literature, speech, reading and composition; science, to include biology, chemistry and physics; geography; social studies, to include economics, civics, world history, history of the United States and Pennsylvania; foreign language; and mathematics, to include general mathematics, algebra, trigonometry, calculus and geometry."

·         "...the term "grading" shall mean evaluation of classwork, homework, quizzes, classwork-based tests and prepared tests related to classwork subject matter."

PA-certified teachers who evaluate do NOT have to meet the requirements of Act 48 regarding continuing education credits.

  • 24 P.S. §12-1205.1, Continuing Professional Development, §§(e) states, "The requirements of this section and §1205.2 (Program of continuing professional education) do not apply to a professional educator not employed by a school entity who serves as an evaluator of a home education program authorized under §1327.1(e)(2) or who provides private tutoring services as part of a home education program under §1327.1."
 

Evaluating by Prior Consent

"At the request of the supervisor, persons with other qualifications may conduct the evaluation with the prior consent of the district of residence superintendent."

Some families use evaluators who do not meet the above qualifications.  They simply write to the superintendent for permission.  Some superintendents are likely to give such permission; some are not.  Here is the text of a sample letter you can use.  You will of course want to customize it to your situation.

Dear [superintendent’s name],
     I am writing to request your consent for [evaluator's name] to conduct the end-of-year homeschool evaluation for my children [child name] and [child name].
     [Evaluator's name] knows my children, understands our educational program, and is an experienced Pennsylvania homeschool evaluator.  I feel she is the best choice of evaluator for our family. A summary of her qualifications [and a copy of her Pennsylvania teaching certificate] is enclosed.
     The Pennsylvania homeschooling law states:
"An annual written evaluation of the student's educational progress as determined by a licensed clinical or school psychologist or a teacher certified by the Commonwealth or by a nonpublic school teacher or administrator... The evaluation shall also be based on an interview of the child and a review of the portfolio...and shall certify whether or not an appropriate education is occurring. At the request of the supervisor, persons with other qualifications may conduct the evaluation with the prior consent of the district of residence superintendent. In no event shall the evaluator be the supervisor or their spouse."
    
If you have any questions, please call me at [phone number].
Sincerely,
[supervisor's name], Homeschool Supervisor

More suggestions about this option are at Catholic Homeschoolers of Pennsylvania.

Sample Evaluator's Report Language

Different evaluators provide different kinds of reports.  Some families and some evaluators prefer the kind of brief statement given below.  Other families and evaluators prefer to describe the child's education and progress more extensively.  This may be particularly true if the family is using a diploma program and wants the evaluations to be seen by colleges as part of the child's transcript, or if they want the evaluation to explain or elaborate on the contents of the portfolio.  Some evaluators will do either a long or a short evaluation, depending on what the parent wants; others have a strong preference one way or the other. 

Experienced evaluators will most likely have their own way of writing up an evaluator’s report.  For those of you who are using a family friend who has not done evaluations before, here is some sample “short form” language for evaluators to use:

"I have conducted an evaluation of the home education program for [student's name]. The student has received instruction for the required number of days in all of the subjects mandated by Act 169 of 1988. Based on the review of the portfolio and my interview with the student, I have determined that the student has made progress in all subject areas and that an appropriate home education program is being conducted."

Samples of longer evaluations are provided in several publications from PA Homeschoolers.  There is a section about writing evaluations, including a sample elementary evaluation letter, in the Guide to the PA Homeschool Law and there is a section with sample paragraphs from evaluation letters in the Guide to PA Homeschoolers Diploma. 

Ready-to-Use Evaluator’s Report Form

  • Here is a simple evaluator’s report form.  It can be used as-is for a short evaluation, or as a cover page for a longer evaluation. 
    ./evaluationform.doc  (in .doc for MSWord)
    ./evaluationform.pdf  (in .pdf for Adobe Acrobat)
  • Here is another simple evaluator's report form, customized for those in the Garnet Valley School District. (They hand out a form that includes several items that are not required by law. A friend asked me to create this one, which mimics GVSD's form, but includes only those items required by law. Many families in GVSD use this form.
    garnetvalleyevaluatorsform.doc  (in .doc for MSWord)

Special Ed Approval Form

  • PA law requires that home education students who have been formally identified as “special ed” must have their program pre-approved.  Some evaluators are also qualified to do these pre-approvals; some are not. The approval must be submitted with the affidavit.  See my All About The Affidavit & Objectives page for more info. 
  • Here is a simple special ed pre-approval form.  It includes a quote from the PA home education law about the pre-approval requirement. 
    ./specialedapproval.doc  (in .doc for MSWord)
    ./specialedapproval.pdf  (in .pdf for Adobe Acrobat)

Becoming an Evaluator

I often get emails asking how one becomes an evaluator. There's not a whole lot I can say, because there is no special/official procedure for this. If you are qualified, you can just go ahead and do an evaluation. However, there are some things you might want to do to prepare. Here are a few steps to consider:

1. Read the qualifications needed to evaluate. There are four ways you can qualify. If you do not meet all of the qualifications for "a teacher certified by the Commonwealth", "a nonpublic school teacher or administrator, or "a licensed clinical or school psychologist", remember that "at the request of the supervisor, persons with other qualifications may conduct the evaluation with the prior consent of the district of residence superintendent." (See Evaluating by Prior Consent)

2. Familiarize yourself with all of PA's home education law. Also read the PDE's page of Home Education Evaluator Duties. The law outlines the evaluator's role, specifically that "The evaluation shall ... be based on an interview of the child and a review of the portfolio … and shall certify whether or not an appropriate education is occurring."  ""Appropriate education" shall mean a program consisting of instruction in the required subjects for the time required in this act and in which the student demonstrates sustained progress in the overall program."

3. If you are not involved in homeschooling yourself, it would be wise to read about it to get a feel for the different styles and approaches you may encounter. Most libraries have (or can obtain for you) some of the many books available on homeschooling. You may want to talk to someone else who has done evaluations, and/or with some homeschooling families who have had evaluations in the past. Remember that there are a wide variety of approaches to homeschooling, from those that resemble "school at home" to more child-led, freeform methods. Homeschooling often looks very different from school.

4. Be prepared to discuss what kind of evaluator's report you will provide, and how much you will charge. Think carefully in advance about what you will expect to see from the students you evaluate, and how you will proceed if you have concerns that a particular student has not met the requirements of the law. If you are uncomfortable with certain methods of homeschooling, it is best to let potential clients know this up-front.

5. Look into becoming an evaluator for one or more of the PA home education diploma programs. Consider whether you will offer standardized testing services, such as the WRAT.   Find out if you are qualified to pre-approve special ed programs.

6. Consider how homeschooling families will find you. Many families use word-of-mouth to find evaluators. Contact local homeschooling groups to see if they keep a list of local evaluators. Check out my own list of evaluators, and follow the instructions if you'd like to be included there.

7. Useful links:

  • http://www.pahomeschool.com/evaluations.html
Good luck!