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Evaluators and Evaluations
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Need an Evaluator?
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!
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.
PA-certified teachers who evaluate do NOT have to meet the requirements of Act 48 regarding continuing education credits.
"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],
More suggestions about this option are at Catholic Homeschoolers of Pennsylvania.
Different evaluators provide different kinds of certifications. 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 certification, 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 certification. 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 the required subjects as mandated by Act 169 of 1988. Based on my interview with the student and my review of the portfolio, I have determined that the student has made sustained progress in the overall program. I therefore hereby certify that an appropriate home education program is being conducted for this student."
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
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. Put some thought into what you will need to see before signing supervisor-awarded diplomas. 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: