|Pauline's Guide to Homeschooling in PA:
Creating a Homeschooling Portfolio
More Portfolio Stuff
This page deals with the portfolio as a whole. See my other pages for details on the Log, Standardized Testing, (Including lists of test suppliers), and Evaluations (including my list of evaluators). You might also enjoy my page of Handy-Dandy Forms, many of which make putting together a portfolio easier. It includes several attendance calendars, various log forms, and ready-to-print portfolio cover and spine label inserts for EZVue binders.
What The Law Says About Portfolios
"In order to demonstrate that appropriate education is occurring, the supervisor of the home education program shall provide and maintain on file the following documentation for each student enrolled in the home education program:"
""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."
"Such documentation [the portfolio and written evaluation] …shall be provided to the public school district of residence superintendent at the conclusion of each public school year." [The portfolio and evaluation must be given to the school district by June 30.]
"The portfolio shall consist of
a log, made contemporaneously with the instruction, which designates by title the reading materials used,
samples of any writings, worksheets, workbooks or creative materials used or developed by the student
and in grades three, five and eight results of nationally normed standardized achievement tests in reading/language arts and mathematics or the results of Statewide tests administered in these grade levels."
"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."
Required Portfolio Items
Samples of Work
Standardized Test Results
The parents hire an evaluator of their choosing. Evaluators must meet certain legal requirements.
(Most people, including the PDE, feel that not all subjects need to be taught each year - for example, PA history is usually covered in fourth grade in the public schools. See my Required Subjects page for more details, and talk to your evaluator about her standards.)
Take what works for you and leave the rest!
Organize your stuff!
Choosing your samples:
Keep your audience in mind:
The evaluator and the district don't have to agree with what you're doing. On the other hand, it can reduce the (unlikely) chance of a hassle if you anticipate their concerns when you choose items for your portfolio.
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 homeschooling law.
I might be wrong! I am not a lawyer! Please double-check legal information with appropriate sources!
Page by Pauline Harding for Art Nurk, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Pennsylvania home education law requires that you create a portfolio for your home educated child.
There is much controversy about a number of the items required in the portfolio. General practice varies widely, from evaluator to evaluator, and school district to school district. On this page I express my opinion, which may vary from that of your evaluator, and/or school district. I strongly suggest that you read The Law for yourself and read a number of interpretations before you decide what approach your family will be using.
Generally speaking, the portfolio tells a story of your child's homeschooling year. There are MANY WAYS to do a portfolio, and every one will be different because there's a different story to tell. The important thing is to not feel bullied or pressured about it (as much as possible) and to find a way to comply with The Law that suits YOU and what you do and how you do it.
There are several required parts to the portfolio – The Log, the samples, and the test scores. (See right). You can use all of these to tell the story of your homeschooling year, but you don't have to go overboard on any/all of them.
I have given many ideas on my site to help you see ways that you can tell the story of your child's year. Please don't get overwhelmed! You do not need to do all of these things! You can choose the best way to tell the unique story of your child's year - the way that's best for YOU!
considerable variation in what evaluators and school districts expect to see
from homeschoolers, and how they interpret the law.
What does my evaluator expect to see?
Your evaluator must be satisfied that your child is being educated in the subjects required, for the time specified by law, and is making "sustained progress". Evaluators have different standards for portfolios, and you will want to be sure before hiring an evaluator to understand what they will require. In particular, get a sense in advance of the number of samples of work you'll need, and be sure your evaluator is comfortable with your method of keeping your log. See my All About Evaluations & Evaluator List page for more info.
What does my district expect to see?
The superintendent of your school district also has to determine that your child is being educated in the subjects required, for the time specified by law, and is making "sustained progress". If the super determines that this is not the case, he must ask for more documentation. If the additional documentation does not convince him, he must hold due process hearings.
Most people try to construct their portfolio to make it clear that they have been in compliance with the law, and that their child is doing just fine, without going overboard.
Actual practice varies widely. Some districts don't want to see the portfolio at all; others demand considerable documentation. It is wise to find out what other homeschoolers in your district have been handing in.
For example, if the other homeschoolers in your district hand in 4" thick binders with tons of samples of work and detailed records of what they've done on every one of the 180 days, you may have some problems if you hand in a pocket folder with a brief log, a few samples of work and a brief statement from the evaluator. This may be true even if every required item is there! On the other hand, some districts just want to see the evaluator's report; they really don't want to see your portfolio, so you can avoid spending days on end getting it just right! Most districts are somewhere in the middle, and will not hassle you so long as you give them what is required by law.
(In some cases, a district will ask for MORE than is required by law. Many times a polite discussion, where you point out what the law really says, will suffice. In other cases, you may need to respond in writing. See my Complying with the PA Homeschooling Law page for people to contact for further help if you have problems.)
Will anyone else need to see your portfolio?
There may be other considerations when preparing the records that make up your portfolio. You may need records for an umbrella school, diploma program, or for college applications. You may have special circumstances, such as a custody battle, where you may have to defend your homeschooling program. Most people do not need to keep extensive records, but consider your situation carefully before deciding how to document your child's homeschool year. You may or may not decide to share all of these records with your district.
So what exactly do I need to hand in?
The required items are usually put into a three-ring binder, scrapbook, or folder to be presented first to the evaluator, then to the superintendent. (One family recently submitted their portfolio on CD.)
Every portfolio is different - one will have lots of books listed in the log, another lots of photos of hands-on work, another will have lots of worksheets. Please don't get overwhelmed by the number of things I've suggested here!
“...samples of any writings, worksheets, workbooks or creative materials used or developed by the student..."
As you go through the year, keep an eye out for things that may be useful for the portfolio. There are two general methods:
Don't get overwhelmed by the need for samples! Most homeschoolers include at least one item for each subject required by law. That's only about 16 things. For the more important subjects (writing, math, etc.) you may wish to have several items. (Some districts or evaluators may want more.) As a general rule, if you save one or two items a week you should easily have enough by the end of the year. (Check with your evaluator about her standards.) It's a good idea to keep in mind the subjects required by law, so you can be sure to keep a sample or jot down a note about the minor ones when they come up during the course of the year.
It's easy to hate doing this, but keeping a portfolio can be much more than meeting a state requirement. Your children will have something concrete to pull out when they want to show someone what they've done - especially useful when applying for a job or for college. Best of all, your family can look through & relive the year's accomplishments- a real boost when you hit a rough spot in schooling.
Again -- every portfolio is different - one will have lots of books in the log, another lots of photos of hands-on work, another lots of worksheets. Please don't get overwhelmed by the number of things I've suggested here!
The "Disposable Portfolio"
Concerned about the district losing your portfolio? Hate to have them keep it for several months? Here's your answer! Some folks make a "disposable portfolio" to submit to their district. They make copies of the things they want to submit, and keep the originals at home. The copies can be stapled together, bound using brads or a report cover, or put into a pocket folder. Because copying everything in a huge portfolio would be a big pain, these portfolios are usually fairly slim, but still contain all that is required by law. Such a portfolio usually consists of:
If you choose this approach, you may wish to show your evaluator a larger portfolio. If you are only assembling the more minimal version, be sure you hire an evaluator who will accept such a portfolio (some will, some won't). You may also want to consider whether your district has accepted such a portfolio before, or if it is dramatically different than the general practice of homeschoolers in your district.
A personal note - my district once lost one of my children's portfolios - they found it again two-and-a-half years later, held together with a rubber band instead of the nice binder I had used. (This, despite the fact that it had "please return to:" with my name, address, and phone number on the cover!) While this kind of thing certainly doesn't happen often, needless to say, I'm a fan of the disposable portfolio!
What if my district asks for more than the law requires?
Some school districts have a history of asking homeschoolers for things that are not required by law. In this case, see Handling School District Problems. Also, there is no substitute for reading The Law for yourself!
When should I submit my portfolio?
Your portfolio is due by June 30. The Home Education Law says : (h) Such documentation required by subsection (e)(1) [the portfolio] and (2) [the evaluation] shall be provided to the public school district of residence superintendent at the conclusion of each public school year. The date June 30 comes from 24 PS 1-102 Definitions, which says: "School year" shall mean the period of time ... between the first day of July of one year and the thirtieth day of June of the following year.
Where and how should I turn in my portfolio to the district?
Call your district to find out where you should submit your portfolio. There are three ways you can submit your portfolio - in person, by appointment, or by mail.
In person - Call ahead to find out where and when you should submit your portfolio. (Some district offices keep summer hours.) Be sure to get a receipt to show that you have turned it in - every year a few go missing. If you have not made a "disposable" portfolio, ask when you can expect to get it back. Get the name and phone number of a contact person so you can call to check on it if you don't hear from them.
By appointment - Some folks schedule an appointment with the superintendent, so that he can review the records during the appointment and return them immediately. You will want to ask for some kind of written confirmation that your records have been reviewed. Remember that there is no need for the district to see or interview your children. You are NOT required to meet with the superintendent, and you should carefully consider whether doing so will create the expectation that others will do so too. If you are not comfortable with this approach, do not have to do it.
By mail - Call ahead to find out where to address your portfolio. Talk to the post office about the best way to send it - you want to be sure you get a receipt to show that it was received. You may wish to include a self-addressed envelope if you wish to have your portfolio returned to you.
Other tips - Some people recommend that you include a privacy statement & a record sheet to be signed by the people who look at your portfolio. This way you will know who has handled your materials. It is also wise to put your name and phone number on the portfolio.