Pauline's Guide to Homeschooling in PA
Creating a Homeschooling Portfolio
On This Page:
More Portfolio Stuff
This page deals with the portfolio as a whole. See my other pages for details:
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."
"An evaluator's certification stating that an appropriate education is occurring for the school year under review shall be provided by the supervisor to the superintendent of the public school district of residence by June 30 of each year."
"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."
The parents hire an evaluator of their choosing. Evaluators must meet certain legal requirements.
If the supervisor fails to submit the certification due on June 30 to the superintendent, the superintendent shall send a letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the supervisor of the home education program, stating that the certification is past due and notifying the supervisor to submit the certification within ten (10) days of receipt of the certified letter. If the certification is not submitted within that time, the board of school directors shall provide for a proper hearing...
Required Portfolio Items
Samples of Work
Standardized Test Results
(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:
Most evaluators are used to a wide range of homeschooling approaches. However, if your portfolio will be used for purposes other than just your evaluation, keep your audience in mind.
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. 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!
There is considerable variation in what evaluators expect to see from homeschoolers, and how they interpret the law. I cannot tell you what your particular evaluator will expect - only they can tell you that.
There are three things that, by law, must be included in the portfolio:
After reviewing the portfolio and interviewing your child, your evaluator must be able to certify that your child is being educated in the subjects required, for the time specified by law, and is making "sustained progress" in the overall program. 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. 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. See my All About Evaluations & Evaluator List page for more info.
What if my child is graduating this year?
The October 2014 law change gives home educators a new option for their child's high school diploma - a state-recognized diploma awarded by the supervisor. For this diploma:
If you want to award this type of diploma to your student, you should discuss with your evaluator what she wants to see in the portfolio so that she can confirm that the student has completed the graduation requirements and is therefore suitable for graduation.
The graduation requirements include the following minimum courses in grades nine through twelve:
In addition, at some point in grades 7 through 12, "...the following courses shall be taught..". Some people interpret the law to mean that these courses are part of the graduation requirements; others do not.
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 evaluator.
The required portfolio items are usually put into a three-ring binder, scrapbook, or folder to be reviewed by the evaluator. After the evaluator reviews the portfolio and interviews the student, they will provide you with their certification that the student has had an appropriate education. You will then need to submit a copy of this certification to the superintendent of your school district.
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!
See my log page for more info on this requirement.
Standardized Test Results
See my testing page for more info on testing.
“...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 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"
Before the 2014 law change, portfolios had to be submitted to the district. Some folks, concerned about the district losing their portfolio, or keeping it for several months, created a "disposable portfolio" to submit to their district. To create such a portfolio, make copies of the things you want to include. 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:
This can be a handy way to keep a slim packet of the minimum legal documentation for your records. (Keeping larger portfolios can take up a lot of space over the years!) If you choose this approach, you can also bring other items to your evaluation if you like. 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).
A personal note - before the October 2014 law change, 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?
As of the October 2014 change to the home education law, only the evaluator's certification that an appropriate education is occurring for the school year under review needs to be given to the superintendent of your school district (by June 30). Nonetheless, 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 end of year paperwork?
Before June 30. The law says, "An evaluator's certification stating that an appropriate education is occurring for the school year under review shall be provided by the supervisor to the superintendent of the public school district of residence by June 30 of each year."
Note that as of the October 2014 law change, you do NOT need to give your portfolio to the school district. You do NOT need to give them your log, any samples of work, or the results of 3rd/5th/8th grade standardized testing. Only the evaluator's certification must be submitted.
Where and how should I turn in my end-of-year paperwork to the district?
First, be sure to submit a only a copy of the evaluator's certification; keep the original for your records. (Or ask your evaluator to provide two originals - one for the district, and one for your records.)
Call your district to find out where you should submit your paperwork. There are three ways you can submit it - in person, by appointment, or by mail.
Consider including next year's affidavit and objectives.
If you will be home educating again the next year, your affidavit and objectives aren't due until August 1. However, it may be easier to include them when you submit the evaluator's certification from the previous year. This means you only need to submit paperwork once a year.
However, if you are tight on time, you can submit the evaluator's certification by June 30, and take a bit more time to create and submit the affidavit and objectives.