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PA Home Education Portfolios

Making Sense of Portfolios
The following is quoted from Act 169 of Pennsylvania Public School Code 13-1327 and describes what a portfolio should contain.

“(1) At the elementary school level, the following courses shall be taught: English, to include spelling, reading, and writing; arithmetic; science; geography; history of the United States and Pennsylvania; civics; safety education, including regular and continuous instruction in the dangers and prevention of fires; health and physiology; physical education; music; and art.

(2) At the secondary school level, the following courses shall be taught: English, to include language, literature, speech and composition; science; geography; social studies, to include civics, world history, history of the United States and Pennsylvania; mathematics, to include general mathematics, algebra and geometry; art; music; physical education; health and safety education, including regular and continuous instruction in the dangers and prevention of fires. Such courses of study may include, at the discretion of the supervisor of the home education program, economics; biology; chemistry; foreign languages; trigonometry; or other age-appropriate courses as contained in Chapter 5 (Curriculum Requirements) of the State Board of Education.

(d) The following minimum courses in grades nine through twelve are established as a requirement for graduation in a home education program:
(1) Four years of English. (2) Three years of mathematics. (3) Three years of science. (4) Three years of social studies. (5) Two years of arts and the humanities.

(e) 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:

(1) A portfolio of records and materials.
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 department shall establish a list, with a minimum of five tests, of nationally normed standardized tests from which the supervisor of the home education program shall select a test to be administered if the supervisor does not choose the Statewide tests. At the discretion of the supervisor, the portfolio may include the results of nationally normed standardized achievement tests for other subject areas or grade levels. The supervisor shall ensure that the nationally normed standardized tests or the Statewide tests shall not be administered by the child’s parent or guardian.”

PORTFOLIO:
Contains the log, samples, and test scores for 3rd, 5th or 8th grade. Act 169 does not elaborate on the subject of samples so there are as many ways to assemble a portfolio as there are home educators. Some families use the portfolio as a method of recording memories of the school year in much the same way a scrapbook is compiled. Others choose to include a minimum of samples in an envelope. Anything that will hold your log, samples and test scores is sufficient such as: a three ring binder with sheet protectors, an envelope, compact disc, folder or report cover. You have the freedom to make your portfolio as simple or as elaborate as you wish.

Keep in mind that the purpose of the portfolio is to demonstrate progress to your evaluator. Your evaluator will write a letter or use a form letter, which states that learning has taken place for the required amount of time. The superintendent uses your evaluator’s letter to determine compliance so be sure to select an evaluator who understands your philosophy and method of home education. It is also wise to choose an evaluator early in the year and ask what they like to see in a portfolio. Be aware of what the law requires. It is to your benefit to choose an evaluator that does not make extra demands for documentation which go over and above what is required by law.

Overcompliance has set a precedent in many school districts whereby they expect more than the law requires of all homeschoolers. One way to combat this tendency is to pare down your portfolio for the school district if you wish to share more with your evaluator. Some school districts simply copy the evaluation form or letter and test scores while others submit your portfolio to their own evaluation. Where you draw the line on how much documentation to submit to your school district is a decision you will have to make.

LOG:
You are not required to supply the district with detailed information about your daily routine. The law states that a log is a “list made contemporaneously (as you instruct) consisting of the titles of reading materials used”. You may choose to keep more detailed records for your own benefit, to discuss with your evaluator or in the event that the district should ever request more documentation.

SAMPLES:
The law does not state that we must include samples for all subjects. It says “samples of any”. The type and amount of samples you include will be largely influenced by what your evaluator wants to review which should be discussed well in advance of your evaluation appointment. They may wish to see samples from core subjects such as Math, English, History and Science or they may be quite at ease with reviewing a few samples. The importance of choosing an evaluator who accepts your educational philosophy as well as one who will not place excessive demands on you for copious amounts of documentation, can not be stressed enough.

It is your freedom as a parent and home educator, to use your own discretion as to when and how subjects are taught. Here are a few examples of documentation if you choose not to teach every subject out of a textbook: artwork; booklists; brochures from field trips; your child’s or your own summaries of people, places and events; and pictures of projects. Textbooks and/or private lessons do not need to be purchased in order to document every subject. Having an evaluator who supports your method is by far the most important key to successful documentation. Your goal is to show progress in the overall program, in the subjects required, for the time required, using the method that best fits your child’s learning style and your family’s teaching philosophy.

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