It’s the time of year when homeschoolers typically make arrangements for their year-end assessments. GSHE leader, Amanda Weeden, shares her thoughts and suggestions to put your mind at ease
Year-End Assessment Overview
It's creeping up on us again, homeschool families! “That” season, END OF YEAR ASSESSMENTS! Parents and guardians are making the choice to homeschool in New Hampshire in droves. Whether you are brand new and need the whole process spelled out, just making sure you have all your bases covered, or are worried that you have not done enough, GSHE is here to help!
In NH, you have two options for end of year assessments. Standardized testing or portfolio review. Before I get into these two choices, I'm going to back up to review a part of the law that many are not aware of. Each homeschooled child must have/keep a portfolio. Yes, you read that correctly!
193-A:6 Records; Evaluation. –
I. The parent shall maintain a portfolio of records and materials relative to the home education program. The portfolio shall consist of a log which designates by title the reading materials used, and also samples of writings, worksheets, workbooks, or creative materials used or developed by the child. Such portfolio shall be preserved by the parent for 2 years from the date of the ending of the instruction.
Note that the law does use the term “portfolio,” but that it does not specifically define that term. So, don't panic! Maybe you are a super-organized person who keeps every workbook, piece of art, and playbill filed neatly by month in a labeled file cabinet. Maybe you toss everything in a milk crate at the end of your school year. Maybe, like me, you keep a scrapbook. The point being that your portfolio will likely reflect your style and that's ok, as long as it conforms to the minimum requirements. You must keep a reading list by title. You must keep samples of work, and keep that file cabinet/milk crate/scrapbook for at LEAST two years. I recommend longer if you have relationship issues (ex-, neighbors, family, previous school) or may change educational settings. Why? So that you have proof and record of completed work should trouble or change come around.
All that said, back to the topic at hand -- two choices. Standardized testing or portfolio review. Most people, whether choosing standardized testing or portfolio review, do end-of-year assessments between April and June.
Let's tackle standardized testing first. You can choose to test your child with readily available options like the CAT, IOWA, or PASS. NH does not specify a particular test; therefore, the choice and style of administration are up to you. For example, some tests are paper that you send away for, administer, and return them tfor grading. Some tests are online and scored immediately. Some tests give you the option of in-depth feedback about areas of strength or for growth. Some are timed, have a bachelor's degree requirement to administer, or are customizable. All have some fee, around $30-50. NH does not specify the date for administering the test and we do not hand in our end of year assessments. Your student must receive a minimum of 40th percentile, but we don't hand anything in so interventions if below 40th would be up to your discretion. Pros of standardized testing are if you know your child is going to college, it's good practice for the SAT, and if you want to be aligned with a certain standard, you can easily keep track. A con is if your child does not test well for whatever reason.
Your other option is portfolio review. Aha! That's why I reviewed the law about homeschool portfolios! You need to keep a portfolio anyway, so with this option you have a homeschool evaluator look over your portfolio. According to the NH law, we need to “show progress commensurate with age and ability.” Any certified teacher in NH can review a portfolio. That does not mean that you should have your neighbor's public-school-teacher-for-forty-years aunt do it. You want to choose someone who understands the law in NH, evaluates homeschool portfolios, and supports your style and educational philosophy. Typically, you make an appointment, meet for a time, pay a fee and the reviewer gives you a signed form (either right then or a week or so later). There are variables here because evaluators are all different. The fee can be anywhere from $20-$75 and the time commitment from 10-90 minutes per child. Again, you do not need to hand the review in and the law does not specify a date due. Pros of portfolio review are if you need a whole-child overview, you have a unique homeschool, or a child with learning challenges. Con is if you have no time for that. There is a list of portfolio evaluators available on granitestatehomeeducators.org and many post availability in Facebook groups around that time.
Can you do both? Sure, overachiever! You do what is best for your family. Do you need to do one of the two options? (Looking at you, unschoolers!) Yes. Yes, you do. Whatever you choose, I support you and wish you happy assessing!
Amanda Weeden is a homeschool mom of four, (self-proclaimed) Special Needs Homeschooling Advocate, LEGO teacher, Nerf Enthusiast and Curriculum Hoarder. Her homeschool, Best Life Ever Homeschool, or “BLEH” is a fun-filled hodgepodge of Jesus and joy and clutter. She is also a leader of SCHEA- Seacoast Christian Home Educators Association.