You all know that I am a big fan of authentic assessments, such as portfolios, and I always have been. I do, however, believe that there is a time and a place for testing. I was never a fan of the FCAT, and that is not a surprise to any of my peeps who have read my blog for a while. Nationally normed tests are more valid than state standardized tests, and when people ask my opinions about which test to use, I always suggest the California Achievement Test (CAT).
For the last two years I have had my girls take the (CAT). It came free with the curriculum we used two years ago, which is the reason we used it then, and I thought, what the heck, it might be good practice for them, and it can’t hurt to know how they stand nationally. I was pleasantly surprised at the results, not only of the academic results, but of the ease of use and the attitude my girls had toward taking it.
Since I enjoyed seeing
What I liked most was that my girls did not complain about having to take the test. I could also choose from either a timed option or an untimed option. The test does not have to be done in one sitting either. In fact, we took 3 days to take ours. The online format is super easy to navigate and we had our results within less than 24 hours!
There was one glitch on our part. My youngest daughter had forgotten to finalize one portion of her math section, and I had to email customer support. They emailed me back within the hour and the customer service person was able to finalize that portion without my daughter having to re-take that section. I was thrilled!
Sometimes I will do portfolio evaluations with clients who also like to know how their kids are doing compared to their peers. I always suggest that they have their kids take the CAT. From now on, I will refer all of my clients to Academic Excellence for their testing.
I have been waiting for new statistics to come out and here they are! The numbers of homeschoolers are growing faster than the school population as a whole according to this article by Travis Pillow.
According to Florida law, one option for your end-of-year evaluation includes, “Have educational progress evaluated by a teacher holding a valid regular Florida teaching certificate and selected by the parent. The evaluation must include review of a portfolio and discussion with the student”. We are so fortunate in our state to have several options to choose from when it comes to providing evidence that our students have made progress each year. The benefits of using the portfolio evaluation option are many. Just take a look at this article to read more. I feel so strongly that the portfolio gives you and me a much stronger picture of your child’s progress than any standardized or nationally normed test, that I do portfolio reviews exclusively. Testing has its place. I have my girls test every year in addition to reviewing their portfolio and I often recommend that my clients do both as well.
What I Won’t Ask Your Child To Do
During a portfolio evaluation with me, I will never ask your child to read aloud to me, do math computations for me, or recite the dates of the major battles in the Civil War. I will not ask your child to do a crossword puzzle, a cloze test, or any other type of summative assessment. I will not ask your child to jump through hoops or “perform” for me at all.
There are certain things that homeschool evaluators must look for according to FL law, and a portfolio evaluation does not include any of those things listed above. Portfolio assessments provide an authentic way of demonstrating progress, skills and accomplishments. if I ask your child to read aloud to me, in order to assess his/her fluency, what would I be basing that day’s progress on? I would not know how your child’s fluency was at the beginning of your homeschool year in order to compare. Similarly, if I ask your student to take a math test for me, or any other one-time summative assessment, I would need a standard or benchmark with which to compare.
Let’s Look at the Difference Between Formative and Summative Assessments
A portfolio should include any type of formative or summative assessments that you (the teacher) have done throughout the year. The difference between formative and summative assessments is that formative assessments are given by you (the teacher) and help you monitor progress and provide feedback as you go along. For example, you are reading a great work of literature with your student, and you pause at the end of every chapter in order to assess comprehension. You provide feedback and identify any areas of strength or weakness which will help your student improve their learning.
Summative assessments are assessments that come at the end of a unit or course, and will examine your student’s learning by comparing it against some standard or benchmark. For example, you may make up your own grading rubric after doing a unit study on Shakespeare. You then ask your student to compare Romeo and Juliet to Julius Caesar by designing a multimedia project. Your grading rubric shows your student details of what you expect out of their paper or project which you will later use to “grade” it.
During a portfolio review, I like to see YOUR formative and summative assessments included in the child’s portfolio. I am happy to listen to your child read so that I can assess fluency if you would like me to, however, I never include this as part of my portfolio evaluation process, nor does the Florida law ask me to. I am concerned that if homeschool evaluators who conduct annual portfolio reviews continue to ask their students to do these types of activities as a general rule, that they will be setting a precedent for this and eventually our homeschool-friendly State of Florida will be adding these requirements to the law so that all homeschool evaluators will then put your children to the test.
As a homeschooling parent myself, I rather enjoy my freedom to be able to decide whether or not I want another person to administer (any type of) test to my children. I certainly wouldn’t want my children to have to be subjected to it during a portfolio review.
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I am admittedly a curriculum junkie. I’ve pretty much tried it all. I love the smell and look of fresh, new (or new-to-us) books. Sometimes I actually use them from front to back, but many, many times I browse, and then pass along to another curriculum-addicted mom like myself.
Since I began homeschooling, I have been drawn to many different philosophies and used parts and pieces of many different approaches including Waldorf, Montessori, Unschooling, and Classical. I’m not a huge fan of labels, but you might call me an “eclectic” homeschooler. As my girls grow, I find myself mostly drawn to the Classical and Unschooling approaches. I cannot be considered a “pure” or “radical” unschooler, mostly because I enjoy the planning and the control, and (did I alredy mention?) the CHOOSING of the curriculum.
When I came across this fun survey from eclectic-homeschool.com I found that my results very accurately portrayed my beliefs. My highest scores were for Classical and Unschooling.
Take the survey here.
What are your high scores? Have you changed approaches in your homeschool over the years?
Somehow I missed posting about this GIANT of a convention last year, and this year I promised not to forget!
Sign up now at to hear all the great speakers, and soak in all the homeschool in Florida awesomeness!