This post was originally published on July 10, 2015
During a portfolio evaluation with me, I will not 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. There are, however, certain things that all homeschool evaluators must look for according to FL law, and a portfolio evaluation does not include any of those things listed above.
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 more comprehensive 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.
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 child 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.