Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Florida Homeschool Evaluations

One of several means of satisfying Florida homeschooling law, is for a FL certified teacher to attest that a student has shown progress commensurate with ability. There are wide interpretations of how that is accomplished. The easiest way for me to address this issue is probably just to list some major points that Dh (a FL certified teacher, and homeschool evaluator) and I have encountered over the 16+ years we have homeschooled our 4 children. 

*Yes, you can evaluate your own children if you are a FL certified teacher. No, it isn't cheating! 

*Shop around and ask a lot of questions. It is very important that you find someone that understands home schooling is not the same as school at home. 

*You should receive the evaluation in your hands, and you are the one to turn it in to the designated authority in your school district (county). You do not have to turn in that particular  evaluation if you are uncomfortable with the results. You may hire another evaluator or use a different option for your student's evaluation. But if you homeschool under the authority of the county, you do have to avail yourself of one of the legal options the state law offers. 

*You have one year from the time you inform the county you are homeschooling to turn in your evaluation. You can turn it in early, but don't be late, please as you are then breaking your contract with the state. There is no "deadline" or other arbitrary date when an evaluation is due - you have one full year. Some counties do have a "deadline", but that is only because they have, thus far, gotten away with it.

*The evaluator does not assign grades, grade levels, promotion or retention to grades, or credits. This is the right of the parent educator only.

*The evaluator cannot tell you what subjects to cover, nor the scope or sequence of the subjects you chose to teach.

*The evaluator should include no information on the evaluation form except what is required by law. The sample form above was developed many years ago by Dh and is valid for all FL counties. Our district's sample form given to all homeschool parents in this county asks for notes on student progress (or something to that effect.) It really is none of their business and goes beyond the scope of state law, so it is not required. But many parents don't realize this or are intimidated, and many certified teachers don't question what comes to them on an "official" form.  (See my second point above!)

*If you have a question, feel free to write me in the comments section, or use the e-mail address that connects with my blog profile (if you don't have my primary e-mail address). 


Anonymous said...

How do I find an evaluator such as you described. One who understands homeschooling? jetstreamfarms@aol.com

fourkid said...

Hello jetstreamfarms,
I did a followup post on your question. See the entry for August 17, 2009.

kathy said...

I was recently asked by someone to perform an evaluation. This is new to me and want to make sure that I do an appropriate evaluation. I am trying to get information on HOW to evaluate. What exactly do i use in order to do it correctly? I have read the vcarious ways to do an eval, but can you give specific recommendations? Thanks

fourkid said...

Hello Kathy,
This is a bit long for just a comment section - you are welcome to go to my profile page and use the e-mail link there for further contact if you desire.

The how is actually all revealed in the law itself. You meet with the student and talk to him/her.

You are assessing their vocabulary, communication skills and commensurate level of ability. Some children are shy, you will need to find common ground and draw them out. (We have a large mirror on the wall and often let the younger ones draw on it with glass markers - that is a treat and can get them talking - so some little unique, fun thing often helps.)

As you talk with the student you review their portfolio - and you can use the portfolio as your basis for your conversation. The portfolio comes in many forms and has no specific requirement as to how it should look. Pretty much it is just gathered samples of the student's work - preferably arranged in some type of chronological order (that is the progress.) You are assessing progress only (commensurate with ability). That is all that needs to be done to satisfy the law.

More details - my husband sits at our dining room table with the student across from him. We don't generally have the parents sit there - they tend to interrupt and reply for the student. In our setting they sit with me in the living room and we chat. They can see and hear their child - and answer any needed information. The child is not facing them.

It varies, but generally my husband spends about 20 minutes talking with the student. Then he counsels with the parent. That is another whole topic and is outside the scope of the law - we minister to the needs of the parents, and never actually tell them what to do, but we find that those that chose us as an evaluator also value our counsel. Talking with the parent can take as little as 15 minutes - to sometimes 2 hours - it depends on their needs and questions. But to do that you really need to understand home education. Homeschool is not school at home. That part is tough to teach someone and it evolves year by year - so start with what you know and are sure of, and read widely on the topic.

fourkid said...

A little more....

My husband is a really good educator - he can zero in on things I am often amazed at. Sometimes he asks a student to read a paragraph from one of their own books that they may have brought - or a book we have at their general grade level. He looks to see how the student decodes words and comprehends what they read. This is something he would share with the the parents as an insight - not as a test.

He might ask the students favorite subject and then why they like that subject. What subject do you not enjoy as much? On specific projects or field trips he will ask the student to tell about it - again checking how they process information and learning. He might note a weak area in order to then help the parent come up with a strategy for tackling that problem from a slightly different angle for the next year. And he reinforces the strong areas to continue in that direction as fully as possible.

*side note: too often we (as a society) overly stress fixing the weak areas. No one seeks a lifelong job where they will struggle with weak areas all their lives - so we stress only teach the weaker, unloved areas as much as you need to in order to be a successful adult and to support the strong areas - then spend most of your time allowing the student to fully develop their loves. *

None of this is a part of the evaluation - and is none of the district office's business. For us this is strictly between the family and us. Be careful to only give suggestions - we have found it best to let the parent(s) decide how to best implement these suggestions. We offer tools and ideas - but we are always amazed in the following years at how the family has adapted those ideas to fit them and their lifestyle in unique and interesting ways. They really do know their children best.

And character always trumps academics, so be sure to note this as well to the parents.

kathy said...

THANK YOU!!! your input is invaluable! I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it!

Anonymous said...

Hello. If I am certified for K-6, can I officially evaluate my home schooled seventh grader? Thank you.

fourkid said...

@ Anonymous ~ Yes, you can. The law does not specify that your certification must be for the "grade" or subjects you are evaluating - only that you are a FL certified teacher. Nor is there any problem evaluating your own child - my husband did so for 20 years.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your help!