What is a portfolio review?
What should it include?
Question: I am a newbie. This was my first year, and now I’m worried about this portfolio evaluation. What exactly should I prepare for a homeschool portfolio review? What should I expect?
So you’re opting for the portfolio evaluation to wrap up your school year. If you are registered with your local school district, this is one way of meeting the Florida State Statue’s requirements.
You may be wondering exactly what a portfolio is, and how to prepare one. Simply put it is a recorded log of what you’re student completed during the school year and examples of their work. It should reflect the growth a student has made during the school year.
It does not mean that an evaluator needs to see every last piece of paper, or evidence of every assignment completed. Nope! In fact, don’t even try. It will drive you nuts, and an experienced evaluator will not be combing over thousands of work samples.
Think about an art student that curates a portfolio to show to the admissions board of an art school. Do they give the admissions board every doodle they ever made? No! They make sure that they show the board their best work, in wide variety and range--essentially their portfolio says “Look at me, who I am, and what I can do!”
Your student’s portfolio should do the same--it should showcase your student’s growth over the year. States that require portfolios will also tell you how long you need to keep it. For example, in Florida, you need to keep for 2 years and have it available for inspection by the county within 15 days of being requested. Once a teacher or evaluator has signed off on it, keep it neat, keep it together, and keep it handy for two years. I strongly suggest keeping portfolios that contain 9th-grade work and higher if your student might want to go to college. You might find it useful during the application process.
A log of some kind should be kept throughout the school year. I have seen things as simple as composition notebooks written by hand that just state what a student did, or electronic notes stored on private cloud storage sites. Some parents have written plans, and just make the date something is completed and keep it as a log--they don’t actually create anything new or separate. It doesn't matter what method you use--just use one. It doesn’t need to be long, complicated or stressful. Make a list. Write down the page numbers covered in a book, or jot down the novel the student is reading.
A solid portfolio will have examples of student’s work in all subjects they spent a lot of time working in. It’s a very good idea to have material examples that span throughout the school year. This makes it easy to see how students have grown. Don’t think only written work has to go in there.
Went on a field trip? Throw in some pictures.
Kid’s took a painting class? Show off a creation.
Took a trip to the theater? Save that ticket stub!
Taught your student about plants or bugs while growing your backyard garden? Take pictures of your student in the garden!
Did they earn an award or certificate? Yes, please put a copy in the portfolio.
Did they start a business? Throw in some proof of that.
Religious responsibilities that required reading, studying, research, speaking, or performing? Please include proof of that!
Does an older student have an internship? Put a record sheet of that in your portfolio too!
Put simply, if your school year was more than worksheets--your portfolio should be too!
If your student used a program like Time4Learning, FLVS FLEX, K12, or the Simple Revolution Solution (that's ours), print out the grades! Sites like MobyMax, IXL, and others have parent reports that show how a student has performed using their site over time. These are just a few a super-easy way to the continuity of work.
Also, a portfolio review is not to see if your student is “on grade level” or to see if they made what the school system would consider “a year’s worth of growth”! Every child starts at different places and grows at different rates. The portfolio review is to give proof to the county and state that the student is learning and making the growth possible based on their own abilities and circumstances.
Unschoolers or relaxed schoolers will not have a problem completing a portfolio review. Look for an evaluator who understands these educational approaches, and you’ll be just fine (if you're wondering, I love working with unschoolers and relaxed schoolers).
If this is your first year and you’re like “Oh crap, I didn’t keep anything! No one told me to keep a list”--breath! Once again, an experienced evaluator will help you by looking at what is there and give you the reassurance you need to feel comfortable. You’ll find the method and evaluator that works for you and your family in time.
As a side note, it’s great if you can work with the same evaluator once you find your fit. This way you won’t have to explain your situation to someone new annually, or feel that you have to go to great lengths to demonstrate growth. and you can feel at ease. You should also have an ally there to help you at any time throughout the school year if you need assistance.
Remember, Florida law requires 180 days of school days completed during the 365 day-span since their last evaluation (or when they registered). Remember, a "school day" can be any day--even holidays, summer, or weekends. A log or records with dates and examples that were produced over a course of the year is all that is required. It should not be a source of stress or anxiety for the home educator or student!