A common concern in homeschool and unschool support groups is how to find a great evaluator. In Florida, if you have a letter of intent filed with your county you will need an evaluation or to submit test scores (if you and your county office agree on a test). There are also some school districts which allow FLVS grades to serve in place of your evaluation. Check with your home education office for details.
Many families choose a portfolio evaluation because it is less stressful than standardized testing for many kids. Finding the best evaluator for your family is important. Check out the tips below so you can be certain you have the best evaluator for your family.
Evaluator Attitude and Personality
You will want an evaluator who is kind, thoughtful, friendly, and positive. They must be good with kids to help alleviate any stress your child feels. Most evaluators will fit the bill. They are happy to help and want your family to succeed. Do interview the evaluators you are considering before making a choice. Just because another person suggests an evaluator does not mean that the evaluator is right for your family.
Knowledge of the Law
Your evaluator should know that student growth is measured via a portfolio of work samples, activities, or other information you deem important to your child’s year. The child must make progress commiserate with their abilities. This means that you do not have to teach what public schools teach and you do not have to have a child on grade level according to state standards. Many parents choose to use state standards to guide them, but this is up to you. Students with special needs and those who unschool may have non-traditional items in their portfolios. Life skills acquisition, therapy reports, parent observation, and other options can be included in a portfolio. If your evaluator does not accept these types of proof that learning occurred, then you should find a different evaluator.
Evaluators MUST Speak to the Student, Except…
One issue I have seen come up recently is that evaluators are not speaking with students. Speaking with a student about their portfolio is required by Florida statute. There is only 1 reason they should skip this step and that is if the student is unable to communicate due to special needs, including but not limited to anxiety or lack of a way to communicate due to special need. Evaluators will usually try to communicate, then if a child seems anxious or fearful, a good evaluator will move on in discussion with the parent. I have completed evaluations with those who do not speak. We have used assistive technology, ASL with parents translating, etc. There is almost always a way unless a special need prevents communication with the student. Keep in mind that some students prefer online evaluations, and this is an option with some evaluators. Check with your evaluator for details.
Evaluators Should Not Turn in Your Forms
Evaluators should not turn in your forms to your school district home education office. It is important that parents retain the right to review and turn in correct forms after the evaluation takes place. Many evaluators have been turning in letter of intent forms as well as evaluation forms. This has led counties to try and demand that this occur every time, not just in these select cases. That is not how the law is written and puts all homeschoolers in danger of not having recourse if an evaluation is done incorrectly.
I hope these tips help you to find the best evaluator for your family. You are always welcome to contact me with additional questions about this post or other home and unschool topics.
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I earned my master’s degree in reading and literacy as well as an ESE graduate certificate. I hold a current teaching certificate and am working on my dissertation for my PHD in general psychology. As a consultant and reading coach, I focus on early childhood education, elementary education, moving from middle school to high school to college, reading and literacy, study skills, thematic units, and social skills. Additional services include public speaking, transcript preparation, and more. I look forward to putting my teaching experience and degrees to work for you.
You can also contact Melissa, The Reading Coach at 407-712-4368