I usually make portfolio reviews a little more interesting by conducting a social experiment involving how I presented myself or what evidence of instruction I provided in the portfolio. However, this time, the school district set the experimental condition by assigning each family a reviewer. So, now I have one less variable that will impact my future review experiments.
According to the homeschool office, the criteria they used to match reviewers to families were:
- address of the family is in the area where the reviewer wants to work,
- age of the children falls in the preferred range of the reviewer, but siblings all have the same reviewer,
- families might get a reviewer they have met with before.
The matching process must have been much more daunting than they had anticipated because the sign-up link did not go out until after midnight the Sunday before reviews were set to begin on Monday.
I did not get assigned to a reviewer I had met with before. I usually like getting the review out of the way on one of the earliest possible days, but was not going to drive a half hour, so I had to wait a week until my reviewer had appointments at my local library. The person I was assigned to had retired from being the director of the homeschool office three years ago. I brought essentially the same style portfolio on PowerPoint as I had done last spring. I included:
- 3 samples of work for each academic subject (math, science, English, and history)
- a list of topics covered for each of the eight required subjects
- a list of resources used for each of the eight required subjects
- a complete list of assignments for each subject since September (this was my backup material and something new I added)
I would describe the process as kind of stoic. The reviewer was thorough, actually looking at the samples for more than a second and wanting to see 7 out of 8 of my complete assignment lists, even asking to see more than one page of several. However, she did not really comment on anything or offer any “helpful” advice. She did not act overly enthusiastic about my organization of materials, like several reviewers did in the past. She also did not frantically try to record every minor detail of my evidence, like several past reviewers attempted to do.
I felt that she stayed well within the boundaries of the homeschool law. She did not ask about any frequency or length of time spent on any subject. The only thing she asked, right at the beginning when I started with the first subject, was whether the English my son is doing is 8th grade English. I told her it didn’t come with a grade label, but the curriculum is marketed to middle-school age. Then she kind of backtracked about whether I thought he was doing age-appropriate work or if he was behind, to which I replied, “yes.” She did not ask about the level of any other subject, except when I explained the math topics we are doing, she insisted on calling it Algebra 1 because the book is called Introduction to Algebra despite the fact that I told her the topics are typically taught in Algebra 2. So, that irked me a bit and I am not going to let her get away with that again. I did not pull the “I taught high school math for 10 years, so I damn well know what’s which math class” card that time.
The reviewer showed me her write-up on her laptop before we concluded the review. She said she needed to fix a couple of drop-down menu issues before she sent it out. I also noticed a few typos and hoped that she would fix them unlike the guy from the spring review. It took two full school weeks after the review for me to receive the write-up. In previous semesters, I got them within 3 days of the review. I sent an email to the homeschool office after one week and received a vague “mid-week” as a response. When no write-up appeared in my inbox after that deadline, I wrote another email. The second response didn’t answer my question, just a “thanks for your concern.” However, another email with same time-stamp did have my write-up attached. All of the typos had indeed been fixed. (Except that Algebra 1 nonsense!) The PDF I was sent, however, had been saved from a Word document that was still in mark-up mode, so it was a shrunked page showing the comment bubble margin. I had to send a third email asking for a clean version.
Check out my other posts about portfolio reviews: