Across the States
Unlawful Portfolio Requirements
Some homeschooling families have received a letter from an executive assistant in Baltimore City Public Schools Elementary Area 4 asking them to come in for a face-to-face portfolio review and suggesting that they fill out a two-page form before the review.*
While state regulations do require homeschool families to maintain a portfolio of their child’s schoolwork for the superintendent’s review, the regulations do not require the parent to attend a face-to-face portfolio review.
Maryland Regulations Code § 13A.10.01.01.F (7ldquo;regulation F”) prohibits local Maryland school systems from imposing any requirements in addition to those imposed by the state regulations. This protects families from overzealous school officials who want to control homeschools in a manner outside the bounds of the law.
Any school system that insists on a face-to-face review is in violation of regulation F. While you may attend a face-to-face meeting if you wish, it is not mandatory.
Additionally, a sheet attached to the executive assistant’s letter says, “Students are welcomed to accompany the parents/guardians to the review meeting.” There is no legitimate need for children to attend a portfolio review, and Home School Legal Defense Association strongly advises against it.
Regarding the two-page form, the letter itself clearly explains that the form is optional. Although you may fill out the form if you wish, HSLDA recommends against it. Many items on the form call for information that is not required under state law.
For instance, the form requests the number of hours spent on each subject per day, information about foreign language and literature instruction (under the state regulations, English is a required subject, but “literature” is not), and a description of field trips or special projects.
Also requested are “sample assessment tools” that document mastery of instruction. If you did indeed perform assessments of your child in a particular subject area, it is appropriate to include documentation of them in the portfolio. However, such assessments are not required by state law. If you elected not to do any assessments, work samples or other written materials should suffice to document the teaching that occurred in that subject area. Furthermore, state regulations do not require your child to have “mastery” of any subject.
An information sheet attached to the form asks parents to use a tabbed notebook or pocket portfolio, and to use a composition notebook or spiral notebook for each subject—neither of which is required by state law. Therefore the portfolio format is optional.
The sheet also says the portfolio must include a lesson plan or schedule, but state regulations do not require such documents. Another stipulation is that work samples should coincide with the lesson plan and schedule, which is clearly unnecessary since lesson plans and schedules are not required at all.
Bear in mind that a portfolio is simple—it is merely a collection of materials showing that your child has received regular, thorough instruction in the required subjects of English, math, science, social studies, art, music, health, and physical education. Some of these subjects naturally produce papers you could include in a portfolio; others do not. For example, a student might not use a workbook or text for music, art, or physical education, and thus may have no paperwork to show for his efforts. In such cases, a simple outline of what the child did should suffice.
Souvenirs can also be useful. For example, if a student’s art program consists exclusively of visiting art museums, you may want to include a museum brochure in the portfolio. If the child’s music program is primarily participation in a church choir, you could include a church bulletin that lists the songs he sang, or even a photocopy of one or two of the songs. Most forms of physical education will not produce any paperwork whatsoever. A brief description of your child’s physical education program should suffice.
Finally, Maryland Regulations Code § 13A.10.10.10.E(1) says that the portfolio review must be at a time and place mutually agreeable to the school system and the parent. If the school system simply notified you of a time and date for a portfolio review without consulting you in advance, you should feel free to reschedule if the appointment is inconvenient for you.
If any local official goes out of bounds, HSLDA is ready to assert your rights under state law.
— Scott A. Woodruff
* See "A plethora of forms"