Portfolio Reviews with BCPS

The following information is intended to explain how portfolio reviews are implemented in Baltimore County in accordance with Maryland's home schooling regulations.  

What is a portfolio? 
For the purpose of homeschooling, a portfolio is an organized collection of student work and instructional plans for each required subject area. The portfolio is maintained by the parent/guardian in order to demonstrate that the student is receiving regular, thorough instruction, per Maryland regulations at a portfolio review conducted near the end of each semester.  

A portfolio includes important instructional materials such as, but not limited to: 
Student writing samples, written assignments, worksheets, workbooks
Assessments (tests/quizzes) 
Projects (research based, multimedia, cross-curricular, creative, etc.) 
List of Instructional/reading materials and/or curriculum documents 
Photos of art and dated logs may be used to document art, music, and physical education

What is the purpose of the portfolio review?
The portfolio review is required in Maryland to ensure that each child participating in a home instruction program is receiving regular, thorough instruction during the school year, in the studies usually taught in the public schools, to children of the same age.  

Where and when are the portfolio reviews held?
The reviews are held in the meeting rooms of public libraries throughout Baltimore County based upon availability.  First semester reviews are typically scheduled from November through mid-January.  Second semester reviews are typically scheduled from April through mid-June.  

How are portfolio reviews scheduled?
A few weeks before the reviews begin, an e-mail is sent to all families notifying them to schedule a portfolio review using the Sign-up Genius link that is included in the e-mail.  A variety of locations, dates, and times are provided to allocate a 30 minute review for more than 1300 homeschooled students each semester.  

Who attends the portfolio review?

A parent or legal guardian is required to attend the meeting. Students are welcome but not required to attend.  The parent may bring anyone else he or she wishes, such as a tutor or relative. However, the tutor or relative may not attend in place of the parent/guardian. 

Who reviews the portfolios?
Baltimore County Public Schools hires a team of reviewers comprised of retired school administrators, student service providers, and master teachers. Each reviewer brings a wealth of expertise and experience to the review table.  Additionally, each member of the team undergoes annual training to remain current with Maryland’s regulations for home instruction.  The reviewers thoroughly enjoy meeting with the families and share in the joy of the students’ accomplishments each semester.  Every effort is made to provide families with the same reviewer each semester to facilitate positive relationships between our families and staff..  

What happens at the portfolio review?

Upon arrival, the parent/guardian will be greeted and his/her attendance will be noted on a sign-sheet.  The parent will be directed to the appropriate reviewer's table and will share the student’s work for each subject area.  While reviewing the work, the reviewer will document the evidence that is provided for each subject area.  Notes on the portfolio review form may include comments about the name of the curriculum, text books, resources, websites, skills covered, pages numbers of workbooks completed, etc.  The reviewer will not evaluate the student's academic progress, assign grades, etc.  The purpose of the review is to ensure that the student is homeschooled in accordance with the regulations. The reviewers are happy to answer parents' questions during the review.  At the conclusion of the portfolio review, the reviewer will email the form to the parent, unless otherwise stated.  

What does a parent/guardian bring to a review if the student is using an online program?
The expectations of a portfolio review for online programs are the same as home instruction programs that do not incorporate computer work.  Online programs, academies, and schools utilized for home instruction in Maryland do not override the state’s regulations.  If using an online program, the parent (and/or the student) should be able to easily access the program and the online documentation supporting the student’s regular participation in each course.  Some families prefer to bring a tablet or laptop to the review; others prefer to print the online documentation that is available. Additionally, it is also helpful for students to maintain “scrap paper” for all math work with corresponding dates to the computer activities; written work may be provided to the reviewer for science, social studies, and English either by printing the assignment or allowing the reviewer to examine the written work on the computer (i.e. in a Word document or assignment uploaded to the online program).  

How much work should be included in the portfolio?

There is no specific number of required work samples.  For the purpose of a portfolio review, the regularity and thoroughness of the home instruction program are primarily determined by the quantity and quality of student work. For online programs, the regularity can be determined by the electronic log of dates and times when the student accessed the online work or the student's progression through the course. The thoroughness is determined by the quantity and quality of student work, the electronic record of grades,  and any additional documentation provided. 

What happens if the portfolio does not have sufficient evidence of instruction? 

If a parent/guardian does not provide adequate documentation of the home instruction program, the reviewer will document the deficiencies on the review form. Another portfolio review meeting will be scheduled to provide the opportunity to correct the deficiency within 30 days.  The parent will leave the review with a list of the deficiencies as well as the date, time, and location of the 30 day review. If not corrected (or if the parent does not attend the mutually scheduled portfolio review to correct the deficiency), the student must be promptly enrolled in a school. 
Failure to schedule and/or attend a portfolio review is considered to be non-compliant with home instruction regulations and requires a child’s immediate enrollment in a public or non-public school.