PA demands homeschoolers’ standardized test results
Six different school districts in Pennsylvania are demanding that homeschool parents submit standardized test results of their children to their district superintendent — or face not meeting the so-called legal requirements for homeschool.
The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) announced that families from half a dozen school districts in the Keystone State have reported erroneous requests for their students’ scores — just in the last month alone. The Christian legal group says that the school districts have been keeping it busy clarifying for them what is now required by law.
Misinterpreting the law
HSLDA attorneys were surprised to see the complications and government overreach in Pennsylvania — especially after the state saw significant improvements to its homeschool law less than two years ago in the fall of 2014.
“All six of the school districts insist that parents must provide their district superintendent test results in order to be considered in compliance with the legal requirements for homeschooling,” the nonprofit legal organization reported.
HSLDA Attorney Dan Beasley assured authorities at all six school districts that they are wrong in demanding homeschoolers’ test results — because Pennsylvania state law requires no such submission.
“Under Pennsylvania’s revised homeschool statute, submitting test scores to the school district is not required,” Beasley explained to the respective districts in letters. “The passage of House Bill 1013 in October 2014 eliminated the requirement that home education program supervisors — usually parents — submit a portfolio of various records, including standardized test results in grades 3, 5 and 8, to the local public school superintendent at the end of the school year.”
The homeschool attorney insists that the districts are overcomplicating the existing rules, which he says are really quite simple.
“Instead, supervisors are required to submit only a certification from a qualified evaluator — who has reviewed the portfolio — that the child is receiving an appropriate education,” Beasley informed. “Under current law, the superintendent must give deference to the certification of the qualified evaluator regarding whether an appropriate education is occurring.”
He maintains that the heads of school districts in Pennsylvania are assuming responsibility for obtaining records that the law simply does not call for.
“The superintendent is under no obligation to perform an independent review of educational progress — provided he or she receives the required certification from the qualified evaluator,” Beasley continued.
Clearing things up
The legal expert describes the new Pennsylvania homeschool laws as implementing a “common-sense change” that has the effect of eliminating duplication in the reviewing process of homeschool students’ progress — in contrast to what was required or understood under the old law.
“Under the old law, superintendents would second-guess the certification from qualified evaluators concerning educational progress,” Beasley noted. “They would perform their own independent review of progress and require families to submit additional documentation — which had often already been given to the evaluator.”
He indicates that now, the former unnecessary procedures and double-checking should be a thing of the past.
“In almost all of these duplicate reviews, the superintendents ultimately concluded that an appropriate education was occurring,” the pro-family lawyer added. “But the multiple reviews caused stress and unnecessary paperwork for homeschool parents.”
Seeking an explanation for the “rash and erroneous” requests made by districts for homeschoolers’ test scores, HSLDA conducted research to find out where the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) stood on the issue — and the legal group discovered exactly what it presumed.
“We found that PDE agrees with HSLDA and specifically indicates that test scores must no longer be provided to the superintendent,” HSLDA attorneys divulged.
After communicating with one district, HSLDA shared that its diligence in interpreting the law accurately was greatly appreciated by its school official, and the legal group is confident that other districts will soon follow suit.
“So far, HSLDA has received one response from an assistant superintendent in Eastern Lebanon County School District who thanked HSLDA for providing helpful clarification and expressed a desire to respect homeschool parents,” Beasley revealed. “We are optimistic that our member families will be expected to comply with only those requirements prescribed by state law.”