SD Lawmakers Should Keep Homeschool Assessments

For Immediate Release: Supporting homeschooled students means supporting assessments

Canton, Ma., 01/29/2019—Advocates for homeschooled students are urging South Dakota lawmakers to reject House Bill 1065, which would eliminate the state’s testing requirements for homeschooled students. HB 1065 was introduced by the State Affairs office at the request of South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and is currently being considered by the House Education committee. “We urge lawmakers to oppose HB 1065,” said Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, a national nonprofit organization founded by homeschool alumni in 2013. “If this bill is signed into law, there will be no longer be any check to ensure that homeschooled children are being educated — and it is the children who will suffer,” Coleman added.

Currently, students who are homeschooled in South Dakota are required to take a single standardized test during grades 4, 8, and 11. “This requirement is not burdensome,” said Coleman. “Ensuring that homeschooled children are tested every few years ensures that parents will be able to recognize and correct potential deficiencies in their education.” The scores are kept on file by the local school district; students are flagged if subsequent tests show a lack of progress. “There is mounting evidence that homeschooled students nationwide underperform in math and under attend college,” noted Coleman. “Students who do attend college appear to be less likely to major in STEM fields. This is not the time to remove the only accountability measure South Dakota provides for homeschooling families.”

Many homeschool graduates argue that assessment requirements improve the quality of education homeschooled students receive. Caitlin T., who was homeschooled in grades K-12, speaks positively of her years being homeschooled in Pennsylvania, which required parents to submit portfolios of their children’s work. After her family moved to New Jersey, she says, “things fell apart.” “Without oversight, there was no need to think about compiling a portfolio … no one was there to check up on us or offer help as I entered harder subjects.” Coleman adds that assessment requirements can help parents, too. Assessment requirements can also help homeschooling parents, providing them with benchmarks to meet.

“Assessments help ensure that homeschooling is provided in good faith,” Coleman notes. In recent years, a growing number of studies examined cases where abusive parents have used homeschooling to isolate their children.  In a 2014 study of child torture, University of Wisconsin pediatrician Barbara Knox found that 47% of the school-age cases she examined involved homeschooling. In 2018, Sarah Egan, the Child Advocate of Connecticut, found that 36% of children removed from school to be homeschooled lived in families subject to past child abuse or neglect reports; 90% of these these involved founded or multiple reports. “Assessments offer a general check on homeschooled children’s wellbeing,” said Coleman, “and they make it harder for abusive parents to take advantage of the homeschool law.”

“We need policies that center the needs of the roughly 4,000 children being homeschooled in South Dakota today,” said Coleman. “We can’t afford to gamble with these children’s well-being. We urge lawmakers to reject HB 1065.”
The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.

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