Statement Opposing New York Assembly Bill 9091 and Senate Bill 4788

For Immediate Release: Removing Protections Undermines Homeschooled Children’s Interests

Canton, Ma., 2/24/2016—New York Assembly Bill 9091 and Senate Bill 4788 would weaken the state’s oversight of homeschooling by allowing homeschool parents to administer their children’s standardized tests themselves, removing quarterly reports, and making it more difficult for underperforming students to find help. “New York does more than any other state to protect homeschooled children’s interests and should be commended for their dedication to these children and their education,” said Rachel Coleman, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, an organization founded by homeschool alumni to advocate for homeschooled children’s interests. “This legislation would remove a layer of that protection and leave New York’s children at greater risk of educational neglect.”

In New York state, homeschooling takes place under Education Law sections 3204(1) and (2), which allow children to be educated “elsewhere” than a public school if they receive instruction that is “substantially equivalent” to that provided in the public schools. Using this statute as its authority, the New York State Board of Regents created Section 100.10 of the Regulations of the Commissioner, which has governed homeschooling since 1988, with updates and adjustments over time. Assembly Bill 9091 and Senate Bill 4788 are intended to take oversight of homeschooling out of the hands of the Board of Regents by turning Section 100.10 into settled law, making requirements harder to change and removing several key provisions. “Section 100.10 has served the children of New York state well for eighteen years,” said Coleman. “There’s no reason to change what isn’t broken.”

Most significantly, Assembly Bill 9091 and Senate Bill 4788 would allow homeschool parents to administer their child’s standardized assessments. While Section 100.10 requires that the individual administering students’ yearly norm-referenced achievement tests be approved by the superintendent, this new legislation would allow anyone who meets the test publisher’s criteria to administer the test, including the child’s parents. There are numerous testing services that cater to homeschooling parents and consider the parent qualified to administer their students’ tests. “Allowing parents to administer their child’s standardized assessments themselves, in their own homes, creates conditions ripe for cheating,” said Coleman. “We know that abuses occur in states that allow parents to administer their child’s standardized assessments; I have spoken personally with homeschool alumni whose parents gave them help during the test, gave them extra time, or changed their answers.”

Assembly Bill 9091 and Senate Bill 4788 would also remove the quarterly report requirement. Under Section 100.10, parents must submit a report each quarter outlining the material covered and providing letter grades or a written evaluation of the child’s progress. Under the proposed legislation, this requirement would disappear. “The quarterly report ensures that parents take time to regularly reflect on their child’s progress,” said Coleman. “I have spoken with numerous alumni in states with lower levels of oversight who feel that they would have received a better education if their parents had been subject to more accountability.”

Assembly Bill 9091 and Senate Bill 4788 would lower the threshold for adequate academic performance from the 33rd percentile to the 23rd percentile, making it harder for underperforming children to receive the remediation they need. At the same time, it would eliminate a provision allowing the superintendent to conduct home visits when a homeschool family is on probation and there is reason to believe the family is “in substantial noncompliance.” When a child’s annual assessment shows inadequate progress, the home education program is put on probation and the parent must create a remediation plan to be approved by the school district. After that the school district has only the parent’s word that the provisions of the remediation plan are being carried out. “We have spoken with numerous individuals concerned about a younger sibling, nephew, or grandchild who is receiving an inadequate and neglectful homeschool education,” said Coleman. “It is important to ensure that the superintendent has a way to ascertain whether a child’s remediation plan is being implemented should there be reason to believe otherwise.”

“New York state has long had some of the most comprehensive protections for homeschooled children in the country,” said Coleman. “I urge the legislature to maintain this record.”

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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