For Immediate Release: Accountability Is Critical to Homeschool Success
Canton, Ma., 2/1/2016—Last year, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed House Bill 2793 and Senate Bill 444, legislation that would have removed nearly all of the state’s protections for homeschooled children. This year the West Virginia legislature is renewing its deregulation push nonetheless. House Bill 4175 would weaken the state’s assessment requirement and remove other crucial safeguards for homeschooled children. “West Virginia’s existing requirements are designed for the benefit of the state’s homeschooled children,” said Rachel Coleman, executive director of the alumni-founded Coalition for Responsible Home Education. “That the legislature is again trying to remove these safeguards is a travesty.”
H.B. 4175 would require parents to submit assessments of their children’s academic progress to the local superintendent only after grades three, five, eight, and eleven, rather than annually as under the current law. While parents would still technically be required to have their students assessed annually, the legislation includes no accountability measures to ensure that assessments would take place during the years when parents are not required to submit the results. “Annual assessments are important to ensure that children have access to educational resources and to identify learning disabilities,” Coleman said. Many homeschool alumni argue that assessment requirements improve the quality of education homeschooled students receive by ensuring that their parents are motivated to provide them with a solid and well-rounded education.
Perhaps the most startling provision of H.B. 4175 is that it would allow parents to administer their children’s standardized achievement tests themselves. The current statute bars parents from administering these tests for their own children in an effort to protect against cheating, but this would change under the new legislation. The Coalition for Responsible Home Education recommends that students’ assessments be carried out by someone other than the student’s parent in order to ensure accountability. “I have spoken with homeschool alumni whose parents changed their standardized test answers, allowing their educational neglect to go unnoticed,” said Coleman. “We need standards that work for homeschooled children, not standards that open the door to fraud.”
Finally, H.B. 4175 would remove the annual notice of intent requirement and allow parents to homeschool without a high school diploma or GED. Currently, homeschool parents in West Virginia are required to submit an annual notice of intent. Under the new legislation, this notice of intent would be submitted only once, when beginning to homeschool, making it easier for school districts to lose track of homeschooled children. H.B. 4175 would also remove the current requirement that homeschooling parents have a high school diploma or GED. “Parents’ level of education has a profound affect on homeschooled children’s academic achievement,” said Coleman. A recent study of homeschool alumni found that those whose parents had graduated from high school reported far higher levels of academic preparedness across a range of subject areas than those whose parents lacked a high school diploma or GED. “This legislation would allow parents to homeschool their children for grades they never completed themselves,” Coleman added. “West Virginia’s lawmakers must do better than this.”
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.