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West Virginia

February 7, 2003

West Virginia Homeschoolers Fight for More Freedom

The West Virginia Legislature is now considering Senate Bill 181, a bill that would make significant changes to the homeschool law, including permanent removal of the long-disliked four-year rule. The bill has passed the West Virginia senate unanimously, and now goes to the house for action. "

The four-year rule prohibits a parent from homeschooling unless he has at least 4 years more formal education than the child. West Virginia is the only state in the country with this unusual and unjustifiable restriction.

In addition, at least one teacher's union and lawmaker are urging that the bill remove the portfolio option of the homeschool law altogether.

Parents in other states without four years more education than their children have a track record of successful homeschooling. One study showed that homeschooled children of parents without even a high school diploma scored 29 percentile points above the mean! The same study showed that children in public school whose parents did not finish high school scored 16 percentile points below the mean. (SB 181 does not change the current requirement that home school parents have a high school diploma or the equivalent.)

The legislature has waived the rule for the past 3 years, but it needs to be removed permanently. Home School Legal Defense Association and Christian Home Educators of West Virginia are working together in this effort.

SB 181 makes more changes to homeschool law:

Under the current law, a parent can be forced to stop homeschooling a child if the child does not show progress or score above the 40th percentile after two years of remediation. Senate Bill 181 would allow a parent to continue the home instruction program even if progress at the required level cannot be demonstrated, if the parents provide evidence that appropriate instruction is being provided. This provides a sensible alternative in a situation where a child is not progressing even though appropriate instruction is being provided.

Current law does not require a parent to state the child's age and grade level when they fill their homeschool notification. Senate Bill 181 would add this requirement. Many homeschooled children do not fit neatly into one grade or another, however. Some parents do not classify their children by grade. Grades are necessary in institutions, but not in homes. We will seek an amendment.

Senate Bill 181 makes it clear that parents can choose any nationally normed standardized test as a means of evaluation.

Current law requires that the mean of the child's test scores in five subject areas reach the 40th percentile. Senate Bill 181 would raise this to the 50th percentile. A lower score would be considered acceptable, however, if there is improvement from the previous year's results. Raising the "passing" score to the 50th percentile is unreasonable. We will seek an amendment.

Senate Bill 181 adds new requirements to the portfolio option. The narrative review of the portfolio would be required to include a statement about the child's progress in each of the five subject areas, as well as note any area where there is need for improvement or remediation. If acceptable progress has been made, there is no reason for the county superintendent to know areas where improvement or remediation is needed. Parents need this information, but school officials do not. This is because parents are providing the instruction, not the school officials. We will seek an amendment.

For more information on SB 181 visit:
http://www.hslda.org/Legislation/State/WV/2003/WVSB181/default.asp