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May 19, 2014

Superintendent Scoffs at Teacher Review as “Unreliable”

Staff Attorney Mike Donnelly answers questions and assists members regarding legal issues in Ohio. He and his wife homeschool. Read more >>

Many parents (and teachers) agree that standardized tests aren’t the best measure of academic achievement for all children. Although a majority of states do not require annual academic assessments, Ohio’s homeschool law does require an annual assessment which must be submitted to the local public school superintendent with subsequent homeschool notices. Thus, like many states, Ohio homeschool law gives parents options for evaluating academic proficiency of homeschooled children for compliance with Ohio’s homeschool law.

Portfolio assessments are a common method used across many jurisdictions that require assessments. They are a legitimate alternative for homeschool families to demonstrate academic proficiency. In Ohio such a review must be conducted by a certified teacher who reviews the portfolio and develops a narrative stating that the teacher has reviewed the portfolio and that academic progress has been achieved commensurate with the age and ability of the child.

Official Disdain

However, one Ohio superintendent scoffs at the portfolio in a letter to local homeschool families.

St. Mary’s Superintendent Shawn Brown wrote to one homeschooler that “[a]lthough the state rule does permit a written narrative from a certified teacher to be substituted for a nationally normed, standardized achievement test, we do not recommend this option. Such assessments in our opinion cannot provide parents and the school district with reliable data as to how a child’s performance compares with that of other students at the same grade level.”

According to Mr. Brown, Ohio’s own certified teachers can’t provide “reliable data.” Aren’t these Mr. Brown’s own staff? Teaching in his own schools? It seems obvious that a certified teacher working with a parent and reviewing a child’s portfolio should be a reasonable, reliable and appropriate way to assess whether a child is making progress that is appropriate with the child’s age and ability.

Within Their Rights

HSLDA Staff Attorney Michael Donnelly wrote to Mr. Brown explaining that families have every right to use the portfolio option to fulfill the assessment requirement and that it was inappropriate at best for the superintendent to share his “opinion” in this way.

“Standardized testing is only one of the options available to homeschool families to complete the required end-of-year assessments,” wrote Donnelly. “In addition, the Ohio Administrative Code Section 3301-34-04(B)(2) specifically states that parents may alternatively submit ‘a written narrative indicating that a portfolio of samples of the child’s work has been reviewed and that the child’s academic progress for the year is in accordance with the child’s abilities.’ ”

He continued: “The Ohio Legislature has specifically recognized that assessments can and do present a representative sample of a child’s work and progress in their home education. Local school districts do not have authority to change this regulation or put their own stricter standards in place just because they think assessments from their own teachers aren’t ‘reliable.’ ”

Revision Requested

Donnelly asked the superintendent to revise future letters to reflect the legal requirements of Ohio homeschool law and to refrain from discouraging homeschoolers from using a legal and legitimate means of assessment to demonstrate academic achievement.

In HSLDA’s documentary on the Common Core, Building the Machine, Wayne Brasler of University of Chicago Lab Schools teachers says children “aren’t apples, they’re people.” The Common Core system is a one-size-fits-all education system with nationalized standards, assessments, databases and more. But homeschooling provides parents with alternative methods of instruction and assessment recognizing that that children are different and deserve to be treated that way. Hopefully, Mr. Brown will re-assess his own views on the subject soon.

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Protect Your Family

If you have questions or difficulties in a school accepting your family’s homeschool diploma, don’t hesitate to contact HSLDA. We are happy to assist you! If you aren’t a member of HSLDA—what are you waiting for? By standing together we can fight discrimination against homeschoolers and protect our fundamental freedoms. Join today!