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November 18, 2011

Public School Standards For Homeschoolers

Recently, while conducting a portfolio review for a homeschool student from the 2010–2011 school year, an elementary school principal in the Brandywine Heights Area School District determined that the student failed to meet “the requirements for a fourth grade regular education program in reading and math.” As a result, the principal notified the teaching parent that she had 20 days in which to submit additional documentation that an appropriate education had taken place. According to Pennsylvania’s homeschool law, once the parent receives such a notice from the school district, failure to provide additional documentation will result in a termination of the home education program.

The family immediately contacted Home School Legal Defense Association for assistance, and Senior Counsel Dewitt Black sent the principal a letter on their behalf. Black’s letter stated that according to state law, the evaluator of the home education program selected by the parent and the superintendent of the public school district must determine whether an “appropriate education” is occurring in the home education program. This is the legal standard for students in a home education program, not whether they have met any standards established for public school students. The term “appropriate education” is defined as “a program consisting of instruction in the required subjects for the time required in this act and in which the student demonstrates sustained progress in the overall program.” The determination of whether an appropriate education is occurring is not dependent on performance in individual subjects such as reading and math, but rather on sustained progress in the overall program. Black reminded the principal that the evaluator of the home education program had made a finding that the student was receiving an appropriate education by applying the statutory criteria.

Apparently HSLDA’s intervention was effective to resolve this difficulty, as the family has received no further contact from public school officials regarding the sufficiency of the portfolio.