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Pennsylvania

June 14, 2016

New Homeschool Law Put to the Test

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Despite significant improvements to Pennsylvania’s homeschool law in the fall of 2014, school districts have kept HSLDA busy clarifying what is now required.

DAN BEASLEY
Contact attorney for Pennsylvania

In the last month alone, member families in six different school districts have contacted HSLDA regarding erroneous requests for standardized achievement test results. All six of the school districts insist that parents must provide their district superintendent test results in order to be considered in compliance with the legal requirements for homeschooling.

HSLDA Attorney Dan Beasley has written letters assuring the respective district authorities that the law requires no such thing.

Under Pennsylvania’s revised homeschool statute, submitting test scores to the school district is not required. The passage of House Bill 1013 in October 2014 eliminated the requirement that home education program supervisors (usually parents) submit a portfolio of various records, including standardized test results in grades 3, 5, and 8, to the local public school superintendent at the end of the school year.

Simplified Rules

Instead, supervisors are required to submit only a certification from a qualified evaluator (who has reviewed the portfolio) that the child is receiving an appropriate education. Under current law, the superintendent must give deference to the certification of the qualified evaluator regarding whether an appropriate education is occurring. The superintendent is under no obligation to perform an independent review of educational progress, provided he or she receives the required certification from the qualified evaluator.

This was a common-sense change that eliminated duplication in reviewing homeschool student progress. Under the old law, superintendents would second-guess the certification from qualified evaluators concerning educational progress. They would perform their own independent review of progress and require families to submit additional documentation (which had often already been given to the evaluator). In almost all of these duplicate reviews, the superintendents ultimately concluded that an appropriate education was occurring. But the multiple reviews caused stress and unnecessary paperwork for homeschool parents.

Curious about this rash of erroneous requests for test scores, HSLDA researched the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s (PDE) position on the issue. We found that PDE agrees with HSLDA and specifically indicates that test scores must no longer be provided to the superintendent.

So far, HSLDA has received one response from an assistant superintendent in Eastern Lebanon County School District who thanked HSLDA for providing helpful clarification and expressed a desire to respect homeschool parents. We are optimistic that our member families will be expected to comply with only those requirements prescribed by state law.