When Nicole Doyle tried to sign up her son—a Georgia homeschool high school student—for the PSAT college placement exam a few years ago, every public school she contacted on his behalf turned him away.
“It was an uphill battle,” Doyle recalled. “The school system just wouldn’t welcome us.”
She added that the situation was especially frustrating because her family had no legal recourse. Doyle is not alone in her experience. Homeschool families in several states have asked Home School Legal Defense Association to help them sort out similar college placement exam access issues over the last two years.
“COVID-19 highlighted discrimination that has been taking place for years against homeschoolers who want to take these tests,” HSLDA Staff Attorney Dan Beasley explained.
HSLDA is trying to change that. These results prompted Beasley to write nondiscrimination text based on laws that have been enacted in Tennessee, Maryland, Nevada, Texas, and Virginia.
With state legislatures convening in many states, HSLDA is encouraging lawmakers to take action. HSLDA hopes to see bills based on this nondiscrimination model introduced in several states this year.
Opportunities at Stake
Making sure homeschooled high schoolers are given a chance to sign up for these exams at their local public schools is about more than being treated fairly. Barring students from certain standardized tests can also deny them a wide range of opportunities—from competing for scholarships to qualifying for enrollment in college courses while still in high school.
In a survey conducted last year by HSLDA’s legal staff, some 15 percent of homeschool parents reported being unable to find a testing location where officials were willing to sign up their children.
Looking Beyond High School
LaNissir James, HSLDA high school educational consultant and outreach coordinator, agreed that enacting more laws guaranteeing access to college placement exams would certainly benefit homeschoolers.
“These tests are important,” she said. For example, “I get lots of questions from parents asking where they can go to have their students take Advanced Placement exams or the PSAT.”
And though some schools don’t require the SAT or ACT for entrance, James added, “even colleges that are test-optional may have scholarships that are tied to test scores.”
Whether or not students can earn college credit for work done in high school can also hinge on testing, she explained.
High schoolers who take Advanced Placement courses certified by the College Board won’t be able to count their achievement toward a college degree unless they also earn a certain score on a separate AP subject exam.
Likewise, James said, in many cases, high schoolers won’t be permitted to take college classes via dual enrollment until they qualify through the College Board’s ACCUPLACER exam.
College credit was also at stake for Nicole Doyle’s son. That same year he was denied access to the PSAT, he couldn’t find a public school willing to allow him to sign up for AP subject exams either.
Fortunately, Doyle related, things were different the next time around—after she employed advice she received from a public school guidance counselor. Doyle pitched her request for a seat at the next round of college placement exams directly to the vice principals of several public schools in her area.
As a result, Doyle not only successfully signed up her own son for AP exams in computer science and environmental science, she was also able to secure testing slots for several other students in their homeschool co-op.
The key, Doyle pointed out, is learning how to navigate public school bureaucracy. “You have to find out who has the power to say yes or no.”
Support Is Available
James has another piece of advice for parents looking to sign up their homeschooled students for these tests. “The number one tip,” she said, “is to start early. You also want to be part of a local community that can let you know which public schools that offer these tests are the most homeschool-friendly.”
In addition, she noted that HSLDA members who have other questions about college placement exams are welcome to contact the organization’s educational consultants.
“We can be the guidance counselors for parents who may not have access to all the information they need,” James affirmed.