Although state law gives Virginia home instruction students a right to take the PSAT through the public schools, the Loudoun County Public School (LCPS) system recently cast doubt on whether it would respect that right.

Students generally take the PSAT early in high school to practice for college entrance exams such as the SAT and ACT. Though PSAT scores don’t count toward college admissions, taking the test is the most common means by which students can compete for the National Merit Scholarship.

When a homeschool mom recently asked to sign her child up for the PSAT, an LCPS official told her:

“Due to limited staffing and health mitigation requirements, our priority is for enrolled public school students to have an opportunity to test. If we find that the numbers of interested students allow us to extend the opportunity to home instructed students, then we will do so. We have not yet opened registration . . . so I do not yet have a count . . . or [know] whether there will be any available slots.”

A different LCPS official told another mom  that the policy had changed and that the October PSAT would only be offered to LCPS students.

Following these troubling communications implying that the officials were not committed to following the law, I sent the LCPS superintendent a letter quoting the relevant statute and asking him if the school system intended to follow the law.

He replied and said that the test registration form is now available for home instruction students. He also hedged and said:

“. . . if LCPS and home instruction applications exceed capacity or if the pandemic takes a turn for the worse, staff will determine the proper course of action based on the totality of the circumstances then known including any lawful orders or CDC guidance . . .”

I responded and told him it is LCPS’ duty under law to arrange for as much capacity as may be necessary to accommodate all the home instruction students who properly register for the test. This is not inconsistent with minimizing the risk of infection while students sit for the test.

We will be watching this situation very closely.