Home-schooler oversight snags school choice bill

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The statewide voucher bill, SB 193, would require home-schoolers who are enrolled in the program to take an approved annual assessment and report it to the state. It’s more than what’s required of homeschooling families now, and according to the Union Leader, it’s raising concerns from advocates:

“‘In a sense, SB 193 has become a backdoor to impose evaluation requirements on home-schoolers, which were repealed in 2012,’ said state Rep. William Marsh, R-Wolfeboro, whose children are homeschooled.

The bill passed the Senate last year but was retained in the House, where the House Education Committee made several changes and then voted that the bill ought to pass as amended. One of those changes was to subject home-schoolers in the program to the same requirements that face private school students who qualify for the state-funded Education Freedom Savings Accounts the bill creates.

That would mean a certified teacher or a teacher currently teaching in a nonpublic school, selected by the parent, would have to evaluate student progress based on a portfolio. The home-schooled student would also be required to take a nationally standardized achievement test and demonstrate “reasonable academic proficiency or satisfactory growth.”

Failing that combination, the student would be evaluated using “any other valid measurement tool mutually agreed upon by the parent and the commissioner of education, resident district superintendent, or nonpublic school principal.”

To Marsh and other like-minded home schooling parents, the changes would be similar to what is proposed in a home-school accountability bill filed by Rep. Robert Theberge, R-Berlin, HB 1263, which hit a buzz saw of opposition in the homeschool community before it was even assigned a bill number.

In fact, says Marsh, ‘SB 193 would impose more stringent evaluation procedures than HB 1263, as students would have to both be evaluated by a teacher and take one of the tests.’

Marsh and others have made their concerns known, without much success. “We are under considerable pressure from the governor’s office and Republican leadership to support SB 193 as amended,” he said.

The Wolfeboro Republican is concerned that SB 193 as written will create two classes of homeschoolers – those who apply and qualify for the state per-student grant of about $3,600 a year, and those who don’t.

‘Given that this evaluation data would only be collected under SB 193, there would be a selection bias,’ he said.

‘It will only be collected on people who want and need financial help. It’s well known that lower socioeconomic groups do worse on school evaluations, so this could easily make the academic performance of home-schoolers appear significantly worse than in existing studies. I am concerned this will become a basis for further attacks on home schooling.’

If Theberge’s bill becomes law, the accountability requirements will apply to all home-schoolers, so the ‘selection bias’ that Marsh worries about would not apply. But the prospects for HB 1263 are uncertain at best.

Rep. Rick Ladd, R-Haverhill, chairman of the House Education Committee, says House Education developed a consensus that home-schoolers should face the same eligibility requirements for the program as families who use the grants for private school tuition.

‘We are putting the same requirements on anyone who receives these dollars from the state,’ he said. ‘If the home-schoolers don’t like that, they can remain home-schoolers and live according to the law on the books from 2012. But if they want the money, they are going to have to be accountable. I think that’s fair.'”

Source: Dave Solomon’s State House Dome: Home-schooler oversight snags school choice bill | Union Leader