The Home Education Advisory Council (HEAC) held a virtual meeting on Thursday, April 23, 2020. Present were Kitty Michelotti (Chairman, Granite State Home Educators), Fred Fraser (NH DOE Higher Education), Jennifer Pereira (Catholics United for Home Education NH), Stef Marsh (NH Homeschooling Coalition), Michael Koski (NH Association of School Principals), George D’Orazio (Vice Chairman, Catholics United for Home Education NH), Representative Glenn Cordelli, Senator Ruth Ward, Michelle Levell (Seacoast Christian Home Educators Association), Catie McLaughlin, and attorney Chris Bond.
With the stay-at-home orders and school closures, groups are seeing significantly more inquiries about homeschooling and are making efforts to support families whose children are displaced from their usual learning environments. A number of resources are available including the following. It was noted that children with learning differences are particularly struggling with remote learning.
The council mentioned the Harvard summit and article that appeared in Harvard Magazine. The panelists and author have been skewered in follow-up articles, including ones in Foundation for Economic Education, the New York Post, and Medium. Homeschoolers around the country are concerned about possible backlash regulation efforts as families struggle with remote learning. The entire counsel emphasized the importance of distinguishing between homeschooling and crisis schooling.
Ed 315 revisions
For approximately 18 months, HEAC has worked on proposed changes to Ed 315, the rules that govern home education. This was initiated by Commissioner Edelblut in an effort to more closely align rules to statute. The current version of Ed 315 is available here; scroll approximately half way down the page. The current working proposal is available here.
One issue remains to finalize the proposal which will then advance to the state Board of Education. The council, with the help of Amanda Phelps, the NH DOE administrative rules coordinator, needs to clarify if the portfolio remains property of the parents or the entity that may request to see or review it. Supporting documentation has been provided to Ms. Phelps for consideration.
Attorney Chris Bond is working on an emergency order with Commissioner Edelblut and the Attorney General regarding some kind of waiver for the year-end assessment requirement. There are federal standardized test requirements for public schools that the US DOE has waived for states this year given the coronavirus emergency. There are also state assessments that are usually required and they are working to get those waived, too, along with many evaluation processes that go with those assessments. The Commissioner believes strongly that if evaluation requirements are waived for public schools, then they should be waived for homeschoolers. There is not a waiver in place yet as they consider options that may give the Commissioner authority to waive or modify RSA 193-A:6 II and III as needed. The waiver may or may not be a partial waiver, have an application process, or allow families to wait until the fall to complete an assessment. The intention is for it to parallel what is in place for public schools which will likely need to complete a statewide assessment in the fall.
HEAC members made it clear to the attorney that a) some homeschoolers have already completed their year-end assessment or plan to soon; b) homeschool families are also facing financial hardship due to the stay-at-home orders so conducting a year-end assessment may be a strain; c) some families usually participate in the assessment hosted by their local SAU and that is not an option this year, and d) if a family does their year-end assessment anytime this spring or summer, it should be sufficient if the waiver only extends to the fall. The attorney said he would share this feedback with the Commissioner.
Attorney Bond can be reached at Christopher.Bond@doe.nh.gov and 603-931-2241.
More information about the current status of year-end assessments along with links to standardized tests and teacher evaluators, is available here. Home ed statute does not specify a due date for the annual assessment, only that it reflects the child’s progress for their academic year.
Fred Fraser – Like many other schools, Thomas More College did not have a plan for remote learning when the state-at-home order was initiated, but adapted rapidly. They are finding that many of their students are doing well, particularly those who are former homeschoolers.
Mike Koski – Schools and principals are focused on remote learning not homeschoolers at this time.
Michelle Levell – SCHEA canceled the annual book/curricula sale. SCHEA and GSHE have extensive outreach efforts to families whose children are crisis-schooling.
George D’Orazio and Jen Pereira – CUHENH recently updated their website.
Stefanie Marsh – NHHC has many received numerous questions regarding year-end assessments.
Glenn Cordelli and Ruth Ward – They will emphasize the distinction between homeschooling and crisis schooling with other legislators.
Kitty Michelotti – She is working on HEAC’s annual report and will include the distinction between crisis schooling and homeschooling. She will email a draft to HEAC members to review prior to the May meeting.
The council voted to name Fred Fraser the new HEAC Secretary.
HEAC’s next regular meeting is on Thursday, May 28th beginning at 3:30pm and is likely to be online, depending on the stay-at-home orders. Otherwise, the council will meet at the Department of Education offices, 101 Pleasant Street in Concord. The meeting is open to the public and all are welcome to attend. The contact information of HEAC members can be found here.
Read more about HEAC’s recent work.