Summary of 9/15/2023 Home Education Advisory Council Meeting
Note that the video appears to begin a little after the meeting began, after introductions and some discussion about participation in Learn Everywhere opportunities.
Council members for the 2023-24 term
Dianne Nolin Catholics United for Home Education
Althea Barton, Secretary, NH Homeschooling Coalition
April Villani, Chairman, Catholics United for Home Education
Rebekah Woodman, unaffiliated, home educator
Mike Koski, unaffiliated, home educator
Heather Barker, NH School Administrators Association
Jill Grant, NH Nonpublic School Advisory Council
Katelyn Kuttab, NH House of Representatives
Katy Peternel, NH House of Representatives
Ruth Ward, NH Senate
Tim Carney, NH Department of Education
GSHE comment -- Two HEAC representatives are listed as representing the “home education community” but are unaffiliated with any homeschool organizations and three seats remain open.
Immediate Business, mark 19:03
Clarification regarding withdrawal language in Ed 315.05(b)
Extended discussion about outdated SAU policies and confirmation that when starting a home ed program, a family must also formally withdraw from a school as well, if the child is enrolled in a public or private school. It is a two-step process. This is consistent with the guidance provided by GSHE.
Academic Progress, mark 40:25
The newly adopted rules, Ed 315.02(d) struck out the “and/or” language that is in RSA 193-A:6. The concern is growth in learning and a parent thought the “or” is more restrictive. April spoke to DOE attorney Liz Brown and the legislative intent is to consider the whole child. The DOE said that the rules cannot have an “and/or” phrase, but the reasoning is not clear.
Jill Grant from Trinity Christian School in Keene asked what benchmark or documentation is required to claim a disability or if a child is behind in educational progress. Tim indicates that the NH DOE may wish to reopen the Ed 315 rules to address this issue.
The council had an extended conversation about homeschoolers’ academic accountability and oversight. Jill repeated concerns that homeschoolers are not maintaining records or doing assessments as required in state law and not making academic progress.
GSHE reached out to Jill to answer her questions about home education requirements and the extensive resources and supports we offer.
Ed 315 Rule Making Process
The state Board of Education adopted the new rules at their September 14, 2023 meeting. There was concern about HEAC being notified prior to the rules process, going from JLCAR to the state BOE.
HB 308 (2023), mark 1:12:25
This bill relative to remote attendance by public boards was signed into law and becomes effective October 3, 2023. “This bill allows for certain state boards to vote to allow one or more members to participate in a meeting remotely when physical attendance at the meeting site is not reasonably practicable and permits members of the public to participate remotely in these remote meetings.”
HEAC votes to allow one or more members to attend remotely to satisfy a quorum in keeping with revisions to RSA 91-A, NH’s Right to Know law.
The council discusses rescheduling meetings when the legislature is in session (from January to June) to accommodate legislative members.
HB 628 (2023), mark 1:30:10
Rep Katy Peternel mentioned that HB 628 has a work session on Tuesday, September 26 at 9am. She says it is a “dangerous bill for homeschoolers.” It could be construed to require parents to have background checks if they have group learning opportunities in their own homes. Katy said that the committee is concerned that it may impact parents and the Education Freedom Account program.
GSHE has followed this bill from the beginning and was the only parent representative present at the work session. Our report is available here.
DOE Report, mark 1:37:15
The adoption of the updated Ed 315 rules will require changes to the NH DOE website.
The High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) rules revisions have not progressed since the HEAC meeting in January. The department added the GED as a testing alternative.
GSHE reached out to the NH Department of Education’s Adult Education Bureau and HEAC’s attention in spring 2022 as the rules are unfair to home-educated students relative to teens in other educational settings and inconsistent with other parental consent practices.
The department is disinclined to issue additional technical advisory re Equal Access because it is a “nuanced” subject; each district is empowered to adopt their own way of satisfying this legal requirement. The department will offer webinar training and handle complaints on an individual basis as alternatives.
Other home education technical advisories that are no longer consistent with current law and rules will be removed from the DOE website.
Best Practices, mark 1:42:30
The council made changes to components of Best Practices policies that were discussed and at the May 2023 meeting. They will review them further at a future meeting.
Concerns remain about audio vs video recordings that may have children in the background. Zoom provides transcripts at no cost and that alternative will be considered as a substitute for audio or video recordings.
GSHE comment – What does HEAC want to commit to for accountability, accessibility, and transparency in their Best Practices? Do they want to do only the minimum requirements as defined in RSA 91-A? Good governance practices are what boards adopt as a protection for times when opposition can restrict the public’s access and do harm.
“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.” -- Dalai Lama
AI generated transcripts often miss nuances and closed captioning is notoriously inaccurate. It also does not attribute who said the remarks. Given that the department already has a Zoom account and recordings are readily made at no additional cost or effort, it seems a lame argument to not make them available to the public. If a council member is unable to have child care or has concerns about a child’s privacy being at risk at a meeting, then remote attendance is an option and Zoom features allow backgrounds to be fuzzed-out.
HEAC meets at the NH Department of Education’s office at 25 Hall Street in Concord. They meet on the third Friday of alternating months starting at 2:30pm, unless announced otherwise. The public may attend in-person or via Zoom. Zoom meeting information is available here. The remaining 2023 meeting dates are as follows.
Friday, October 20, 2023 (if needed)
Friday, November 17, 2023
Friday, December 15, 2023 (if needed)
Links to meeting minutes and members’ contact information are available on the NH DOE’s HEAC page.
Read More About HEAC
By Michelle Levell