The Home Education Advisory Council (HEAC) met on September 24, 2020. Present were Kitty Michelotti (Chairman, Granite State Home Educators), Senator Ruth Ward, Fred Fraser (Secretary, NH DOE Higher Education), Jennifer Pereira (Catholics United for Home Education NH), Stef Marsh (NH Homeschooling Coalition), George D’Orazio (Vice Chairman, Catholics United for Home Education NH), Catie McLaughlin (Christian Home Educators NH/S.ME, formerly SCHEA), Chris Bond (attorney for the NH DOE), Michael Koski (NH Association of School Principals), and members of the public including Susan Burke (applicant to be the rep from Unschooling NH), Ann Lane (state Board of Education), and others.
Chairman Kitty (GSHE) informed the council that the 2019-2020 annual report will be presented to state BOE at their next meeting on October 8th.
Kitty also noted there have been widespread and persistent difficulties re Participating Agencies reported to GSHE over the past couple months. Members reported that PAs are not sending acknowledgement letters in a timely manner, only recognizing the notification for a single academic year, requesting information that goes beyond the legal requirements including meeting with the SAU staff and sending year-end assessments to them, and other issues. The GSHE leadership team has counseled families to contact their SAUs explaining the law, and made numerous calls to these problematic districts. GSHE and the NH DOE staff researched dozens of SAU policies and noted that many are outdated and do not reflect the 2012 statutory changes that require one-time notification and keeping year-end assessments private. Kitty requested that the NH DOE issue a technical advisory to clarify Participating Agencies’ legal obligations and hopefully, resolve this quickly.
Stef (NHHC) concurred that they have also seen extensive problems with Participating Agencies and suggests supplying TA language that is very clear and direct.
Chris Bond said the NH DOE intends to issue a TA in the very near future. Steve Berwick has been researching SAU policies and wants to make sure the TA addresses these outdated policies and common problems.
Update 9/25/2020: The NH Department of Education released a Technical Advisory reminding Participating Agencies of their legal requirements regarding new homeschoolers’ notifications. Families should share this with their districts if they continue to have difficulties.
The second item on the agenda is working with the NH DOE to provide a process by which home educated high-school students may receive credits upon enrolling in their local public schools that may be recognized towards graduation. This issue is moved to follow the member reports; see below.
Stef (NHHC) is interested in considerations for homeschoolers receiving “credit” if they re-enter public school. As noted in a recent HSLDA article, home educated students are having difficulty accessing the PSAT exam and like other groups, the NHHC is experiencing tons of inquiries from prospective and new homeschoolers.
Kitty asked Chris Bond (NH DOE) if there is anything in statute that allows homeschoolers to access things like the PSAT. It is not clear if these exams fall under Equal Access or not. Chris will research and report back.
Fred (NH DOE Higher Ed) reported that his college is back to teaching in-person.
Jen (CUHE) said they have many new inquiries and are busy helping families get familiar with the home ed requirements and getting started. She also noteed that some co-ops are not resuming programs this year due to strict Covid protocols.
Mike (NHASP) shared that principals are super busy getting the school year started, but he is not aware of any home ed issues. He expressed surprise to hear of such widespread SAU difficulties. He also remarked that homeschoolers, while disrupted, did not have the same big upheaval that district families experienced.
Catie (CHENH/S.ME) had a busy summer supporting local families and notes many have particular concerns for high schoolers. She observed that homeschoolers entering public high school seem to be treated more strictly re credits than other transfer students.
Senator Ward read an article about homeschooling in the Keene Sentinel and wanted to reach out to families in that area. Kitty will help make the connection. She is also meeting with representatives from Hillsdale College re charter schools, and wants to see efforts that allow funding to follow the child to whatever educational setting the family determines. Kitty commented that many new homeschooling families are upset that funding and resources are not available.
Homeschoolers Receiving Credit at Public Schools
Stef said districts used to have a publicly-posted list of competencies to reference, but families find it difficult to prove “mastery” in order to receive credit for their home education if they enroll in a public school. Placement tests work well for subjects like math and world language; SAUs should have a policy in place that applies to all students uniformly. Some SAU policies note that they will award credit if a homeschooler takes classes from an accredit program, but not all NH public schools are accredited so this is a biased requirement.
Catie suggested a few ways to award credit for homeschoolers: CLEP testing over 50, credits from accredited programs; time logs and other reports from online programs; and placement tests for subjects that have objective standards.
Mike confirmed that principals have discretion to determine placement and each district has their own process. It is often a difficult decision because there isn’t always a “clean” fit to match an outside program to something offered in-district. CLEP tests are a good option; it is hard to argue with it for high-school placement because it is a college level test. Families need to show rigor of the program. It might be helpful if there is a third party that would help evaluate the home ed program. Mike encourages families to talk to their schools about requirements if they intend to return to public schools.
GSHE published an article two weeks ago with tips and links for families who intend to enroll in the local public school after homeschooling.
Stef pointed out that requiring a homeschooler take programs from an accredited source is not fair as there are public and private schools that are not accredited.
George agreed that the Covid situation gives this issue special timeliness and consideration. There should be a placement process that offers objective measures to determine if a student meets requirements to receive credit toward graduation.
Kitty underscored the need to encourage families to speak to their schools as early as possible if their intention is to return to public school, especially at the high-school level. It is advisable to get it in writing, something like a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), so it is clear to all parties.
Stef suggested that families reach out to the schools and offer ways to prove the rigor of their home ed program, such as accreditation through NARHS.
HEAC’s next regular meeting is on Thursday, November 19th (moved because of Thanksgiving) beginning at 3:30pm. If needed, a meeting may be called on Thursday, October 22nd. HEAC meetings are 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.
by Michelle Levell