There are many times it may seem kinder, more helpful, or even easier to give more information to your local district or a private school, but there are even more reasons to not over-share or over-comply with the home education requirements.
It is highly advisable that homeschoolers know for themselves what is and is not required in home ed law and rules. The law is found in RSA 193-A and Ed 315 rules apply to home ed. SAUs, while knowledgeable about public education, are not experts in homeschooling and often have incorrect policies. We did a spot check of roughly 75 districts’ home ed policies in summer 2020 and found that nearly all of them had policies that did not reflect the 2012 legal changes to one-time only notification and keeping the annual assessment results private.
Background and Details
Homeschoolers, particularly those who are relatively new to it, may not know that families are not required to share their children’s annual assessment results. The law changed in 2012 to allow families to keep the test score or evaluation private as part of their children’s portfolios. Prior to the statute change, homeschoolers were required to submit their results to their Participating Agency each year. Families had to prove that they were sufficiently educating their children; presumed guilty until proven innocent. No other educational option, even today, has to show proof of a child’s learning or has such extreme consequences. Although public school students take the NH Statewide Assessment System exam each year, students do not face removal from their local school if they fail to test at or above a proficient level nor are schools closed for poor academic performance. Private schools may have their own academic standards, but that is a policy, not a statutory requirement by the state.
I can't underscore this enough, friends: please do not over-comply with the law. That means, please do not ask your SAU to do your teacher evaluation or share your assessment results with schools.
Homeschoolers worked hard for the freedom to keep the annual assessment private. Prior to 2012 when the law changed, families were required to submit their annual assessment to their Participating Agencies. If the child did not meet the performance requirement -- 40th percentile or higher on a standardized test or "progress commensurate for age and ability" on an evaluation --for two years in a row, then the child would be forced out of the home education program and into a public school.
In 2018, there was an effort to return these requirements to NH law, and over 600 homeschoolers showed up in Concord to oppose it.
Further, there are national efforts to have more regulation of homeschoolers. A Harvard professor has been an outspoken critic of home education and contacted the Biden administration asking for more national regulation. This is a very real issue for homeschoolers and many of us believe it is important to protect the freedom we have worked so hard to obtain.
There are common examples of these circumstances when you may be prompted or encouraged to over-share information, and alternatives that do not go beyond NH’s home ed law.
Enrolling in Public Schools
When families end their home ed program and enroll in their local public schools, it is common for high-school principals to decide what, if any, credits will be awarded towards graduation. Although you should not share your portfolio or the annual assessment results, we encourage families to seek placement tests and other ways to demonstrate mastery. We have a video with tips and resources. Families may also prepare a transcript that describes the student’s achievements and resources used; check our High School & Beyond page for online transcript tips and sources.
Increasingly, we are seeing elementary-level principals also ask for homeschoolers’ portfolios and assessment results. This is a new development, and we would make the same recommendations of requesting placement tests or preparing a simple transcript.
If your child thrived in your home ed program, that is wonderful, and though it may be tempting to share your child’s successes, there are ways of doing so without sharing the portfolio or assessment.
New School Year Inquiries
Some districts contact formerly enrolled families to inquire if they plan to return to their local public schools. While it would help their planning, homeschooling is “until further notice” and families do not need to renew or repeat their intention to home educate their children.
The law changed in 2012 to one-time only notification at the beginning of a child’s homeschool program. Districts may or may not have updated their policies to reflect the law, so may be genuinely unaware of this change. However, the NH Department of Education sent out a reminder in fall 2020 because over half of NH’s SAUs had outdated and incorrect policies regarding home education.
You can choose to respond to these inquires with a simple note, not another Letter of Intent or homeschool notification letter, if you choose, but you have no obligation to do so and GSHE generally advises not to reply.
Families are required to send in an initial notification, or Letter of Intent, within five days of beginning a home ed program. We have the details on our Where to Begin page, along with a simple description of what the letter must include -- the child’s name and birth date, home address, the parent(s) name(s), and daytime phone number(s). The NH DOE developed a form that may be used.
Families have a choice to notify their local SAU (not the individual public school), a private school that offer Participating Agency services, or the NH Department of Education. There are trade-offs with this decision, but families are able to make the choice as suits them best.
Some districts provide their own form, but use caution. Some districts ask for information beyond what is legally required such as the child’s grade level, assigned local public school, language spoken at home, the child’s ethnicity, and vaccine status. This goes beyond the law and rules and should not be given to the district.
Your chosen Participating Agency – your local SAU, a private school that offers this service, or the NH DOE – must send an acknowledgement letter within 14 days of receiving your notification letter. This letter should not be specific to a single academic year because home ed law requires one-time only notification. The home ed program is in effect until you notify them otherwise.
If your acknowledgement letter incorrectly specifies only one academic year, contact the office and remind them that the legal requirements are one-time only notification and request a new, corrected acknowledgment letter be issued. Do not refile a notification; that rewards them for their error and the mistake is theirs, not yours. If needed, give the office the home ed law (RSA 193-A) and rules (Ed 315) links, and even the NH DOE’s technical advisory letter, so they are reminded of their legal responsibilities.
Lost Acknowledgement Letter
It happens. Maybe the acknowledgement letter was placed in one child’s portfolio and then buried in the box or put in a pile and forgotten. That’s ok. There is no need to refile a notification because the law is still one-time only per child. If you realize your acknowledgement letter is missing, reach out to your Participating Agency and ask them to reissue one. They are supposed to have your original notification on file, so this shouldn’t be a problem.
All homeschooling families are required to do some kind of annual assessment. The broad choices are a standardized test of some kind, a teacher evaluation with the education professional of your choice, or something else that shows your child’s progress that is agreed upon by your Participating Agency.
Families may work with their local district to have their children participate in the public schools’ statewide tests, but that is only one option. The downsides are that the homeschooled students’ results are incorporated into the schools’ aggregate results, and often use methods and covers subjects that the home ed program may not have included. While it is free to families, parents should communicate with their local schools ahead of time if they want to participate in the NH Statewide Assessment System.
Alternatively, there are many other standardized tests available to homeschoolers such as the Iowa Basic Skills Test, Personalized Achievement Summary System (PASS), Terra Nova, Classic Learning Test, and many others as well as numerous providers. Refer to our page on testing here for additional information and resources.
If a family chooses to conduct a teacher evaluation to satisfy the annual assessment, GSHE generally recommends to not necessarily contact a teacher on-staff at their local public school. The requirements for public education are very different from home education, and a public-school teacher may have little to no familiarity with home ed. Homeschoolers have no requirement to follow the public-school standards, scope/sequence, grade-level expectations, calendar year, attendance minimums, daily schedule, or other elements of a public education. GSHE has an extensive list of teachers who have a familiarity with NH’s home ed requirements and are available to provide an evaluation. Per NH’s requirements, a person can perform an evaluation if he/she has a NH teaching certification or one from a state with reciprocity, or is currently teaching at one of NH’s private schools.
Note that there is no specific form or checklist for the evaluation in home ed law or rules. GSHE recommends that the evaluation include the child’s name, birth date, and address (same as the original notification requirements), date of the evaluation, the teacher’s name and certification number or the name of the private school where employed, a line for the parent’s signature, and indicate whether or not the child has met the requirement of showing “progress commensurate with age and ability.” GSHE does not provide an evaluation form because it can imply that there is a correct or one way to do an evaluation or show progress. We believe individual teachers can bring more to the evaluation, including notes on the materials reviewed, areas of strength and improvement, recommendations for the next school year, and other expertise and insight that the professional can bring to the discussion and particular concerns and talents of the individual child.
Pass It On
For those of you who are experienced homeschoolers or know new homeschoolers, please encourage them to be mindful of over-compliance with requirements. We don't want to casually give-away the hard-earned freedoms we have in NH. When we over-share our children's information, our opponents think it is of little concern or consequence to ask the same from other families. It also does not encourage districts to be more knowledgeable of or follow home education law. Know your rights and encourage your new(er) homeschool friends to value them, too.
By Michelle Levell