The Home Education Advisory Council met on Thursday, May 28th, 2020 via Zoom for what is likely to be the final meeting of the 2019-2020 academic year. One of the major topics was the year-end assessment waiver.
In March the NH Department of Education requested and received a waiver from the US Department of Education for the annual statewide assessment for public schools because of the Covid-19 school closures.
The homeschool community requested a similar waiver because many are experiencing the same financial and academic difficulties as our public and private-school counterparts.
At the April HEAC meeting, an attorney for the DOE, Chris Bond, informed the council that the DOE was working with the Attorney General and Governor’s office to obtain a waiver for homeschoolers. Because the DOE is likely to require public schools to complete the annual statewide assessment in the fall, instead of the spring when it is usually administered, the DOE would likely seek a postponement type of waiver, not a total one, for homeschoolers.
In late May, HEAC was informed that the Governor’s executive order #38 empowers the Commissioner with the authority to waive or modify assessments.
The Commissioner of Education is granted authority to waive or modify as appropriate to accommodate the remote instruction and support environment the following educational, assessment, reporting, evaluation, and accountability requirements:
a) The assessment program set forth at RSA 193-C, et seq. (Statewide Educational Improvement and Assessment)
b) The requirements set forth in RSA 193-E:3 (Delivery of an Adequate Education);
c) The requirements set forth in RSA 193-E:3-b (Accountability for the Opportunity for an Adequate Education);
d) The requirements set forth in RSA 193-E:3-c (Performance-Based Accountability System);
e) The requirements set forth in RSA 193-E:3-d (Performance-Based School Accountability System; Verification Process);
f) The requirements set forth in RSA 193-A:6, II and III (Records; Evaluation); and
g) The performance measuring requirements of RSA 193-H, et seq. (School Performance and Accountability)
Any waivers or modifications issued by the Commissioner pursuant to this paragraph 4 will be communicated to all school districts and will be posted on the Department of Education website.
The DOE’s guidance on executive order #38 does not give sufficient information regarding how homeschool waivers will be handled. It is not clear who within the DOE is the contact person or makes decisions re a waiver request, the criteria for granting a waiver, or what the waiver entails.
At this time, the Department has not modified or waived any of the statutory requirements set forth in Paragraph 4 of Emergency Order #38, except that the state assessment will not be conducted in the Spring of 2020. Further modifications to the statutory requirements identified in Paragraph 4 of Emergency Order #38 will be posted as additional guidance on the Department’s website.
At last evening’s HEAC meeting, the council voted unanimously to request an “honor code” blanket waiver for homeschoolers who believe the annual year-end assessment presents a hardship to their family. This recommendation will be presented to the Commissioner as quickly as possible. HEAC does not have any independent authority, but can only make recommendations to the Commissioner.
Whether or not a waiver becomes available, homeschoolers have significant flexibility for the annual year-end assessment.
Families can determine when their academic year is complete, so there is no specific due date. Given the unusual circumstances due to Covid-19, it would not be unreasonable for families to suspend a portion of their academic year, and perhaps complete the assessment in the fall sometime.
Families also have many options for how to complete the year-end assessment. Families have three broad choices: a) a standardized test, many are available online or can be given at home easily; b) a teacher evaluation completed by a person with a NH certification or one from a state with reciprocity or currently teaching at a nonpublic (private) school; or c) a mutually agreed upon alternative with your Participating Agency, such as a report card from an online program or something else that reflects your child’s work.
More details, including links to providers and evaluators, are available on our Testing & Evaluations page.
We hope to hear from the Commissioner’s office soon re the year-end assessment waiver and we will share his decision with the community as soon as it is available.
More about the May HEAC meeting will be published shortly with details about the Ed 315 revision efforts and the annual report to the state Board of Education.
UPDATE 6/2/2020: Commissioner Frank Edelblut announced a complete waiver available for this year's assessment. Families are advised to keep a copy of the waiver in their portfolio and maintain it for two-years, as required in state statute.
By Michelle Levell