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Summer 2008

Mineral – As we reported in the Spring 2008 issue, the Mineral County Board of Education was contemplating a homeschool policy for students who want to take classes in the public school system. In June, the Board adopted the most restrictive homeschool policy in the state. It requires homeschool students who want to attend more than 50% of the school system’s instructional day to enroll full-time in school and follow the required curriculum for enrolled students. Students no longer have their choice of classes.

The two families immediately affected by this policy change worked hard to prevent its adoption. During the policy comment period, WVHEA sent comments to the county Board of Education suggesting alternative solutions to the problems the school system cited and urging it to reconsider the restrictions in light of a study by the National Association of State Boards of Education and a WV State Supreme Court decision. A copy of the letter is available here.  The board's policy is here

Spring 2008

Mineral County -- Four homeschool students in Mineral County taking classes at the local high school have prompted the county school system to develop its first formal homeschool policy.

The students were taking classes at the local vocational-technical center when, following in the footsteps of another Mineral County homeschool student who has since graduated, they decided to enroll in more classes at the high school, which amounted to a full day of classes.

Their request was made in accordance with this section of W. Va. Code 18-8-1:

Any child receiving home instruction may upon approval of the county board exercise the option to attend any class offered by the county board as the person or persons providing home instruction may consider appropriate subject to normal registration and attendance requirements.

The county approved the students’ requests for the additional classes, but Mineral County Attendance Director Linda Marsh began to question whether these students could still be considered homeschoolers. She consulted Dr. Karen Larry at the WV Department of Education about the definition of a homeschool student. Dr. Larry said that students taking a full school day’s worth of classes must be enrolled full-time and can no longer be considered homeschool students. It is not clear what law or policy Dr. Larry used to develop this definition.

Advised of this determination, the students chose to give up their homeschool status and enroll as full-time public school students in order to continue with all their classes.

Then guidance counselors at the high school began raising questions about these full-time students who weren’t regular high school students working toward a diploma. The guidance office had to make sure to exclude these “irregular” students from class rankings, the honor roll and other awards, including diploma lists.

Informed of the counselors’ concerns and after consultation with Dr. Larry, Mineral County Schools Superintendent Skip Hackworth determined that all full-time high school students in the county must be in a regular program of study, working toward a diploma.

The students again had to make a decision: either remain enrolled as full-time students and undertake a typical high school program, earning credits toward a diploma, or withdraw from half of their classes and return to homeschool status. This time, three of the students elected to withdraw from their high school classes and return to homeschool status; they continued with their classes at the county vo-tech center. One child remained in the system as a full-time enrolled student; his classes at the high school are part of the standard high school program of study.

Supt. Hackworth then formalized his decision into the county’s first homeschool policy.

The families of the students objected, saying that the county does not need a homeschool policy. Other homeschooled children in the county had taken classes at the high school and the tech center in previous years without any problems.

The homeschool families questioned the superintendent’s authority to institute a policy without school board approval, and they protested that the public had not been able to review or comment on the new policy prior to its adoption. The families had to file a request under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain a copy of the policy. Local newspapers spotlighted the controversy, which brought it to the attention of national homeschool email lists and blogs.

One parent requested that, if the county must have a homeschool policy, she be allowed to participate in its development. The parent says that, to date, she has received no response to her request.

County boards of education have some latitude to set homeschool policy in certain areas, within the parameters of the law and the state superintendent interpretations. WVHEA does not know of any other county that limits the number of classes that homeschool students can take at their local school. *.

It is not clear what law or policy Supt. Hackworth used to limit the number of classes homeschool students can take. No one has yet filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain all the documentation related to the new policy and its development.

Mineral County School Board has postponed a decision about the homeschool policy until the superintendent is able to study and respond to the guidance counselors’ list of concerns.

According to the Cumberland (MD) Times-News, Supt. Hackworth said that the school board may decide that a homeschool policy is not necessary.

— Betsy Kocsis

 

* In Harrison County, United Technical Center’s assistant principal Paula Altman says that a homeschool student can take as many classes as (s)he wishes, provided there is space. UTC serves Doddridge, Harrison and Taylor counties.

Aaron Jones, a 17-year-old homeschool student in Marion County, takes a full day of classes at the county vo-tech center. He has been taking classes at the center for several years. His parents continue to submit a notice of intent for Aaron each year, as well as an annual assessment.

Fall 2004

 

Mineral County – Several homeschool parents reported receiving a letter from the county BOE asking them to provide the certification number of the teacher who will conduct their child’s portfolio review. One parent reported that she complied with the request; others said that they did not.

Regarding assessment, W.Va. Code §18-8-1 states, in part:

On or before the thirtieth day of June of each year the person or persons providing home instruction shall obtain an academic assessment of the child for the previous school year and submit the results to the county superintendent.

The requirement for portfolio evaluations specifies:

The county superintendent is provided with a written narrative indicating that a portfolio of samples of the child's work has been reviewed and that the child's academic progress for the year is in accordance with the child's abilities. …This narrative shall be prepared by a certified teacher whose certification number shall be provided.”

The usual practice is for portfolio evaluators to provide documentation of their qualifications with the written narrative, which parents submit at the end of the school year. The law does not require parents to notify the county superintendent ahead of time about the type of assessment they intend to use, nor does it require the portfolio evaluator’s teacher certification number be provided separately from the evaluation.