More School Daze

Test PencilIt’s all too simple to gag and giggle at such right wing ideological idiocy as the attempt by two Missouri legislators to allow parents to pull their kids out of science classes in which evolution is taught. [C&L]

“Missouri’s House Bill 1472, introduced in the House of Representatives on January 16, 2013, is the third antiscience bill of the year, following Virginia’s HB 207 and Oklahoma’s SB 1765. If enacted, the bill would require “[a]ny school district or charter school which provides instruction relating to the theory of evolution by natural selection” to have “a policy on parental notification and a mechanism where a parent can choose to remove the student from any part of the district’s or school’s instruction on evolution.” Parents and guardians would receive a notification containing “[t]he basic content of the district’s or school’s evolution instruction to be provided to the student” and “[t]he parent’s right to remove the student from any part of the district’s or school’s evolution instruction.”  [NCSE]

And, we wonder WHY the kiddies aren’t doing well on Science examinations? Do we really expect youngsters to be taught watered-down, religiously oriented “science,”  and then do any better than a place in the top 22 countries? [WaPo]

However, the situation could be worse.  For years advocates of home-schooling have pushed back against reports of child abuse and endangerment associated with parents who opt out of any schooling, public or private, for their children.  And, no, merely because a child is home-schooled doesn’t mean a red flag needs to flap in the breeze.  This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be reasonably vigilant either.

“Despite its explosive growth, home schooling is still a remarkably deregulated enterprise. Half of all states require parents to simply register their intent to home school, and 11 states have no regulations at all. It’s hard to do a comprehensive count of home-schooled students, when in many places, they don’t have to notify anyone that they exist.”  [AJAM]

That last sentence is troublesome.   It’s one thing to advocate for parental control over curriculum, and another to propose that parents who want to avoid all standard curriculum  have the option of  home schooling.  But, it’s really something else entirely to create a situation in which parents are not required to demonstrate the child has learned basic skills, or not even required to let local agencies know the child exists.

Idaho, Alaska, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Connecticut, and New Jersey statutes allow just such an environment.

Nevada is categorized as one of the states with minimal regulation — at least the parents have to let local authorities know the children exist — along with California, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, and Delaware.  These states require parental notification of home-schooling only.  They do not require any testing or professional evaluation of progress.

Some states do require notification, testing or evaluation: Washington, Oregon, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Florida, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Maine, and the District of Columbia.

A few states pay even closer attention, requiring notification, testing or professional evaluation, curriculum approval, and possible home inspections in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Vermont.  [HSLDA]

Nevada appears to be on the cusp of “minimum” to “moderate” regulation.  NRS 392.700 does mandate an educational plan:

“The parent of a child who is being homeschooled shall prepare an educational plan of instruction for the child in the subject areas of English, including reading, composition and writing, mathematics, science and social studies, including history, geography, economics and government, as appropriate for the age and level of skill of the child as determined by the parent. The educational plan must be included in the notice of intent to homeschool filed pursuant to this section. If the educational plan contains the requirements of this section, the educational plan must not be used in any manner as a basis for denial of a notice of intent to homeschool that is otherwise complete. The parent must be prepared to present the educational plan of instruction and proof of the identity of the child to a court of law if required by the court. This subsection does not require a parent to ensure that each subject area is taught each year that the child is homeschooled.”

The intent to home school a youngster can be based on any number of parental reasons — ranging from rational to idiosyncratic — most of which are perfectly acceptable.  The problems arise in the cracks.  For example, most home school curricula are almost coterminous with public school offerings, and a youngster who is successful in one regime will no doubt be successful in the other.   However, the citizens of Nevada might be rightly concerned by the lack of any required demonstration of success in the subjects in the educational plan.  The state does provide permission for home-schooled youngsters to participate in the Proficiency Examinations, and college entrance exams.   Additionally, if a formerly home-schooled student seeks to enroll in a Nevada public school the parents must comply with NRS 392.033’s placement (testing) requirements.

If the curriculum used by the home-schooling parents has a testing component, and clear standards for student performance, this is a mirror of the public/private system, and not problematic.  Nevada legislators might want to consider the specificity of educational plans submitted by parents.

The State Department of Education provides a list of accredited home schooling programs, and other helpful information,  but must the local district accept a home-schooling educational plan that does not meet or exceed the requirements of an accredited program?

Nevada’s avoided the Invisible Child trap, but it could do just a bit more to insure that children participating in home-schooling are meeting the standards set for educational achievement in this state.  Most will, it’s the few who may not we should worry about.

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