happens if a family begins homeschooling after the school committee
has refused to approve their proposal?
again provides a procedure. In this case, if the school committee chooses
to prosecute the parents, "the burden of proof…shifts to the school
committee to show that the instruction outlined in the home school proposal
fails to equal 'in thoroughness and efficiency, and in the progress
made therein, that in the public schools in the same town.'" Charles
#2: Do homeschoolers receive a diploma?
#3: May homeschoolers participate in extra curricular activities? In high
school athletics? In regular academic classes?
Yes to all, depending
on the policy of the local district.
The MIAA has ruled
that, at the discretion of the local district, home educated high school
athletes may play on school teams. Home-educated
students: Requirements for Participation in Interscholastic Athletic
In many districts,
home-educated young people participate in school field trips, science
fairs, assemblies, academic classes and after-school activities, including
intramural and varsity sports. Public schools frequently make their
libraries, gyms, language labs, computers, textbooks and other supplies
available to homeschooling families.
#4: Do homeschoolers take the MCAS?
No. The frameworks
that are tested by the MCAS are the curriculum for the public school.
As Charles has indicated, parents can be required to provide instruction
in the subjects required by G.L. c 71 sec 1, but there is no set
sequence of instruction that must be followed.
As Charles states,
the superintendent may not "dictate the manner in which the subjects
will be taught. This would involve the school authorities in an activity
beyond the legitimate scope of the State interest involved." Charles
at 339 The
passage of the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993 did not affect
the assessment guidelines that Charles established. The
confirms that homeschooled students "are not required nor entitled
by law to participate in MCAS."
#5: Special Needs/Special Education
There is nothing
in the law or court decisions that would prohibit parents from providing
their special needs child with home education. Often, the parents choose
to homeschool because the child is not progressing in the special needs
program at the school, yet these same children make dramatic improvements
home. Some experts even counsel that home education is the best solution
for special needs children. Given the evidence we see, it would be appropriate
to presume that the special needs child will progress at home. In any
case, the regular approval process, outlined in Charles, covers all
children in the Commonwealth. Special needs children should not be singled
out for a different approval process. There are no separate homeschool
regulations or special obligations for parents wanting to homeschool
a child with special needs.
#6: Can school officials require parents to come to school for a meeting?
Charles and Brunelle
do not directly discuss the issue of meetings between parents and school
officials. However, Brunelle makes it clear that any conditions for
approval of education proposals must be "essential" for evaluating the
education of the child. Most districts in the Commonwealth do not require
parents to meet with school officials as a condition of approval of
the education proposal. Therefore, it is unlikely that such a requirement
could be shown to be essential as a matter of course.
and Assessment questions
a. How often
are "periodic" reports required?
and parents who have chosen periodic progress reports or dated work
samples as a form of evaluation decide on a mutually satisfactory
reporting schedule, usually not more than once a year.
school officials require more than one form of assessment?
The Court indicated
that ONE method, not multiple methods, of assessment may be required.
testing (see below) OR other means of evaluating the progress of the
children, such as "periodic progress reports or dated work samples."
Charles at 340
may require testing, the law does not require them to
c. What kind
of testing may be required? How are the tests administered?
that testing may be required, but that school authorities will consult
with parents as to "where the testing is to occur and the type of
testing instrument to be used. Where practical, a neutral party should
administer the test." Charles
#8: May school officials require a day-by-day hour-by-hour schedule to
be filled out as a condition of approval?
Legally, there is
no support for such a requirement. Brunelle specifically addresses the
lack of a need for formal schedule in the home school. "While following
a schedule may be an important consideration in a public school where
preexisting schedules need to be maintained and coordinated, the perception
and use of time in a home school are different." Brunelle
at 517 and 518
such a schedule would take away the educational advantages of personalized
instruction and flexibility by imposing artificial time constraints
on students. Classroom management issues faced by school teachers may
call for rigid schedules, but the homeschooling environment does not.
Homeschooled students are allowed to study in a way that maximizes learning.
The student has the freedom to pursue an interest for hours, rather
than being required to end an investigation simply because it is time
to move on to the next class.
Virtually all the
hours of the day in the homeschool comply with the DOE
definition of "structured learning" time:
in addition to
classroom time where both teachers and students are present, structured
learning time may include directed study, independent study, technology-assisted
learning, presentations by persons other than teachers.."
In addition, structured
learning time may include home economics, technical studies, business,
school-to-work opportunities, teacher/student advisory programs, and
career planning. "Directed study" is the common condition
of home educated students. Directed study "requires students to
be engaged in activities directly related to their program of studies,
and a teacher must be available to assist students." The number
of hours that homeschooled students spend in this condition far exceeds
the 990 hours that Ed Reform requires of the public schools. See What
Counts on the DOE website.