Homeschoolers find some grads are more equal than others

Saturday, December 17, 2016
 | 
Michael F. Haverluck (OneNewsNow.com)

high school graduationHomeschool parents in one New York school district have found that their children are held to much higher standards than students who are conventionally schooled.

Even though the Empire State is widely recognized for having stringent regulations when it comes to homeschooling, it is noted by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) that school officials do make an attempt to offer students some sort of consolation for all of the bureaucratic hoops through which homeschooler must jump.

Raising the bar high

One way to supposedly bypass such red tape is by obtaining a letter from school officials – but this is by a very tall order.

“Homeschool graduates who meet certain requirements may ask their local public school superintendent for a letter substantiating their education,” HSDLA reported. “One school district, however, recently sent a letter to homeschooling families declaring nearly impossible standards for obtaining such a document.”

When the Horseheads Central School District (HCSD) director of students services relayed correspondence to homeschool families, they learned more information about obtaining a letter of substantial equivalency – a document that can be used to verify a student’s graduation. This was distributed in order to be submitted by homeschoolers in addition to the diploma and transcripts that most homeschooling parents provide to district authorities.

Upon receipt of the letter in October, homeschool parents were shocked to find out that their children were held to much higher standards than the average local student.

“In order to receive an equivalency letter from the Horseheads Central School District, a homeschool student must] 1) have all reports required by Section 100.10 of the Commissioners Regulations (individualized home instruction plan, four quarterly reports,and an annual assessment) and 2) achieve a mastery level (score 85 or higher) on six of the Regents exams—English Language Arts, Algebra 1, Global History & Geography, U.S. History & Government, Living Environment (Life Science), and one of the Physical Science exams (Chemistry, Earth Science, or Physics).”

Homeschool parents seeking a letter of substantial equivalency became extremely concerned when they found that a new burden was being placed on their children.

“Once a public school student has completed the required high school credits and passed the minimum number of Board of Regents exams – New York’s end-of-course assessments for high school students – he is entitled to a New York state Regents Diploma,” HSLDA Staff Attorney Tj Schmidt informed. “While homeschool students can take Regents exams, they can never earn a Regents Diploma – unless they graduate from their local public school.”

Uncovering inequality

After Schmidt examined the letter, he quickly realized that the excessive requirements went far above and beyond what public school students must go through to earn a Regents Diploma from the district.

It became evident that public school students must only demonstrate competence in the material, while homeschool students are required to achieve mastery.

“In fact, to get a Regents Diploma in New York, a public school student only needs to score a 65 or higher on five of the Regents exams: English Language Arts, any math exam, any social studies exam, any science exam, and one other Regents exam or assessment approved by the state,” HSLDA informed. “A score of 85 or higher is deemed to be at the ‘mastery level,’ with only a student who averages 90 or higher on required exams entitled to the ‘with honors’ designation.”

In order to bring a level of fairness into the equation, Schmidt expressed to the Horseheads District of Student Services that the new requirements posted for homeschool students requiring a letter of substantial equivalency far exceeds what is mandated by law in the state of New York.

He also brought up an argument that school officials could not refute.

“[T]he purpose of Section 100.10 is to] establish procedures to assist school authorities … in meeting their responsibility of determining the … substantial equivalency of instruction being provided at home,” Schmidt contended.

Righting a wrong

HSLDA attorneys are vowing to assist parents seeking to obtain equivalency documentation for their homeschoolers within the district.

“[A]ny parent who has submitted all of the required documents in compliance of Section 100.10 for four years of high school has provided a substantially equivalent education to their child,” lawyers at the Christian legal group asserted. “While the current regulation is not clear as to whether a letter of substantial equivalency must be provided to all homeschool students who have completed a home instruction program in compliance with New York law, HSLDA will vigorously assist any member family who seeks to obtain one for their child.”

In response to Schmidt’s letter, the HCSD director of student services had good news to announce.

“’T]he criteria set forth [by HCSD’s earlier letter] will be eliminated,” she announced.

As a result of the interaction, HSLDA is confident that HCSD will now make it a practice to issue letters of substantial equivalency to homeschool graduates requesting them – instead of the lesser letters of “completion.”

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