The Home School Court Report
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Testing and attendance age changes proposed

A bill introduced in the Montana Senate by Senator Don Ryan (D-Great Falls) would require county superintendents to "administer the state assessment requirements as adopted by the board of public education to non-public and home school students." Additionally, all non-public and homeschools would be required to "provide verification that each student has completed the state assessment requirements administered annually by the county superintendent." If enacted, this legislation would change Montana from a state with no testing requirements for homeschool students to the only state in the nation requiring testing every year for these students.

Twelve years ago, in 1991, another bill was introduced in the Montana Legislature that would have required testing of homeschool students. When the home educators rose up in opposition to this bill, it was not only defeated, but also in its place a new section was added to the homeschool law giving even more freedom to parents. It is time once again for the voices of home educators to be heard by their state legislators.

A measure which has been drafted for the Montana House and which Representative Carol Juneau (D-Cut Bank) plans to sponsor would raise the compulsory attendance age to 18. Current law requires a child to attend school until the child's sixteenth birthday or completion of the 8th grade, whichever is later. Studies have shown that 16-years-olds who lack the self-motivation to continue in school receive little benefit from compulsory attendance and, in fact, have a negative influence on other students their age who are attending school voluntarily. Given the breakdown of discipline in the public schools, legislators should not impose any requirement of attendance on students over age 16 who do not wish to be there and who will further disrupt efforts of teachers to instruct those students who desire to learn. Home educators should also oppose this legislation as an expansion of state oversight in the education of their children. Families would have to comply with the statutory requirements for homeschools for at least two years longer than is now required.

Dewitt T. Black