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Double standards from DPI

In order to qualify to conduct a home education program in North Dakota, a parent must meet one of four requirements: (1) be licensed or approved to teach by the state, (2) hold a bachelor's degree, (3) have met or exceeded the cutoff score of a national teacher exam given in North Dakota (or in any other state if North Dakota does not offer such a test), or (4) be monitored by a certified teacher for at least two years. But according to the Department of Public Instruction's (DPI) website, homeschooling parents are held to a different standard than public or nonpublic school teachers when it comes to passing a national teacher exam.

This exam is described in 67.1-02-02-02.11 of the North Dakota Administrative Code relating to initial licensure of public and nonpublic teachers, which requires submission of test scores for the Pre-Professional Skills Test (PPST) as of July 1, 2002. Prior to that time, no national teacher exam had been adopted in North Dakota. Currently, there is no cutoff score designated for this test taken by licensure applicants. The language of the Administrative Code states that applicants will have to meet a yet-to-be-determined cutoff score beginning July 1, 2003. In contrast, DPI's website states that parents to want to homeschool must not only take the PPST but also meet cutoff scores established solely for home educators taking the exam. To make matters worse, parents are required to take an additional exam, the Praxis II: Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT), and meet cutoff scores created just for homeschooling parents. Additionally, a parent taking the PLT "must take the test that is grade level appropriate for the student being home educated," the three grade levels for testing being designated as K-6, 5-9, and 7-12. This latter requirement would force a parent to take a separate PLT for every child being taught in the home, assuming each child is at a different grade level. Apparently, it is DPI's position that a parent would also have to take the PLT every year that a child progressed to a higher grade level unless the parent had previously passed the test for that grade level.

While the state may adopt a national teacher exam and establish cutoff scores applicable to everyone who takes the exam, DPI may not impose higher standards on homeschooling parents than it does on public and nonpublic school teachers. The same standards should apply to everyone. Not only has DPI acted without statutory authority in establishing an additional test and cutoff scores for parents conducting home education programs, but also this state action is contrary to the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibiting unlawful discrimination.

Parents who passed a national teacher exam in another state prior to the time North Dakota offered such a test should not be affected by North Dakota's new requirements. However, DPI's website cites tests previously offered in other states, the National Teacher Exam (NTE), and an earlier version of the Praxis II, and lists acceptable scores for these tests for parents taking them prior to June 2000. This appears to be an effort to retroactively disqualify parents who have already passed one of these exams by meeting the cutoff score in another state at a time when North Dakota did not offer these tests. In our opinion, if North Dakota did not offer a national teacher exam at the time the parent took the test from another state, the parent was required to meet the cutoff score established by the other state, not what North Dakota might now attempt to establish.

Home School Legal Defense Association has written to Dr. Wayne Sanstead, State Superintendent of Education, requesting that DPI rescind its discriminatory policy regarding the national teacher exam requirements. In the meantime, HSLDA is prepared to defend any member family affected by this unfair policy.

Dewitt T. Black