NEA, NAESP, and NASBE Adopt Positions on Home Schooling
The National Education Association, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the National Association of State Boards of Education have all recently adopted official positions on home schooling, which range from complete opposition to positive policy recommendations. For some time now, home schoolers have taken the offensive in obtaining reasonable laws in the various states, while teachers’ unions and other interest groups have ignored them. Recently, however, the NEA and others are becoming active proponents of legislative and regulatory changes which would make home schooling more difficult.
At its recent 1988 convention in New Orleans, the NEA passed a resolution stating that it “believes that home schooling programs cannot provide the child with a comprehensive education experience.” (p. 29, C-34, lines 43–44 of the NEA resolutions) The resolution goes on to say that the NEA believes,
If parental preference home schooling study occurs, students enrolled must meet all state requirements. Instruction should be by persons who are licensed by the appropriate state education licensure agency, and a curriculum approved by the state department of education should be used (p. 29, C-34, lines 45–48 of the NEA resolutions).
According to a July 9, 1988 article by Pat Ordovensky in USA Today, this resolution calling for state certification of all home educators was overwhelmingly adopted by the 8,400 NEA members attending the convention. Some of the comments quoted in the USA Today article demonstrate just how threatened NEA members feel by home education. The president of the Maryland State Teachers Association, Beverly Correlle, told the reporter that, “law makers in her state are caving in to the zealots who push home schooling allowing them to operate with few restrictions.” Texas teachers told Pat Ordovensky that, “up to 20 percent of students are being taught at home” in rural Texas.
The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) is urging local and state associations to promote legislative changes that will “enforce compulsory school attendance and prohibit at home schooling as a substitute for compulsory school attendance.” The NAESP’s 1987–88 platform lists eight reasons why home schooling is inferior to the traditional classroom setting. The platform states:
1. Deprives the child of important social experiences;
2. Isolates students from other social/racial/ethnic groups;
3. Denies students the full range of curriculum experiences and materials;
4. May be provided by non-certified and unqualified persons;
5. Creates an additional burden on administrators whose duties include the enforcement of compulsory school attendance laws;
6. May not permit effective assessment of academic standards of quality;
7. May violate health and safety standards;
8. May not provide the accurate diagnosis of and planning for meeting the needs of children with special talents, learning difficulties, and other conditions requiring atypical educational programs.
(NAESP 1987–88 Platform, p. 3)
Because of these perceived deficiencies in home schooling, the NAESP reaffirms its commitment to compulsory attendance and urges its members to support legislation prohibiting home schools and enforcing compulsory attendance laws.
Unlike the NEA and the NAESP, the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), has established more reasonable recommendations regarding home schooling. After a series of discussions throughout the past several months with officials from the U.S. Department of Education and HSLDA attorney Michael Farris, NASBE came out with its own policy suggestions on home schooling.
Some of the NASBE recommendations include: 1) clearly defining criteria for home schooling at the state level (NASBE says, “This criteria should be uniformly applied within the state so as to eliminate confusion about what is permitted and what is required.”); 2) requiring that parents teaching their children at home possess at least a high school diploma or a GED certificate; 3) limiting “process requirements” to submission of the name of the correspondence course being used and/or a list of texts and materials and proposed syllabus; and 4) requiring the submission of a yearly evaluation to be written by someone other than the parent, a portfolio of student work, or the results of a nationally recognized standardized achievement test.
NASBE’s willingness to recognize and support home schooling when reasonably regulated is notable in that it seem to stem from the organization’s willingness to discuss the issue with home schoolers, instead of simply categorically condemning it as many other professional educational organizations seem to have done. Instead of feeling threatened by the existence of an alternative form of education, it would benefit home schoolers and public schoolers alike for such groups to communicate their concerns to each other. When such communication occurs, unnecessary concerns over issues such as health and safety standards (e.g. the NAESP’s apparent implication that families cannot be trusted to have healthy and safe homes) can be laid to rest, and matters of genuine importance can be discussed in a spirit of cooperation, and not competition.