Our God Answers Prayer
“On Him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.”
II Corinthians 1:10–11 (NIV)
In the January–February 1991 issue of the Home School Court Report, I described in this column how it felt to lose a couple of cases. One of those losses was the South Carolina trial court decision in Lawrence v. State Department of Education where we were challenging the testing requirement for home-schooling parents. At the end of my column I wrote, “I can’t wait to see how God delivers the ultimate victories in Iowa and South Carolina. I know He will. He has done it before in North Dakota, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio….”
We received the good news of God’s vindication in the decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court with tremendous joy on December 9, 1991. (See story on page 1.) We could not have expected a better decision from the court. It was a day of rejoicing—both in our office and in homes throughout South Carolina.
And just for the record, since my original column we have also seen the elimination of teacher certification requirements for home schoolers in Iowa. God has indeed proven His faithfulness.
There is an important legal link as well between the former Iowa teacher certification law and the teacher-testing law in South Carolina.
It is obvious that the teacher certification requirement is on its way out. This requirement, which has been used as a weapon by the enemies of home schooling, has been repealed in all states but one—the People’s Republic of Michigan. But those who oppose home education were not willing to accept defeat on the issue of parental qualifications. The South Carolina teacher-testing law was a promising alternative for teacher certification in the minds of bureaucratic opponents of home education.
HSLDA invested substantial time and money in challenging this case because we believed that testing parents would become the wave of the future if South Carolina’s experiment was successful. We did not want to see parent testing as the new version of teacher certification for the 1990s.
Our challenge was successful on the very complex and technical subject of test validity. We were able to demonstrate to the South Carolina Supreme Court that those who conducted the validity study did not correctly follow established procedures.
The constitutional discussion in the decision gives us a very good basis for arguing that if any future state considers a parental testing requirement, a validity study will be required to survive constitutional challenge. And the court’s discussions of the requirement for using people with knowledge and qualifications of home schooling in such validity studies is a strong protection against any further slap-dash efforts like the one done in South Carolina.
If a state wants to do a validity study, it must comply with the applicable professional standards, use qualified evaluators, and perform a job analysis of home schooling. The South Carolina study cost $44,000 and had none of these components. A proper study, it is easy to surmise, would cost a lot more.
Any requirement imposing parental qualifications—by degree or by testing—of home-schooling parents misses the point. The point of all such laws is to ensure that students learn. Three mothers testified in the EEE trial. All of them failed at least one section of the EEE. All of them had a child who scored a perfect score on the state-imposed student test. Why should any law exist if its requirements don’t have a real-life correlation to learning?
We are reasonably hopeful that this will be the end of efforts to test home-schooling parents. If, however, this issue arises again, we are doubly ready. We have learned a lot about test validity, but our most important lesson continues to be that we serve a God who answers prayer.
Michael P. Farris