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New Hampshire

August 11, 2008

New Hampshire Homeschoolers Have Freedom to Choose

Recently a New Hampshire homeschooler forwarded correspondence to HSLDA that they had received from another homeschooler who had received some bad information. This homeschooling mom was under the impression that she was locked into an assessment option when she notified her local school district about homeschooling at the beginning of the year. This homeschooler thought that the notice of intent was a “contract” that bound her to the choice of assessment that she was “supposed” put in her notice of intent.

Fortunately she was mistaken, as HSLDA Staff Attorney Michael Donnelly was able to point out. New Hampshire homeschools are regulated by NH RSA 193-A: 3 which is definitely not a “contracting process.”(Homeschoolers are not “bound” by their notice of intent and are not required to pre-select an assessment option.) New Hampshire homeschoolers are free to choose the appropriate form of assessment for their children. These assessments are simply due to their participating agency by July 1 of each year.

New Hampshire Education Regulation 315 addresses this issue specifically when it states that “The participating agency shall not require notification of method or date of evaluation at this time. However, if the parent intends to use the state or local assessment provided by the resident district, the parent shall notify the resident district of his or her intent to do so at the time the information above is provided to the participating agency.”

A member of the Home Education Advisory Council familiar with why this rule was included told HSLDA it’s “because the Department of Education requested it on behalf of several SAUs who wanted to at least have a forecasted view of the demand for testing at the end of the year, and for scheduling purposes. There is absolutely no problem (either in reality or expressed in concept) with a parent changing their mind. They are certainly not obligated in any way, shape or form to follow through on using the district as a testing option. In any event, it was intended to provide more of a courtesy than anything else….”

Under New Hampshire law, homeschoolers have four options for selecting an assessment for their child. NH RSA 193-A: 6(II) states a child shall be evaluated for progress in any one of following ways:

(a) A certified teacher or a teacher currently teaching in a nonpublic school who is selected by the parent shall evaluate the child's educational progress upon review of the portfolio and discussion with the parent or child. The teacher shall submit a written evaluation to the commissioner of education, resident district superintendent, or nonpublic school principal;

(b) The child shall take any national student achievement test, administered by a person who meets the qualifications established by the provider or publisher of the test. Composite results at or above the fortieth percentile on such tests shall be deemed reasonable academic proficiency. Such test results shall be reported to the commissioner of education, resident district superintendent, or nonpublic school principal;

(c) The child shall take a state student assessment test used by the resident district. Composite results at or above the fortieth percentile on such state test shall be deemed reasonable academic proficiency. Such test results shall be reported to the commissioner of education, the resident district superintendent, or nonpublic school principal; or

(d) The child shall be evaluated using any other valid measurement tool mutually agreed upon by the parent and the commissioner of education, resident district superintendent, or nonpublic school principal. The results shall be reported by the parent or the testing agency to such appropriate official.

As indicated, New Hampshire homeschoolers have flexibility to assess each child’s progress using a variety of approaches that meet the child’s individual needs. The Cochranes, a family residing in Plymouth, N.H., wrote HSLDA recently about their approach to homeschooling assessment.

The Cochranes enrolled their children in the ABEKA Academy, an accredited Christian curriculum. They wrote their local school superintendent to see if the transcripts from ABEKA Academy would be acceptable under subsection (d) which allows for homeschoolers and their participating agency to “mutually agree” on another “valid measurement tool.” This clause allows for creativity and flexibility between the homeschooler and the participating agency. The Cochranes were pleased when the school district wrote them saying that they would be happy to use this as a method of assessment. The Cochranes had previously used portfolios and standardized tests and were delighted that they could use the transcripts from ABEKA academy for this purpose. The Cochranes told HSLDA that the Plymouth School System has been very accommodating to their homeschooling family, and that they were pleased to report a positive story to HSLDA between a homeschooler and the public school.

While homeschoolers will differ on whether and how much to be involved with the local school, it is indeed encouraging to hear that there are school districts like Plymouth who apply common sense and are willing to explore different approaches as a participating agency in working with homeschoolers who seek to comply with the law. Nevertheless, for a variety of reasons, HSLDA recommends whenever possible that New Hampshire homeschoolers select a private school as their participating agency. For a list of schools that provide services to homeschoolers in New Hampshire click here.

HSLDA encourages New Hampshire homeschoolers to know the law, and a good place to start is at HSLDA’s legal analysis.