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Pennsylvania

September 24, 2008

Parent-Designated Grade Level Challenged

From time to time, Home School Legal Defense Association encounters school districts which attempt to decide the grade level placement of a child in a home education program. Such was the case at the beginning of the 2008–2009 school year for an HSLDA member family residing within the Oley Valley School District. The parents had determined that their son’s academic achievement warranted acceleration from the fifth to seventh grade, thereby skipping the sixth grade. After receiving the affidavit filed for this student, the public school officials objected on the basis that this acceleration did not conform to the policy established by the district for public school students. Faced with this challenge to directing the education of their son, the family contacted HSLDA for assistance.

Senior Counsel Dewitt Black sent a letter to the director of student services at Oley Valley School District and informed her that students in a home education program are not subject to acceleration policies developed for public school students. Further, Black pointed out that the grade level placement of a student in a home education program is determined by the supervisor of the program, not public school officials. He advised the school official that the parents intended to continue instructing their son as a student in the seventh grade during the 2008–2009 school year. Finally, Black informed the school official that state law does not even require parents to notify the school district of the grade level placement of their children in a home education program. It remains to be seen whether the family will encounter further difficulties when submitting their portfolio for review at the end of the school year.

Parents considering skipping grades at the high school level should bear in mind the minimum courses in grades 9 through 12 established for graduation in a home education program: four years of English, three years of mathematics, three years of science, three years of social studies, and two years of arts and humanities. Each year in a home education program at the secondary level is either 180 days or 990 hours of instruction. Thus, it is more challenging to skip a grade at the high school level and still meet the statutory graduation requirements.