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Virginia

November 21, 2006

Unlawful Level of Detail Demanded in Curriculum Description

Many families were surprised to receive an October 17 letter from a Greene County Public Schools school social worker indicating that she would expect homeschool families to submit a much more detailed curriculum description for the 2007-2008 school year.

The social worker’s letter was prompted by an email she had received from the state Department of Education. The Department’s email gave the following as part of an example of an appropriate “curriculum description:”

“U.S. History: 1877 to the Present

  • This course will provide the student with an understanding of the history of the United States from the end of Reconstruction to the present.
  • The student will learn about major political, economic, and social events impacting the country during this time period and examine the political, economic and social challenges its citizens faced.
  • The student will review and understand events and life in this country.
  • The student will review and understand maps of this country.
  • The student will use maps, pictures, and tables to learn about this country’s physical features.
  • The student will learn about this country’s natural resources, transportation and industrial development.
  • The student will review and understand how life changed after the Civil War.
  • The student will review and understand how the United States became involved in military conflicts with other countries during this period and the challenges the country faced during and after these wars.
  • The student will review and understand other issues that impacted this country during this time period.”

Homeschoolers would be alarmed to hear that this level of detail might be required.

Underlying this situation appears to be confusion between two different concepts: a course description, and a curriculum description. A course description describes the contents of a particular course—like the example above. A curriculum description, on the other hands, simply lists the courses required to complete an educational program (e.g., the 8th grade). The American Heritage Dictionary defines “curriculum” as: “All the courses of study offered by an educational institution.”

There is no need for a superintendent to have a description of each course within the curriculum. State law does not require that homeschool families teach any specific course content (except for families under Option 4a). Even if the superintendent determined that the content of a course was below his expectations, he would have no lawful authority to do anything about it. Requiring a course description, therefore, would be a classic example of the waste of administrators’ and parents’ time and effort that we call “red tape.”

Home School Legal Defense Association Attorney Scott Woodruff, along with representatives from Home Educator’s Association of Virginia, and the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers met with representatives of the Department of Education in Richmond on Wednesday, November 8 to discuss this and other issues. Our thanks go to Celeste Land of the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers for providing us with a copy of the Greene County school social worker’s letter.

HSLDA will continue to advise families to provide a curriculum description—not a course description—and will let you know if the Department issues a revised statement.