February 26, 2004

House Bill 2163: Mandatory State Testing of all High School Students

Representative Mike Turner (D-District 51)

This bill would have required all non-public high school students to take the Gateway end-of-course tests in order to graduate from high school. It would not only have mandated testing of all homeschool and church-related high school students but would also have effectively required them to conform their curriculum to match that of the public schools.

01/15/2004Referred to House Education Committee
02/20/2004Assigned to Higher Education Subcommittee
01/26/2004Scheduled for Subcommittee Hearing on March 2, 2004

HSLDA's Position:
We strongly opposed this bill.

Requested Action:
No action at this time

This bill was a grave threat to the freedoms of homeschooling parents in Tennessee. The Gateway end-of-course tests are referenced to the curriculum used in the public schools. In fact, when the law requiring end-of-course tests was first passed, the Tennessee Legislature stated that "These tests must reflect the complete range of topics covered within the list of state approved textbooks for that subject." Therefore, if this bill had become law, parents conducting home instruction would have been forced to use public school textbooks for the high school years in order to effectively prepare for the end-of-course tests.

In August, 2002, the State Board stipulated that students must successfully pass examinations in three subject areas-- Mathematics, Science, and Language Arts - in order to earn a high school diploma. These examinations are now known as Gateway Tests. The passage of House Bill 2163 would mean that homeschool and private school students would also be under this requirement, and would have to take the Algebra I, Biology I, and English II Gateway tests in order to graduate.

Currently, only eight states require testing as the only means of evaluating a home instruction program, and no state requires homeschool students to be tested on state content standards. Furthermore, studies have shown that increased state oversight of homeschooling does not result in higher academic achievement.

Another problem with enactment of this legislation is that it would have resulted in a violation of federal law, since it will require homeschool students to take the same tests by which the state complies with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

On January 8, 2002, President Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Among other things, this federal law requires states to test public school students in the areas of mathematics, reading or language arts, and science at certain grade levels in order to measure their achievement of state academic content and achievement standards. However, HSLDA added into this federal law a provision which specifically excludes homeschools from the testing requirement:

"Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to affect a home school, whether or not a home school is treated as a home school or a private school under State law, nor shall any student schooled at home be required to participate in any assessment referenced in this chapter."

Representative Turner's effort to include homeschool students in the state assessments would have placed Tennessee in violation of federal law and would have resulted in the loss of all federal funding for education.

To review a copy of a memorandum on the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, go to: http://www.hslda.org/docs/nche/000010/200301080.asp

 Other Resources

2/26/2004 — Hearing on Homeschool Testing Bill--Calls Needed Immediately!

Bill Text   (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

Bill History   Type "HB2163" in the search box, and click "Find Bill Information"