August 7, 2008

State Withdraws Remediation Demand

Can the state force a family into remediation if their eighth-grade student scores below the 30th percentile? This is the question that recently tripped up the Iowa Department of Education.

Alan Clay (name changed to protect family’s privacy) was homeschooled under a supervising teacher for two years. For the 2007-2008 school year, however, his parents, opted to drop the supervising teacher and submit a year-end assessment. This bright young man placed in the 96th percentile in reading, 84th percentile in language, 77th percentile in social studies, and 82nd percentile in science—excellent scores. In math, however, he scored only in the 27th percentile, three percentile points below the state minimum.

In many states, all subject scores are averaged before determining whether the test results meet the state requirement. In Iowa, however, a score below the 30th percentile in just one subject can bring down the hammer of remediation upon the head of a young person with excellent scores in all other areas.

The family received a letter from the Iowa Department of Education telling them they would need to stop homeschooling Alan or submit an acceptable remediation plan. The family, who had been members of HSLDA for a number of years, called for help.

HSLDA attorney Scott Woodruff reviewed the facts and realized that although Alan had been under competent private instruction for three years, he was only subject to the annual assessment this last year. Regulation 31.7(1) states that “when a parent … provides private instruction to a child without the assistance or supervision of a validly licensed Iowa practitioner … the child is subject to initial baseline testing and an annual evaluation.” During Alan’s first two years of competent private instruction, he was not subject to an annual evaluation. His test at the end of the ’07-’08 school year was only a baseline. He was therefore not required to show progress or to achieve any particular score.

Woodruff placed a call to the staff person who had demanded remediation, suspecting that she had not first checked to see if Alan’s test was only a baseline. The department representative confirmed Woodruff’s suspicion. After Woodruff explained the situation, the department quickly agreed to withdraw the remediation demand.