August 2, 2011

A New Chapter in Access to Post Secondary Enrollment Option

On July 27, 2011, Governor Terry Branstad signed a bill into law allowing homeschoolers to show the academic proficiency needed for no-cost college classes—known as PSEO, or post secondary enrollment option—through any one of five methods: (i) the recommendation of the student’s supervising teacher, (ii) the student’s regular year-end assessment, (iii) a PSAT score of 141, (iv) an ACT score of 21, or (v) an SAT score of 990 (math + verbal).

But the enactment of House File (HF) 645 is only the most recent chapter in our long campaign to receive fair access to PSEO.

In 1993, the Iowa Department of Education issued “Ruling No. 44” announcing that homeschool students were not allowed to participate in PSEO under any circumstances.

In the spring of 2000, Meggan Stone wanted to take a music appreciation course and a human biology course at Des Moines Area Community College. Granting her request would have cost the school about $500. Her dual enrollment brought Ankeny school district about $4,100. The superintendent nonetheless rejected her request claiming, with questionable logic, that it could hurt the school system financially.

Meggan’s parents appealed to the school board. It rejected their request because of Ruling No. 44. The Stones were members of HSLDA. We provided representation and appealed to the State Board of Education.

On December 10, 2000, they overruled Ruling No. 44 and said that Meggan should have been allowed to participate (see Jan–Feb Court Report, 2001). With this barrier removed, homeschoolers began to use PSEO regularly.

In the spring of 2008, a law was enacted (HF 2679) linking PSEO to a group of programs collectively called "“Senior Year Plus” (SYP). Because of this linkage, the Department of Education adopted a policy—which HSLDA and NICHE hotly contested—that a homeschooler wanting PSEO must also satisfy SYP requirements.

One SYP requirement was that the student show academic proficiency through a satisfactory score on all sections of the ITBS or ITED. But since most homeschoolers don’t take either of those tests, public schools began denying access to PSEO.

One bright homeschooler had taken PSEO classes for years and earned straight A’s. But she was told she was no longer academically qualified after the Department announced its policy.

In February of 2009, the Department drafted a rule to formalize this policy. However, at the request of the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators (NICHE), the Department added a provision to allow homeschoolers to show their proficiency through their regular year-end assessment or the recommendation of their supervising teacher.

The new rule became effective in November of 2009. But Senator Herman Quirmbach, responding to the request of a constituent, filed a bill in March of 2011, SF 423, to make the specified SAT, ACT or PSAT scores satisfy the SYP requirement.

NICHE explained to him that the Department’s new rule already allowed an annual assessment or supervisor’s recommendation to suffice. When SF 423 bogged down, he was able to insert combined language with all five options into HF 645.

With the enactment of HF 645, it’s now the law that homeschoolers have five options for satisfying the SYP requirement. The next chapter in the story of fair access to PSEO should be bright!