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April 19, 2017

North Dakota Expands Standardized Testing Options

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DAN BEASLEY
Contact attorney for Alabama

Compared to most other states, North Dakota has had a harsh legal climate for homeschooling. With the passage of House Bill 1428 this spring, however, the state’s ultra-restrictive homeschool law moves a little closer to the mainstream.

Until April 4, 2017, when Governor Doug Burgum signed H.B. 1428 into law, North Dakota was one of only a handful of states that required parents to submit standardized test scores to their local school district without an alternative assessment option, such as a portfolio review by a qualified person, progress reports, or some other measurement of student progress. But this will change in 2017. Effective August 1, all parents may opt out of standardized testing to which they have a philosophical, moral, or religious objection, and parents with certain qualifications (certified teachers, college graduates, and those who pass a teacher competency exam) are automatically exempt from testing.

This change expands flexibility in homeschooling and is a welcome improvement, especially for parents of students with learning disabilities.

The bill was sponsored by Representative Christopher Olson of West Fargo (District 13). Despite a “do not pass” recommendation by the house education committee, H.B. 1428 passed the full house by a vote of 58-31. Likewise, the senate education committee recommended “do not pass” by a vote of 4-2, but thanks in part to contact from North Dakota homeschoolers and strong support during floor debate by freshman senator and homeschooling father Jordan Kannianen and Senator Oley Olson, a former public school teacher and strong supporter of homeschooling, it also passed the Senate and was sent to Governor Burgum’s desk for his signature.

Legislative victories in North Dakota have been hard to come by, but this thaw may signal a change in the political winds.

HSLDA especially thanks the North Dakota Home School Association (NDHSA) for their dedicated support of this bill, and everyone to who took action to help it become law.