June 22, 2005

School District Creates Its Own Portfolio Requirements

Home School Legal Defense Association recently assisted a member family in the Bentworth School District after they received a letter from a school official describing the requirements for a portfolio which were different from state law. The letter stated that the portfolio (1) had to include a daily log with specific dates of instruction, (2) had to include student's work demonstrating instruction toward the objectives submitted at the beginning of the school year, (3) had to include an evaluation of their child's progress by either a teacher or psychologist whose credentials had been previously submitted, and (4) had to include standardized test results in grades 3 through 8 beginning with the 2005-2006 school year.

Responding in a letter to the school district on behalf of HSLDA's member family, attorney Dewitt Black addressed each of the requirements attempted to be imposed. He pointed out that state law does not require that there be a daily log indicating the specific dates of instruction in the home education program. Instead, the homeschool statute says, "The portfolio shall consist of a log, made contemporaneously with the instruction, which designates by title the reading materials used?." However, since the evaluator must determine that an appropriate education is occurring—one of the elements of which is instruction for the required time—parents should include in the portfolio sufficient information to show that the hours or days requirements are met.

Black's letter also informed the school official that the portfolio did not have to include any information demonstrating that the parent had provided instruction towards the objectives submitted with the affidavit. Instead, the law requires that the evaluator be able to determine that an appropriate education is occurring, i.e. instruction in the required subjects for the time required and in which the student demonstrates sustained progress in the overall program. Further, the law states that the required outline of proposed education objectives submitted with the affidavit shall not be utilized by the superintendent in determining if the home education program is out of compliance.

By limiting the person who may perform the evaluation to only a certified teacher or psychologist, the school district had attempted to eliminate others who are qualified. According to the home education statute, these include "a licensed clinical or school psychologist or a teacher certified by the Commonwealth or by a nonpublic teacher or administrator." Regardless of the type of evaluator chosen by the parent to conduct the evaluation, state law does not require that the parent submit proof of the evaluator's qualifications along with the student's portfolio.

With respect to the school district's effort to impose additional testing on homeschool students, Black referenced the testing requirements set forth in subsection (e)(1) of Section 13-1327.1 of Pennsylvania Statutes Annotated. It states that testing is required for students in grades 3, 5, and 8. This law has not changed since it was enacted in 1988.

Any HSLDA member families encountering school districts attempting to impose their own unauthorized requirements on home education programs should contact us for assistance.

 Other Resources

House Bill 505