Qualifications of An Evaluator Under PA Homeschool Law

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Minimum qualifications of an evaluator under PA homeschool law

 

Understand the Legal Qualifications for an Evaluator

The changes to the Pennsylvania homeschool law that were effective October 31, 2014 (Act 196 of 2014) eliminated the review of portfolios by superintendents but makes choosing a qualified evaluator more important than ever.

The law still requires the supervisor to file an affidavit and accompanying paperwork before commencement of the home education program. At the end of the school year,  the supervisor must prepare a log, compile samples of work and obtain scores from standardized tests in grades 3, 5 and 8, all of which must be compiled in a portfolio and reviewed by an evaluator no later than June 30.

 

Many parents worry if they don’t use an evaluator recommended or approved by the school district, the evaluation won’t be accepted.

As long as the evaluator meets the eligibility criteria under the homeschool law, a school district has no authority to reject or disapprove of an evaluation or the evaluator of the supervisor’s choice.

The superintendent MUST accept the evaluator’s certification that “an appropriate education has occurred”.

The homeschool law defines both the credentials and experience required by a qualified evaluator. In any case, an evaluation may not be conducted by the homeschooled student’s parent.

1. Who’s Qualified to Conduct an Evaluation?

A licensed clinical or school psychologist, a teacher certified by the state of Pennsylvania or a nonpublic school teacher or administrator may certify that “an appropriate education is occurring” after a review of the portfolio and an interview with the child.

The law provides an extra requirement for nonpublic school teachers and administrators by requiring at least two years of teaching experience in a Pennsylvania public or nonpublic school within the last 10 years.

2. What Experience is Required to Conduct an Evaluation?

The Pennsylvania homeschool law also specifies the experience required to conduct an evaluation for elementary (grades 1-6) and secondary (grades 7-12) levels. This applies to PA certified teachers, nonpublic school teachers and administrators

Elementary Evaluations

A teacher or administrator who evaluates a portfolio at the elementary level (grades kindergarten through six)* shall have at least two years of experience in grading any of the following subjects: English, to include spelling, reading and writing; arithmetic; science; geography; history of the United States and Pennsylvania; and civics.

*(Although the exact language in this provision indicates “grades kindergarten through six”, the compulsory attendance age begins at age 8 in Pennsylvania, so most students will not need an evaluation until third grade).

Secondary Evaluations

A teacher or administrator who evaluates a portfolio at the secondary level (grades seven through twelve) shall have at least two years of experience in grading any of the following subjects: English, to include language, literature, speech, reading and composition; science, to include biology, chemistry and physics; geography; social studies, to include economics, civics, world history, history of the United States and Pennsylvania; foreign language; and mathematics, to include general mathematics, algebra, trigonometry, calculus and geometry.

The term “grading” as used in both clauses is also defined and means “evaluation of classwork, homework, quizzes, classwork-based tests and prepared tests related to classwork subject matter”.

3. Exceptions to the Professional Qualifications and Experience

Finally, the law allows a school district to approve persons with other qualifications to conduct an evaluation at the request of the supervisor. The special approval is completely at the discretion of the superintendent of the district of residence.

For example, many experienced homeschooling parents obtain special approval in a school district to provide evaluations for other families. A friend with experience teaching at the college level (full or part time) could qualify for special approval. A district might also accept a person who received teaching certification and experience outside of Pennsylvania.

This provision was drafted broadly enough to encompass a variety of persons, professional credentials and experience and special approval is worth requesting, especially if you’re having difficulty finding an evaluator.

4. Diplomas and the Twelfth Year Evaluator Under the New Law

The Amendments to the Pennsylvania home school law which went into effect on October 31, 2014 (Act 196 of 2014) gives a parent-issued diploma the same rights and privileges as a state-issued or school-issued diploma.

The parent must complete a form created by The Pennsylvania Department of Education (“Department”) which will be available on its website. The diploma form must be signed by an evaluator in the student’s twelfth year who is verifying the student’s suitability for graduation.

The twelfth year evaluator must meet the qualifications and experience required for secondary evaluators as described above but must also certify that the basic graduation requirements have been met.

“The following minimum courses in grades 9 through 12 are established as a minimum requirement for graduation in a home education program:

(1) Four years of English.

(2) Three years of mathematics.

(3) Three years of science.

(4) Three years of social studies.

(5) Two years of arts and humanities.

24 P.S. § 1327.1(d)

The courses to be taught during the secondary years include algebra and geometry. If algebra and/or geometry are covered before 9th grade, the student must still complete three years of mathematics between grades 9 and 12.

The courses to satisfy each of the requirements can be creative and vary from typical courses taught in high school. For example, physics, biology and chemistry are traditionally taught in high school and satisfy the science requirement but other science courses may be designed to accommodate the student’s interests or plans after high school.

Verifying a student’s suitability could be easier for an evaluator who has conducted the student’s evaluations throughout his home high school career but it isn’t required.

“Proof” of meeting the basic graduation requirements will vary widely and will often be dictated by the student’s plans after high school. For example, the course work for a student planning to attend college will likely be different than a student who plans to attend trade school or apprentice for his dad toward Master Plumber certification.

The law gives wide discretion to the supervisor to meet the graduation requirements (course selection, topics and manner/method of covering the chosen topic) and equally wide discretion to the evaluator to verify that the graduation requirements have been met.

The most important consideration is whether the parent and evaluator understand each other’s expectations and preparations before the evaluation takes place. If the parent disagrees with the form of proof that the evaluator might expect, he can find another evaluator. Likewise, the evaluator isn’t obligated to verify the student’s suitability for graduation if she’s dissatisfied with the transcript, materials or explanation provided by the parent.

5. Certified Diploma Programs

The new law also validates diplomas issued by a certified diploma program.

Since each organization has its own criteria for graduation and evaluations, I won’t discuss that here.

I hope this article clears up any questions you have regarding the qualifications and experience required for an evaluator under Pennsylvania homeschool law.

If your evaluator doesn’t already have a form, click the button below to download a simple form that you can submit to the superintendent after the evaluator has completed it.

Send Me An Evaluator Form

 

 

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The Benefits of Homeschooling During the Holidays

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Homeschooling during the holidays in Pennsylvania #holidaycards #photocards #arts

For the nearly 10 years that my children were homeschooled, family and friends were skeptical about our practice of ditching the formal books (except math) from Spaghetti Wednesday (night before Thanksgiving) through the new year. If you’re new to homeschooling, that idea might also horrify you, especially if you recently withdrew your child from traditional school and are in the “school at home” mindset.

Holiday preparations and traditions present limitless opportunities to learn organically in a way that’s effective, relatable, efficient and memorable. There are Christmas around the world displays, excellent books, music, traditions, baking, service and charitable opportunities, you name it. I call it 3-D learning and it beats a textbook any day.

One of the most obvious “schoolish” activities is preparing and sending holiday cards. Actually, had I enlisted the help of the children in this annual chore, I might not have abandoned it when they became reluctant to pose for the Christmas photo. I admit, their rebellion, coincided with my desire to simplify the holidays. As a result, I haven’t sent cards for a couple of years. I miss it and still love receiving greetings for the people who haven’t put me on the naughty list.

Most children are more computer-savvy than adults and my children would have been more than capable of managing the entire operation had I thought of it.

In spite of the fact that my children now attend public, cyber and charter schools, I’m considering reviving the holiday card. I have to admit that I’m slightly intimidated by the quality of the photos that I get but if I can wrangle these children, I think I’ll do it.

Did you know that this Sunday is the busiest holiday card shopping day of the year? I had no idea, so I guess I’m not too late to take advantage of a great offer from Tiny Prints.

For 24 hours only, it’s offering 40% off an order of ANY size plus get free shipping!

I recently ordered personalized stationery from Tiny Prints for myself and the girls (shhh, don’t tell them) and I’m really happy with it. I’m also planning on ordering some photo gifts for my aunt and the grandparents.

If you haven’t designed your holiday cards yet, here’s how to take advantage of this offer:

1. Go to Tiny Prints and select from hundreds of holiday cards.

2. Personalize your card with your pictures, your text, etc.

3. When you checkout, use the promo code TPCARDS40FS to save 40% and get free shipping.

This promotion is only valid from 12:00pm PT on Saturday 12/6 to 12:00pm PT on Sunday 12/7, so act fast!

 

 

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I’ll receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. It helps defray the cost of running this website which is dedicated to informing parents about the PA homeschool law. Thank you.
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It’s Official! Major Change in PA Homeschool Law!

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New homeschool law in PA for #portfolios #evaluations #pahomeschoollaw

On Friday, October 31, 2014, Governor Corbett signed HB 1013, which took effect immediately.

New Law Eliminates Portfolio Review by Superintendent

The new law, Act 196 of 2014, eliminates the requirement of a portfolio review by superintendents (or any school personnel), gives parent-issued diplomas the same status as a Commonwealth-issued diploma and requires more accountability by a superintendent who questions whether an appropriate education is occurring.

Under the prior law, a portfolio, consisting of a log, samples of work and results of standardized tests in grades 3, 5 and 8, was reviewed by a qualified evaluator during an interview with the student. After the evaluation, the supervisor was then required to submit the portfolio, including the evaluator’s certification of an appropriate education, to the superintendent no later than June 30.

Supervisor Should Not Submit Portfolio Materials to School District

Under the new homeschool law, supervisors are only required to submit the certification by an evaluator that an appropriate education is occurring. The supervisor should not submit (and school district personnel have no authority to request or collect) a log, samples of work or results of standardized tests. Those materials will only be reviewed by the evaluator during the student interview and will be the basis of the certification of an appropriate education. The superintendent must accept the certification.

Superintendent Must Specify Basis That Appropriate Education Not Occurring

If, at any time during the school year, the superintendent has a reasonable belief that an appropriate education is not taking place, he or she must send a certified letter, return receipt requested, to the supervisor which specifies the basis for a reasonable belief, requesting an evaluation. A certification by an evaluator that an appropriate education is occurring must be submitted within 30 days. The superintendent must accept the certification by the evaluator.

Parent-Issued Diploma Equal to State-Issued Diploma

Finally, a diploma issued by the supervisor (parent) after successful completion of a home education program carries the same rights and privileges as a Commonwealth-issued diploma.

A form will be created by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and made available on its website. The form should be signed by the student’s twelfth grade evaluator.

This eliminates the previous requirement for a superintendent’s signature certifying successful completion of a home education program in order to receive certain grants and aid for higher education.

Expect Your School District to Be Unaware of the Changes

Finally, it’s worth noting that school administrators are notoriously misinformed about the requirements of the homeschool law. Do not be surprised and don’t panic if you receive a request for portfolio materials (log, samples and test scores). As always, the best way to combat inappropriate and extra legal requests by uninformed school district personnel is to read and understand the law yourself. You can read the final print version of the bill here.

I strongly urge you NOT to comply with such a request (even though you have prepared those materials for your evaluator). The new law ONLY requires a certification by your evaluator that an appropriate education has taken place.

“Appropriate education” is defined in the statute as follows: “A program consisting of instruction in the required subjects for the time required in this act and in which the student demonstrates sustained progress in the overall program.” That’s it.

I urge you to find an evaluator who adheres to the definition of “appropriate education” when reviewing your student’s work.

If you’re interested in a free, simple form letter that your evaluator may use to certify that an appropriate education has occurred,

Click Here

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The Seven Requirements of an Affidavit Under PA Homeschool Law

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The Affidavit serves as your official notification to the school district of your intention to homeschool a child in Pennsylvania.

Although there are plenty of free sample affidavits available on the internet, including on this site, I encourage every parent to understand the information that’s required on the affidavit according to Pennsylvania homeschool law.

The PDE (Pennsylvania Department of Education) offers a sample form which many school districts have adopted and make available on their own websites. I don’t recommend using this form because it’s too long and includes details that the law doesn’t require (list of immunizations, list of subjects required for example).

The seven elements required on an affidavit under Pennsylvania law can be found at 24 P.S. § 1327.1(b)(1). Most of them are self-explanatory, some require a little more explanation.

1. Name of Supervisor

The affidavit should identify the supervisor of the home education program. This is a parent or legal guardian with full or partial custody of the child. The supervisor must meet the minimum qualifications to homeschool. That is, he or she must have earned a high school diploma or it’s equivalent (GED or successfully completed a home education program according to the laws of the state in which they were homeschooled) and must not have been convicted of one of the crimes listed in subsection (e) of section 111 of the PA School Code within 5 years of the date of the affidavit.

2. Name and Age of Children Participating in Home Education Program

Only list children who have reached compulsory attendance age. Even though school districts commonly ask for the child’s birthdate or grade, only the child’s age is required.

3. Address and Telephone Number of the Home Education Program

This information is required to verify the school district of residence. If the school district asks for further proof of residency (a utility bill or a mortgage statement) you are not required to provide it. The affidavit is sufficient evidence of residency. If you no longer maintain a landline, a cell phone number of the supervisor is adequate.

4. Required Subjects Will be Offered in the English Language

This requirement is self-explanatory. This sentence of the statute also mentions the list of proposed educational objectives, which should be attached to the affidavit when you submit it to the school district and not included in the content of the affidavit.

The statute specifically prohibits a superintendent from using the proposed educational objectives to determine whether the home education program is out of compliance. Although, I don’t state this information in the affidavit, I restate it prominently on the list of proposed educational objectives.

5. Evidence of Health Services or an Exemption

If you do not maintain a religious objection to the health service requirements, you may attach a list of immunizations. Another option is to assert that the required health services have been obtained and a record is on file (either at home or with the health care provider). Another option if you don’t want to attach a list of immunizations is to attach a short note from your health care provider that the health service requirements have been met.

6. Catch-All Provision

The statute provides the exact language for my favorite requirement, “that the home education program shall comply with the provisions of this section and that the notarized affidavit shall be satisfactory evidence thereof.” See how this covers everything?

Many parents rely on this provision to avoid attaching health records (even if they don’t maintain a religious objection).

7. Certification Related to Adults Living in the Home

The last element of an affidavit might be the most important. The supervisor must certify that no adult living in the home has been convicted of one of the crimes listed in subsection (e) of section 111 of the PA School Code within 5 years of the date of the affidavit.

I hope you have a clearer understanding of the information required on the affidavit under Pennsylvania homeschool law.

Requirements of an affidavit for Pennsylvania homeschool law

To download a quick reference guide to help you understand the 7 elements required in an affidavit, click here.

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Equal Access Law for PA Homeschoolers

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Luke Phillips WPIAL

Luke With His High School Coach After Clinching a Spot at States

This week, my son, Luke, a freshman enrolled at Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School*, battled another homeschooled student to clinch a spot in the PIAA State Singles Tennis Championship. He placed 3rd in the WPIAL for class AA.

Parents choose to homeschool their children for a variety of reasons. Some homeschool in order to accommodate the child’s interest and ability in a particular sport, activity or artistic endeavor. Learning at home tends to be more efficient and can be extremely flexible which gives the child more time to dedicate to his or her passion.

In the past, each school district in Pennsylvania had discretion about whether to allow homeschooled children to participate in extra curricular activities. Effective January 1, 2006, any child who’s enrolled in a home education program has the right to participate in any activity that is subject to the provisions of section 511 of the Public School Code, including, but not limited to clubs, musical ensembles, athletics, and theatrical productions.

In order to participate, the child must meet the same eligibility criteria (academic, behavior) and try-out criteria as students enrolled in the school district. Homeschooled students must also comply with all policies, rules and regulations of the governing organization.

The subsection specifically includes a school district’s participation in interscholastic athletics including team and individual competitions, exhibitions, contests or events with other schools within or outside of the school district as an activity.

Where the activity requires completion of a physical examination or a medical test as a condition of participation, children enrolled in home education programs must have access to opportunities to complete physical exams and medical tests offered by the school. The school district is required to publish the dates of physical exams in publications of general circulation in the district or on the school district website.

If the school district adopts a policy to implement the provisions of the subsection, the policy may not conflict with other provisions of the home education law.

While home educating parents in Pennsylvania have the option, they’ll still want to weigh the option carefully before deciding whether their child should participate in school-sponsored activities.

Even if the activity is conducted during school hours (chorus, band, clubs, pep rallies, academic contests), the homeschooled child may participate if the parent is willing to provide transportation to and from the school. In 2007, a homeschooled student  successfully challenged a school district’s efforts to prevent her from representing the district in a county spelling bee after she won the local competition.

Many home education programs don’t have a formal grading system. When district policy requires minimum academic eligibility standards, parents of homeschooled children may have to implement a similar grading system or come to some type of arrangement to show that the homeschooled child meets the eligibility requirements.

Two of my children participated in an elementary basketball program in our local school district. Since the program was officially sponsored by the booster program, every child in the district was eligible. Try-outs were conducted only to make teams even and there were no cuts. In other words, it was an instructional program which wasn’t dependent on minimum academic standards or ability. There was a fee to participate which applied to every participant.

I hope this clarifies any questions you might have about whether your homeschooled child may participate in extracurricular activities sponsored or organized by the school district of residence.

* Students enrolled in charter or cyber charter schools are not covered by 24 P.S. §1327.1 but the charter school law. See Charter school BEC 24 P.S. §17-1701-A

Students who are enrolled in a cyber charter school are eligible to participate in a school district of residence sponsored extracurricular activity if the student is able to fulfill the requirements of participation and the cyber charter school does not provide the same extracurricular activity. Cyber Charter Schools and School Districts are encouraged to communicate the requirements for participation in extracurricular activities that may include, but not be limited to, specific grades and attendance of the student. To release this information to a school district, it must first receive parent permission.Content goes here
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Basic Graduation Requirements Under Pennsylvania Homeschool Law

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Pa homeschool graduation requirements

 

Text of the Pennsylvania Homeschool Law

If you’re wondering what the basic graduation requirements are under Pennsylvania homeschool law, they can be found directly in the text of the statute and are pretty straightforward.

“The following minimum courses in grades 9 through 12 are established as a minimum requirement for graduation in a home education program:

(1) Four years of English.

(2) Three years of mathematics.

(3) Three years of science.

(4) Three years of social studies.

(5) Two years of arts and humanities.

24 P.S. § 1327.1(d)

A “year” is defined in “time requirement” section of the law as a minimum of 180 days or 990 hours of instruction (count days or hours, not both) within the time period between July 1 and June 30 of the following year. For a great explanation on how to award “credit” for a high school course, you might find this article to be helpful.

Supervisor Has Flexibility When Designing The Program

A supervisor of a home education program has wide discretion to decide how to meet the basic requirements listed above and I would encourage you to accommodate your child’s preferences, strengths and passions within the framework outlined above.

To help you plan HOW to meet the minimum requirements, the law also identifies certain subjects which must be taught during the secondary years (7-12). Please note that while all of the subjects must be covered at some time during grades 7 through 12, the law doesn’t require that every course is taught every year.

“(2) At the secondary school level, the following courses shall be taught: English, to include language, literature, speech and composition; science; geography; social studies, to include civics, world history, history of the United States and Pennsylvania; mathematics, to include general mathematics, algebra and geometry; art; music; physical education; health; and safety education, including regular and continuous instruction in the dangers and prevention of fires. Such courses of study may include, at the discretion of the supervisor of the home education program, economics; biology; chemistry; foreign languages; trigonometry;

or other age-appropriate courses as contained in Chapter 5 (Curriculum Requirements) of the State Board of Education.  24 P.S. § 1327.1(c)(2)

You may use any curriculum to meet the subject and graduation requirements or design your own. This decision will largely be influenced by the student’s plans after completion of the home education program. For example, if your child plans to attend college, it makes sense to contact the admissions offices to determine what specific course work or proof thereof they’ll be looking for. On the other hand, if the student plans to pursue a trade, the course work may be designed to prepare him for that as long as the minimum graduation requirements are met.

Compulsory Attendance Shouldn’t Be Confused with Graduation Requirements

It’s important to note that Pennsylvania law doesn’t require graduation. Compulsory attendance is required for children between the ages of 8 and 17 with a few exceptions that are outlined in the law. Once a child reaches the age of 17, however, he isn’t obligated to complete a home education program or graduate.  Obviously, I would encourage everyone to complete the home education program with the minimum graduation requirements.

The Pennsylvania homeschool law was amended in 2014 to give a diploma issued by the supervisor of a home education program the same rights and privileges as one issued by the Commonwealth. Although many colleges and universities don’t require an actual diploma for admission, Pennsylvania state schools do.

The student’s plans after high school will determine whether a diploma is required. Some employers may require a diploma, for example. Regardless of whether your child will require proof of graduation in the form of a diploma, completion of a home education program by meeting the basic graduation requirements will affect your child’s ability to receive benefits like grants and loans.

I hope this article clears up any confusion about the basic requirements to graduate from a home education program in Pennsylvania.

If you would like to receive a free printable checklist for a quick reference click here.

Written by BethPhillips
 

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