It is increasingly common for school superintendents to request an evaluator’s teaching certificate either by contacting the supervisor or the evaluator directly.
The Pennsylvania home education law does not give school districts authority to verify an evaluator’s qualifications and supervisors should decline such requests for the reasons I’ll explain below.
1. The request assumes all evaluators are certified teachers
The homeschool law defines five types of professionals who are legally qualified to conduct evaluations. I described the different credentials and the type of experience required to meet the requirement in this post: “Qualifications of an Evaluator Under PA Homeschool Law“. To summarize, they are as follows:
- A school psychologist.
- A licensed clinical psychologist.
- A PA certified teacher.
- A non-public school teacher or administrator
Only one category of evaluator requires the approval of the superintendent. “At the request of the supervisor, person with other qualifications may conduct the evaluation with prior consent of the district of residence superintendent.”
A Pennsylvania certified teacher with the required “grading” experience is only one type of legally qualified evaluator.
2. The law does not give the school district authority to verify credentials
The PA homeschool law requires the supervisor to submit a notarized affidavit, a proposed list of objectives, approval of the home education plan if the child has special needs and a certification that an appropriate education is occurring signed by the evaluator.
There is no language in the law requiring the supervisor or the evaluator to submit evaluator credentials directly to the school district.
If members of the Pennsylvania legislature wanted to, they could have included language requiring verification of credentials by school administrators in the original law, by amendment since then or when the law changed in 2014. They didn’t.
3. The supervisor is legally responsible to obtain a qualified evaluator
The notarized affidavit includes a statement, sworn under oath and admissable as evidence in a court of law, that the home education program will comply with the provisions of the law, which would include obtaining an evaluation by a legally qualified evaluator.
The homeschool supervisor can verify an evaluator’s qualifications in a variety of ways, some of which are described in the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Home Education and Private Tutor Guide. [*Please note that this is the PDE’s interpretation of the law and not the law itself.] Even the PDE acknowledges that the supervisor is responsible to verify credentials, not a superintendent.
4. The evaluator has no direct contact with the school district.
It’s the supervisor’s responsibility, not the evaluator’s to submit the evaluator’s certification that an appropriate education has occurred.
The evaluator has no legal connection, relationship or duty to the school district. Therefore, the evaluator has no legal obligation to comply with any requests by a superintendent.
The superintendent has no legal jurisdiction or authority to request any material from the evaluator.
5. The superintendent must accept an evaluator’s certification
A superintendent has no discretion to disapprove or reject an evaluator’s certification that “an appropriate education is occurring.”
A superintendent is required to follow a specific procedure if he or she has a reasonable basis to believe that the home education program is out of compliance with the provisions of the homeschool law. A request for any action or information via phone, fax, email or regular correspondence does not satisfy this procedure.
Even if a superintendent follows proper procedure, the language of the law is clear that an evaluator’s certification within the time prescribed by the law ends the inquiry. No provision gives a superintendent authority to challenge the evaluator’s certification that “an appropriate education is occurring.” That certification is not qualified by a credential verification process.
6. How to respond?
As with any over reaching request from school administrators, you can respond in a few ways.
- Ignore the request-especially if by phone, email or regular mail (not “certified mail” as law requires). This is hard to do and most parents respond in some manner.
- Reply with a simple statement explaining that the request is not supported by the homeschool law.(This is my preferred option)
- Challenge the administrator to show you the language or provision which supports the request (It doesn’t exist).
- Educate by explaining your decision not to comply in detail. (This is almost always a waste of energy).
I hope this post clarifies the issue of evaluator verification by superintendents, which is increasingly problematic.
I created a guide of sample replies to the most common unauthorized requests from school superintendents, including the request to verify an evaluator’s qualifications.
You might be interested in downloading the collection of templates because it’s on sale this week.