PA Homeschoolers! Legislation reform - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 33 Old 03-01-2009, 06:05 PM - Thread Starter
 
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http://pahomeschool.embarqspace.com/

They're proposing legislation to change the PA homeschool law so we don't have to turn portfolios into the school district. Rather, it would be sufficient to present the portfolio to an evaluator and then just give a letter from the evaluator to the SD.

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#2 of 33 Old 03-01-2009, 07:46 PM
 
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That would be awesome! I hate the laws here in PA. I got so spoiled by NJ's laws.

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#3 of 33 Old 03-01-2009, 09:51 PM
 
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Very nice! Hope it goes through!
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#4 of 33 Old 03-02-2009, 01:30 PM
 
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awesome! I'm still figuring PA laws out so anything to make it easier sounds good to me!

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#5 of 33 Old 03-03-2009, 01:17 PM
 
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Thanks for posting the information here, Annette! I'm printing out my letter and dropping it at Mike Hanna's office today while running errands. It would be SO nice to get this through!!

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#6 of 33 Old 03-03-2009, 07:07 PM
 
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how exciting!!!!!!!!!!!!! I hope it passes.
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#7 of 33 Old 03-04-2009, 12:18 AM
 
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I hate the laws here in PA. I got so spoiled by NJ's laws
I really don't understand this-can you explain?

I have heard from several from NJ and all they have to deal with and I don't have any of it in PA, nor do I want it!

I have never been asked to turn in a portfolio, they have always excepted just the evaluator's letter-no problems at all.

My understanding is that unlike, NJ & NY, we really have very easy here, and they could impose mandated state wide teaching curriculum, thus far they have really left HS alone.

 

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#8 of 33 Old 03-04-2009, 12:23 AM
 
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NJ has zero regulation. You don't even have to tell the school district that your kids exist.

I think a big problem with PA is that things are worded so vaguely. Some school districts let you get away with almost nothing, others want to see portfolios like the Encyclopedia Brittanica or something.
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#9 of 33 Old 03-04-2009, 12:32 AM
 
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I really don't see the need nor want legislation- I don't think that will solve what problems some must be having. I really see this as opening up more bad than good.

I do know that for some who have been getting away with doing so little and getting an evaluator to sign off this might really make some want to look at their portfolios, when in the past they have not. My evaluator has refused to do some because of what she was asked to write up.

The ones that I have spoken to that do HS are not in favor of any more legislation/laws. It will be interesting to see if this passes. At this point we are not costing any one a dime in our district, it just cost us to get the evaluation, and testing if you opt out.

 

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#10 of 33 Old 03-04-2009, 12:38 AM - Thread Starter
 
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That's fine. I'm required not only to create a portfolio and hire an evaluator to look it over and approve it, but then turn it into the school district, where they keep it for as long as they like and then tell me I have 48 hours to pick it up or it will be destroyed. Our school district has also been known to jot down notes on what they feel we need to work on, which is way outside the scope of what they're allowed to do. If you feel it's not worthwhile legislation, that's great. I'm glad you're school district is so accomodating. But I know for me, it's absolutely worth it.

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#11 of 33 Old 03-04-2009, 12:48 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Also, if your school district isn't requiring a portfolio, that's great, but they (and you, I guess) are outside of the requirements of the law, as it's written:
Quote:
"In order to demonstrate that appropriate education is occurring, the supervisor of the home education program shall provide and maintain on file the following documentation for each student enrolled in the home education program:"

""Appropriate education" shall mean 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."

"Such documentation [the portfolio and evaluation] …shall be provided to the public school district of residence superintendent at the conclusion of each public school year." [The portfolio and evaluation must be given to the school district by June 30.]

"The portfolio shall consist of

a log, made contemporaneously with the instruction, which designates by title the reading materials used,

samples of any writings, worksheets, workbooks or creative materials used or developed by the student

and in grades three, five and eight results of nationally normed standardized achievement tests in reading/language arts and mathematics or the results of Statewide tests administered in these grade levels."

"The evaluation shall ... be based on an interview of the child and a review of the portfolio … and shall certify whether or not an appropriate education is occurring."

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#12 of 33 Old 03-04-2009, 12:48 AM
 
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the way is it is currently written they can still look at your stuff is they want to and they just might make it even harder for you???

 

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#13 of 33 Old 03-04-2009, 12:51 AM - Thread Starter
 
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the way is it is currently written they can still look at your stuff is they want to and they just might make it even harder for you???
The way what is currently written? The law or the proposed bill?

The way the law is written, we have to pay an evaluator to evaluate our portfolio and then, on top of that, turn it in so the SD has a say.

The new bill proposes that all we should have to turn into the SD is a letter saying our children are receiving an appropriate education and meeting the educational requirements.

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#14 of 33 Old 03-04-2009, 01:01 AM
 
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if you think just not having to turn in a portfolio at the end of the year to the district will solve your problems, maybe it will but they still will have the right (as the bill is written)- to request at any time to see your portfolio-(pg2 of the bill)- if your having to jump thru this many hoops at the end of year, how does this stop them from doing so thru-out the year? I don't understand??

 

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#15 of 33 Old 03-04-2009, 01:06 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I really doubt, if this law passes, the school districts are going to be investing the people power into randomly requesting portfolios they're not legally required to view. If they think a child is truly not receiving an appropriate education, then I have no problem with them reviewing a portfolio. But PA homeschool law as written is redundant. It wastes taxpayer money by forcing the school districts to do something that has already been done. Portfolios don't need to be reviewed twice. Plus, it's a PITA to have them sit in the District Services Center for weeks or even months and then get a "YOU HAVE TO COME GET THIS NOW OR WE'LL PITCH IT" letter in the middle of the summer.

I don't really understand why you're against the law. Do you think it will hurt you in some way, or are you against it because you can't see the benefit?

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#16 of 33 Old 03-04-2009, 09:31 AM
 
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I see no benefit and I highly doubt that it has any chance of passing. Why would a school district (several of those who work for the district also lobby the legislators) give up control?

I have only known one person that ever had a problem, and most assume it was their evaluator that turned them in.


I don't see this as some BIG money issue that people are going to want the local schools not to have to do, I see it as quite the opposite, there are still tons of people that hate HS that want to use school sports, etc and distrusting of HSing in general and again, I see this having much support or passing.

With most legislation it's money that is going to matter. How much $$ is your district spending to review each year? Are non-HSer's supporting this? I don't see it to be. You still are going to pay out of pocket for your evaluation and or testing if you opt out-so how much is really being saved?

I can't see the need for more regulation. This could very well backfire and more broad reaching reform could happen.

 

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#17 of 33 Old 03-04-2009, 11:52 AM
 
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I can't see the need for more regulation.
I'm confused by that statement, Serenbat. I can't see the need for more regulation, either, and this bill proposes the opposite of more regulation. This would free the school district superintendent's office up to focus on the public schooled kids, budgets, and other dministrative duties rather than spending God only knows how many hours reviewing portfolios that have already been evaluated by those with state approved credentials.

I have seen the quantity of portfolios in the super's office each summer and, if it's true that homeschool numbers are growing, I imagine the burden on the superintendent is growing as well. I live in a small school district with an even smaller number of homeschoolers, but there are no less than 60-100 portfolios in that office each time I stop in to drop off or pick up our portfolio.

I cannot see a reason for the redundancy and the waste of taxpayer money to have the portfolios double checked. Our evaluators spend time with our children, have in-depth discussions with the parent/site supervisors, and are experienced in assessing the portfolios. On the other hand, the superintendent's office is often short-staffed, short-funded and overwhelmed with the task of administering the educational institution for the bulk of the children in the district. This would ease the burden on the homeschool family and ease the burden on the super's office. I see it as a win/win for all involved.

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#18 of 33 Old 03-05-2009, 02:35 AM
 
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I see no benefit and I highly doubt that it has any chance of passing. Why would a school district (several of those who work for the district also lobby the legislators) give up control?

I have only known one person that ever had a problem, and most assume it was their evaluator that turned them in.


I don't see this as some BIG money issue that people are going to want the local schools not to have to do, I see it as quite the opposite, there are still tons of people that hate HS that want to use school sports, etc and distrusting of HSing in general and again, I see this having much support or passing.

With most legislation it's money that is going to matter. How much $$ is your district spending to review each year? Are non-HSer's supporting this? I don't see it to be. You still are going to pay out of pocket for your evaluation and or testing if you opt out-so how much is really being saved?

I can't see the need for more regulation. This could very well backfire and more broad reaching reform could happen.
The "backfire" argument has been made for years here in PA and it has never made any sense to me. PA already has some of the most burdensome HS regulation in the country. Then I saw that the major public voice for "don't risk change" was someone who made his living off of homeschool AP courses, testing, and a diploma program.

This legislation could not pass. But what is the potential for things to be worse? I'd love to live in a district that didn't require a full portfolio every year but I never have. There are only a handful of districts in PA that accept only the evaluation. Creating the portfolio is a lot of work and hugely stressful for me. Depending on which district I have lived in, I am never sure who will be reviewing the portfolio and whether that person has a clue what is or isn't required. Will I have yet another fight about how many samples have been included or refusing to assign a grade?

Someone in my district was called into a meeting with a school official concerning her child's portfolio - a meeting held in a room that had, by her estimation, upwards of 90 unread portfolios over a month after portfolio submission. So I am guessing someone on the SD payroll is reviewing student work product at SD expense - portfolios that had already been reviewed by an evaluator at parental expense. That is redundant and a waste of tax dollars.

I see no harm in supporting this legislation. Only "up" side.

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#19 of 33 Old 03-05-2009, 02:45 AM
 
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I'm curious about the "evaluator" part. What makes someone qualified to be an evaluator? I have a very good friend who has a teaching certificate for k-12 and she has already agreed to be my evaluator person. Does she have to have a certain number of years behind her before she can qualify? And what if I decide to get my teaching certificate? Can I then evaluate my own child? I'm new to this whole thing, as my daughter is still an infant, but I want to get my ducks in a row long before I need to, because I'm annoying and anal like that

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#20 of 33 Old 03-05-2009, 10:36 AM
 
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I spoke with my evaluator (who has been doing this going on 20 year, she is a teacher in another district, not one I am in) and she said the same thing that I have heard from others-this is all about a power-trip for the districts and she sees no way (and I totally agree) that they (the districts) will give this up, they would sooner like to do away with evaluation and take that over too! There are some (lots depending on who you talk to) that still hate HS and feel that they are "better" at teaching/assessing.

I DO NOT want to see rules change that may make things harder and taking away the districts role, I really feel, could cause far more complicated problems. I really don't see this bill passing, I feel there is too strong opposition to it, it's a "cash-cow" for the districts, they certainly don't mind paying to "over-see" HSers and I can't see public support for it.


Quote:
I'm curious about the "evaluator" part. What makes someone qualified to be an evaluator?
Regarding evaluations/evaluators - this site may help answer your questions -
www.askpauline.com

home.comcast.net/~askpauline/hs/homeschoolevals.html
(for some reason when I copied the site it doesn't take you there- go under EVALUATIONS)


It is guessed (by my evaluator), based on who she is and how she writes the evaluation, and the fact that I not only turn in her report but several others, (these are letters that state what my child did, hours worked on projects, etc) that is the reason that no one has ever requested seeing our portfolio. I give tons of documentation, I know lots of people only want to provide the minimum.

To many HSers are the same as NON-vacers, some think they are parasites.

 

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#21 of 33 Old 03-05-2009, 10:50 AM
 
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Creating the portfolio is a lot of work and hugely stressful for me.
I think this can be made less stressful, doing it as you go along thru out the year. I use to do the portfolio in the beginning and later my child took this role over, it make a hugh difference when they can do this for later years. It is great and needed in some cases for college. It is a nice record to look back on for each year. My evaluator take the portfolio home and picks out certain items to copy and those are turned in at the end of the year.

 

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#22 of 33 Old 03-05-2009, 01:33 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I think the backfire argument is one that is often used to keep people "in their place". Don't rock the boat and do what you're told, or people might notice you exist. It's not really an effective agent for change, IMO.

Serenbat, you seem very happy with the status quo. I'm glad it's working out for you and I hope it continues to do so.

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#23 of 33 Old 03-05-2009, 03:17 PM
 
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I see real issues that would really would cut school costs/property taxes and I would rather that the state legislators worked on those issues first.

I would love to see a state wide mandatory curriculum, such as other states have, this would be a true cost reduction in education costs and a benefit to parents and children that relocate within the state.

With any education issue in PA, be it HS or not, money sees the real factor. I have yet to see a district cut administration cost, they by far cut arts programs and teachers first. Administrators seem very unlike to bend and give up any power. I just fail to see this as bill that has traction.

 

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#24 of 33 Old 03-05-2009, 03:36 PM
 
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I DO NOT want to see rules change that may make things harder and taking away the districts role, I really feel, could cause far more complicated problems. I really don't see this bill passing, I feel there is too strong opposition to it, it's a "cash-cow" for the districts, they certainly don't mind paying to "over-see" HSers and I can't see public support for it.
Specifically, how could this be made harder? SDs don't create legislation. Unquestionably the teachers lobby is powerful and will oppose it. But at some point (and I am not going to simply not try because we may not have come to that point) legislators will value the votes of HSers over the teachers or will trade this issue off with another for the teachers.

I have yet to hear a suggestion as to how the law could be made worse by proposing a redundant element be eliminated. Really, how? Body cavity searches along with the portfolio?

Nebulous "it could be worse" arguments simply create a climate of fear.

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#25 of 33 Old 03-05-2009, 03:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I would love to see a state wide mandatory curriculum, such as other states have, this would be a true cost reduction in education costs and a benefit to parents and children that relocate within the state.
You want a mandatory statewide curriculum for whom? For homeschoolers?

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#26 of 33 Old 03-05-2009, 04:30 PM
 
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And what about us unschoolers?
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#27 of 33 Old 03-05-2009, 04:57 PM
 
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To many HSers are the same as NON-vacers, some think they are parasites.
Oh great .. two for two .. although I do see your point. I get the strangest responses when people find out plan to homeschool. They always bring up school when vaxes come up. "Oh well how are you going to enroll her in school if she's not vaccinated?" .. "well, the school can not require me to vaccinate her and they can not deny her entry into school just because she's vaccinated. But we're homeschooling anyway" .. I hate how we're considered crazy and insane for not vaxing and for home/unschooling.


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And what about us unschoolers?
That's exactly what I was thinking, since I plan to unschool, but I figured it would be easier to just say I homeschool. That's what we tell our family, that we plan to homeschool. The battle with not vaxing and co-sleeping and cloth diapering and homebirthing .. it was just too exhausting, and another argument about unschooling is just not needed, at least not right now. Luckily, I know several people who either were homeschooled or are homeschooling now, due to several different reasons. So at least we have support there if we ever need anything.

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#28 of 33 Old 03-05-2009, 05:21 PM
 
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Originally Posted by annettemarie View Post
You want a mandatory statewide curriculum for whom? For homeschoolers?
um ... yeah. I am a little bewildered by this point.

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#29 of 33 Old 03-05-2009, 05:23 PM
 
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You want a mandatory statewide curriculum for whom? For homeschoolers?
It happens to be in place in several states (NJ & NY for example) and it is for PUBLIC school students, NOT HSers. It would reduce costs if every district use the same materials at the same grade. If you moved from Philly to Scranton the child would be learning the same subjects in the same grades. I know some in NJ that loves this. It would be a "dream" to see education taken out of the local district hands, wouldn't it be nice if every student, statewide was given the same money and the same education?? This would reduce property/school taxes far more than the HB1273.

Several years ago there was "talk" about removing HSing from local districts control and making a state wide overseer, but that did not go over either.

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Specifically, how could this be made harder?
They (the school districts) could dictate WHO does the evaluation or they could say it must be done in-school. This real threat has been talked about among some evaluators.

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But at some point (and I am not going to simply not try because we may not have come to that point) legislators will value the votes of HSers over the teachers or will trade this issue off with another for the teachers.
(I bolded)

I can't see this, at least not even in ten years time---majority rules, for the most part. HS numbers don't even come close to the public school population.


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And what about us unschoolers?
The way it is now, you would by law, need to file just as any HSer is required to do so.
Fact is many don't.
Many people DO get around dealing with local schools, they move and just simply don't say a word. Never in the system, the school really doesn't know you are there. I know two people that do not deal with the school district at all, one moved to the area and just didn't file and another had their child in a private school and pulled the child out, didn't say a word. One has been doing so for years. The local district doesn't know a thing. With the exception of mostly Catholic schools that use local busses, the school district has no clue who these "other" children are.

 

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#30 of 33 Old 03-05-2009, 05:31 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Maybe you could start another thread asking people to support mandatory statewide curriculum in public schools then? I was really confused at it being brought up in a homeschool law reform thread, and I think other people were as well.

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They (the school districts) could dictate WHO does the evaluation or they could say it must be done in-school. This real threat has been talked about among some evaluators.
They can't actually, because that would be against the law. As long as the evaluator meets the legal requirements, the school district has to accept it. The only exception would be that a school district could refuse to consent to an evaluator appealing under this part of the law:
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at the request of the supervisor, persons with other qualifications may conduct the evaluation with the prior consent of the district of residence superintendent.
I'm sure mamajake will correct me if I'm wrong, but a school district can't add on to existing homeschool law.

There is always going to be some tension between homeschoolers and their local school districts. While there may be rare exceptions to the rules, that's just the way it is (sort of like with mothers-in-law, although again, there are rare exceptions to the rule, LOL!). Another reason I like this reform is that it takes a little of that power struggle away. All you're turning in is a letter. There's no chance for school districts to overreach and presume to tell homeschoolers what they should be working on or how they should teach, which is outside the scope of what the law says that can do.

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