The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly changed the way public and private school systems educate students. Most have been closed, at least temporarily, and many school districts have adopted some form of distance or remote learning. Additionally, nearly all 50 states have waived standardized testing for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year, an act that can be granted with a waiver submitted to and approved by the U.S. Department of Education.
But what about families who have been homeschooling throughout the entire school year? While every single person on this planet has been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak to some degree, homeschooling families probably haven’t experienced quite as much change to their day-to-day education routine as others (co-ops and group field trips and gatherings being the obvious exceptions). Homeschooling regulations, which vary by state, have been minimally impacted–until now.
On March 27, Pennsylvania became the first state to waive homeschool testing and evaluation requirements. (The Keystone State was followed a few days later by Tennessee in waiving testing for homeschoolers.) This differs in a few ways from the U.S. DOE waiver applied to public and private schools–that waiver allows those schools to still receive funding without the normally federally required standardized testing taking place this year.
Homeschool regulation is state-specific, meaning each state sets its own laws and guidelines surrounding the number of days/hours to be instructed, standardized testing, and core curriculum. In order for any changes or adjustments to be made to these laws, state legislatures must waive them. In Pennsylvania’s case, Governor Tom Wolf signed off on legislation that will change how the state homeschools in a few ways. For the 2019-20 school year, Pennsylvania homeschoolers will not be required to:
- Include the results of nationally normed standardized achievement tests (or the Pennsylvania statewide test) in their student’s portfolio, which is currently required for students in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grades.
- Conduct an annual written evaluation of educational progress as determined by a qualified homeschool evaluator.
- Send the qualified evaluator’s certification to the local superintendent by June 30.
This is an important measure taken by a governor who’s been generally aggressive in protecting his state from the spread of COVID-19. And don’t be surprised if Pennsylvania becomes the trend-setter in situations such as these. As the number of positive cases of coronavirus continues to climb, more and more states are sure to follow suit to help ensure a more even playing field for both traditional students and homeschooled students.
Again, this won’t apply to every state, since each has its own laws and regulations. Some states may not require any testing to begin with, others may allow for different types of evaluations that can still be safely administered or performed. The best course of action is to check with your home state to see what types of evaluations are required (if any), and if your state has taken or will be taking any action as a result of COVID-19.
If you already homeschool with Bridgeway, reach out to your Academic Advisor with any questions you may have about your state. They’re happy to help guide you through this unusual time.