Lowering Compulsory School Age and Mandatory Kindergarten; Oh, my!

In the past week, the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Jennifer McCormick, has called for legislation during the 2018 session of the Indiana General Assembly to lower the compulsory school age to six and to make kindergarten mandatory. The Democrats attempted to push similar legislation in 2015 that would have lowered the compulsory school age.

Are Your Children Missing?

She states that the government via public education is “missing a big chunk of kids.” We must never forget the original purpose for Common Schools (government-run schools). According to E.G. West, the author of Education and the State, public education’s purpose is to serve those who chose not to take responsibility for educating their own children.

As our sister organization, Indiana Association of Home Educators (IAHE), has noted on their blog, many are frustrated by the public schools and have decided to educate their own children.  Could these be some of the “missing chunk” of children?  IAHE has noticed what appears to be a large influx into the homeschool community as noted by calls and inquiries they receive about home education. They took a survey to see why parents had decided to remove their child from a traditional school setting to home school.

At-risk Families Put All Families At Risk

The Tribune Star article about the call for mandatory kindergarten states, [Indiana] “has 7,000 children who don’t take advantage of kindergarten, and of those, 5,000 are considered at-risk, she said. When they start formal schooling, those children face many disadvantages.” In case you are wondering the type of children who are “at-risk”, they may be children who are served by the Department of Child Services, Family and Social Services, the Department of Corrections, or the juvenile justice system.  

Unfortunately, if the compulsory school age is lowered and kindergarten becomes mandatory to force these families to put their child in school at an earlier age, it will affect homeschoolers, too. Government typically paints with a broad brush. Homeschoolers will be forced to begin formal education at an earlier age.

Homeschoolers take the view that education begins at birth, although they may not begin “formal” education until years later. Currently, in Indiana, that is age seven. A number of legislators have bemoaned the fact that there is a “gap” between pre-school and age seven and have hoped to close it.

Could Delayed “Formal” Education Actually Be Beneficial?

In a review of recent ISTEP scores, it appears a number of scores dropped between grades 3-8 and grade 10. Is it true in your area? Check out the results here. Could it be many students are burnt out with formal education and have lost their love of learning?

Homeschoolers are often more relaxed in their approach to education since they have a flexibility that is not available in the public school. If a homeschool student is not ready for a concept, a parent can wait a bit and circle back to it at a later date. Many parents have noticed that when the child is ready, they are able to learn the concept much more quickly. Waiting did not hurt but helped.  Our children are not “cookie cutter” kids. Some may be ready for a “formal” education earlier than others. We believe it is best to allow a fit parent to decide.

We see a more relaxed approach is used in schools of Finland.  It appears to be helpful to those students as well.  Compulsory school age is seven, and playtime is important. The love of learning for learning’s sake is fostered. There is not an emphasis on assessments. Learning is (or should be) fun for children!

In closing, IAHE keeps abreast of Indiana homeschool trends. They currently have a survey posted for those who chose to delay formal education until age seven. Check it out if this pertains to you.


IAHE Action’s School to Prison Pipeline Response – Part 8

This post is our eighth of nine installments regarding the transcript from the Indiana Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hearing that was held on February 17, 2016.  You may read our other posts herehere, here, here, hereherehere, and here.

TESTIMONY: Pg. 215 MR. DOUGLAS: Thank you all. Principal Sanders, you mentioned that something like 500 kids went off to charter or parochial schools and something like 404 came back, and we have also heard from some earlier testimony that sometimes kids are sent — go off into a home schooling environment, transferred into that environment as an alternative to expulsion, sort of a way of getting them off the books it sounds like.

Have you — I guess it was sort of a question earlier, but are you saying kids coming back from a home schooling environment and are they coming back from a home schooling environment and what level of preparation, to what degree are they up to speed with their classmates? And then this sort of speaks to a much bigger question and that is Indiana is now sort of it seems nationally a leader or an advocate of choice in the voucher system, and the question is this choice environment, is it — do you feel that it is ultimately contributing to improvement in education or do you think that it is ultimately creating disruption?

MR. SANDERS: Excellent question, and sufficiently complicated. So 588 students, and these were students specifically going to charter or parochial schools, so this did not go into — plan to account for home schooling, which is another caveat, and 68.7 percent of those students did return back to us.

I think the situation that we are experiencing is that you are right, that is kind of the trend to move into the charter experience, but what happens is that we forget about the purpose of this public education situation, which was the center of the community in so many ways, and there is great value in this anchor that was the community school, and we have seen the fragmentation and the value for that unravel in my experience in nearly 20 years in South Bend Public Schools, I have witnessed that. I was at this school both as a teacher and as an assistant principal and saw a time when we had an enrollment of 1500 students and we were shining brightly.

Pg. 222 MR. DOUGLAS: On that topic of people coming — home schoolers or people coming back from alternative sources of education back into public schools, are you seeing whether they are returning at pace with their peers or behind? And I have to admit, I have anecdotal evidence from a principal in Kokomo years ago who was making a comment to me that kids were coming back from home schooling badly behind, I was curious whether that was just an anecdote or a bigger problem.

IAHE Action’s Response: IAHE Action wondered if this was a problem, too, when we read this part of the transcript.  Originally we would not have been surprised if they did.  We assumed that those going from home school to public school may have enrolled because they had difficulty with home education.  We also assumed that perhaps the teaching style was different between one-on-one and the classroom of thirty students and may take an adjustment for the student. IAHE decided to ask families in a survey who enrolled their homeschooled child into public school. Here is what we learned: a few struggled, but the majority did not. They excelled.  At Work For You

IAHE then wondered if public school students who switched to home school were behind? They asked  homeschoolers, and they wanted to share their stories. They decided to list them publicly on their testimonial page. As you can see, these students are thriving with our low regulations.

TESTIMONY: P. 241 Ms. Garcia: As a result, many of us spend hours writing grants so that we can buy the materials we need to engage our students. We need legislators to get out of our way so we can teach and do what’s best for our students. We need more time to spend on character education, conflict resolution, and relationship building without feeling like we are not going to prepare our students to pass a myriad of assessments over the course of the year, including the ISTEP.

IAHE Action’s Response: We agree! Legislators need to get out of our way, so we can teach. The fact we do not take any government money grants us the ability to do what we see fit for our students. Without taxpayer money, legislators cannot inflict upon our students the burdens it has levied on public school students, nor should it. As home educators, we know exactly what these teachers mean. Thirty-three years of an environment unencumbered by legislative mandates has allowed countless students to thrive.

TESTIMONY:  P. 243 We know that if the student is not in our room then they cannot learn. We also know that sometimes no one can learn because one student is in our room.

IAHE Action’s Response: Many parents have chosen homeschooling for a variety of reasons. Home education gives options for those “other” children to receive one on one instruction and excel.

TESTIMONY:  Pg. 251 As a result of no child left behind over the course of my 18-year career as an educator in urban schools, I have seen the shift away from teaching children and toward teaching curriculum. Because of the pressure of tests, I am bound to a fast-paced curriculum map that crams a nine-month school year into five to seven months to get it all in before the ISTEP.

IAHE Action’s Response: In a public school, someone else is teaching a child. The tests are reports to the parent about how their child is learning. These tests are accountability measures parents, legislators and the public use to monitor the value of their public tax dollars in education. As homeschoolers we are thankful we are not forced to cram nine months of lesson plans into five or seven months due to testing. Once again homeschoolers, free from government funding, are able to do what is best for the children we teach and not what the legislature mandates. Tests in the homeschool world serve a different purpose.

Homeschool parents are with their child each and every day giving one-on-one instruction. The primary instructor, or teaching parent, knows the strengths and weaknesses of each child. Testing in the homeschool world merely confirms for parents what is already known. Some parents give standardized tests or tests that accompany curriculum. Others simply observe their child completing lessons and know precisely how their child performed using the results to structure their future lessons. Homeschoolers are able to individualize each and every lesson to meet each and every child, which minimizes the need and impact of high stakes testing.


2016 Legislative Wrap-Up

The 2016 session of the Indiana General Assembly ended on March 10. This was a “short” session, and there 831 bills introduced. The legislature was cautious about passing bills with a high fiscal note, so some that would typically move did not this session. IAHE tracked over eighty bills of interest. The House and Senate Education Committees heard a total of thirty-nine bills and two resolutions in the ten weeks that comprised this legislative session. Four of them were of particular interest to IAHE.

Education Matters • HEA 1330 contains language that IAHE included with the assistance of Governor Pence’s office. IAHE is grateful that the House Education Committee Chairman, Robert Behning (R–Indianapolis), carried the bill for us.

IAHE felt it was necessary to introduce this legislation due to the overreach of the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE). In September 2015, a memo from the IDOE was sent to Superintendents and principals across the state that required students enrolled part-time in the public school to take ISTEP. Prior to this time, it was not required.

Indiana Code states the purpose of ISTEP+ is:
1) to assess the strengths and weaknesses of school performance; 2) to assess the effects of state and local educational program; 3) to compare achievement of Indiana students to achievement of students on a national basis; and 4) to provide a source of information for state and local decision makers with regard to educational matters, including . . . the overall academic progress of students, the need for new or revised educational programs, the need to terminate existing programs . . . .  In addition, IC 20-32-5-6 mandates that ISTEP scores “measure student achievement relative to the academic standards established by the state board . . . .”

Indiana case law affirms that local school corporations have the discretion to allow or deny part-time participation. Indiana law states very clearly that non-accredited, non-public schools are “not bound by any requirements set forth in IC 20 or IC 21 with regard to curriculum or the content of educational programs offered by the school” and that this does not prevent a student from that school in “enrolling in a particular educational program or participating in a particular educational initiative offered by an accredited public, nonpublic, or state board approved nonpublic school…”

Since the purpose of the ISTEP program is designed to “provide a source of information for state and local decision makers with regard to…the overall academic progress of students…the need for new or revised educational programs…the need to terminate existing education programs…student readiness for postsecondary school experiences…(and) diagnosing individual student needs” it cannot be applied to part-time students who are not enrolled in the subjects being tested.

If they are testing homeschool students in math or English and the student is only taking an art class, how does that test the student on how well the public school is teaching those subjects when those subjects are being taken at home?

IAHE believed it was bad policy to require home educators who are enrolled part-time, such as in one non-academic class, to take ISTEP+ or other future similar assessments designed to evaluate the school, curriculum, and testing methods.

The language in HEA 1330 states, (c) A student who attends a school described in subsection (a) who also enrolls in a particular educational program or initiative as permitted under subsection (b) may be offered the opportunity to participate in state standardized assessments, but such participation is not required.”

 This language allows “home rule” where the school may decide whether or not a student has access to a class and whether or not to offer the test. What has changed is that the student can no longer be required to take the state-wide assessment. HEA 1330 was signed by the Governor.


BLOG Featured Image_Action Logo Square BW 10.28.15 SMALL2.) Various Education Matters • SEA 93 is a bill that IAHE was monitoring. In the final weeks of the session during Second Reading in the House, a floor motion was amended into SB 93. Since it was in Title 16 and not Title 20, it included home schools. Here is the language:

Testing of Water in School Buildings

Sec. 1. As used in this chapter, “school building” means any building used for the classroom instruction of students in any grade from kindergarten through grade 12. The term includes buildings used by all public schools and private schools.

Sec. 2. Every school building shall be supplied with safe, potable water from:

(1) a source; and

(2) a distribution system; approved by the commissioner of the department of environmental management, the state health commissioner, or the local board of health or county health officer having jurisdiction where the school building is located.

Sec. 3. (a) At least once in each period of two (2) calendar years, the water available in each school building for drinking purposes shall be tested to ensure that it is healthful and free of contaminants, including lead, that could be injurious to human health.

(b) The testing required by subsection (a) shall be conducted by: (1) the commissioner of the department of environmental management; (2) the state health commissioner; or

(3) the local board of health or county health officer having

jurisdiction where the school building is located.“.

Senate Education Chairman Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn) and Representative Robert Behning worked with IAHE to include an amendment in conference committee to exclude home schools. The final language excluded all private schools.
SEA 93 was signed by the Governor.


3.) Various Education Matters • HEA 1005 After a sexual abuse incident at a brick and mortar non-accredited, nonpublic school, the legislature desired to require expanded child protection index background checks for adults with ongoing contact with students in all schools within the scope of their employment.

SECTION 3. IC 20-26-2-1.3 IS ADDED TO THE INDIANA CODE AS A NEW SECTION TO READ AS FOLLOWS [EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 2016]: Sec. 1.3.“Expanded child protection index check” means:

(1) an inquiry with the department of child services as to whether an individual has been the subject of a substantiated report of child abuse or neglect and is listed in the child protection index established under IC 31-33-26-2;

(2) an inquiry with the child welfare agency of each state in which the individual has resided since the individual became eighteen (18) years of age as to whether there are any substantiated reports that the individual has committed child abuse or neglect; and

(3) for a certificated employee, an inquiry with the department of education or other entity that may issue a license to teach of each state in which the individual has resided since the individual became eighteen (18) years of age as to whether the individual has ever had a teaching license suspended or revoked.

The final language included all schools that have one or more employees. House Education Chairman Robert Behning (R-Indianapolis), worked with IAHE to exempt parents teaching their own children.

IAHE recommends that even if you are not required by law to have an expanded background check for anyone teaching your children in a co-op, it would be prudent to do it. Many co-ops already do background checks.

Home Educators’ Questions Regarding HEA 1005 Receive Answers from HSLDA

These are answers from HSLDA regarding HEA 1005 (formerly SB 334). In their opinion, these answers are accurate. Please seek counsel from HSLDA for specific questions.

1.) If a family hires a teacher such as a piano teacher, does it require a background check? NO

2.) What if a group of parents pay an individual to teach a class such as a foreign language? Or what if the teacher is not paid, but there is a fee for the class (supplies, facility fees). NO

3.) How easy it is to transfer a background check? I have to get one for another organization. Could that then count for any other situation, or would the individual groups need to have a new one done? HSLDA does not have an answer, but suspects it will not be problem. The background check is something that needs to be updated. Schools will have to put it in their policy regarding when they must be updated. A school could also decide to accept one that has been done in the last “x” period of time.

4.) If I hired a family member such as a grandparent to tutor my children, do I then need to run a background check? NO

5.) Do any/all tutors need background checks? NO

6.) Does this bill apply to independent contractors? NO

7.) Is a co-op a school? A co-op is not a school unless they desire to be one. If they operate 5 days a week, 6 hours a day then HSLDA would expect the state to consider them to be a school, but it might still be possible that they aren’t. A normal co-op that operates 1-2 days a week shouldn’t have any trouble.

8.) If anyone is passing themselves off as a school, with employees, they must comply.

HEA 1005 was signed by the Governor.


4.) Next Generation Hoosier Educators Scholarship HEA 1002 allows for an academic state scholarship to attract and retain eligible applicants to the teaching profession. IAHE requested home educators be included in the bill. Speaker of the House, Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) agreed to include homeschoolers. IAHE believes it would give increased credibility to homeschool diplomas since homeschooled graduates would be on a level playing field with public school graduates when applying for this scholarship. Since the requirements for this scholarship occur after graduation, we saw no reason to omit homeschoolers. HEA 1002 was signed by the Governor.

*This post does not constitute legal advice. For legal questions, contact HSLDA.

ISTEP+ and Homeschoolers?

It was recently brought to our attention that the Indiana Department of Education had sent a memo to Superintendents and Principals giving guidance related to homeschoolers enrolled in one class in public school and ISTEP+:

Q: Does the homeschool student have to take ISTEP+ and relevant ECA assessments if they are only enrolled in one course?

 A: Students in grades 3-8 and grade 10 in a public school or accredited non-public school must take the ISTEP+ assessments. Students in grades 10, 11, and 12 during the 2015-16 school year must take the Algebra I and English 10 ECAs if they are enrolled in the course(s). WEBSITE RGB Action Logo 400x400

 The concern is in regards to homeschoolers and ISTEP+. Home educators enrolled in one public school are being tested with ISTEP+ on curriculum that they are not using. The purpose of the ISTEP program is designed to “provide a source of information for state and local decision makers with regard to…the overall academic progress of students…the need for new or revised educational programs…the need to terminate existing education programs…student readiness for postsecondary school experiences…(and) diagnosing individual student needs”.

HSLDA attorney, Tj Schmidt, wrote a post about this situation in July:  Homeschoolers Can Skip the ISTEP

If you have concerns about taking ISTEP+ or any tests while enrolled in a class in public school for any reason, contact HSLDA.

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