Operators of home schools in the Juab School District do not want a mandated achievement test administered to home-school students.
The school board decided at its November meeting to redesign the home-school policy. At that meeting Superintendent Kirk Wright suggested the district adopt a written policy concerning home schools that included testing requirements.Board members agreed at their December board meeting Wednesday, after hearing from 13 local people and the chairman of the board of the Utah Home Education Association, Roger Wise, to withdraw the proposed policy. They will, however, write a new policy. In addition, board members will meet with interested home schoolers to discuss the policy before introducing it at a board meeting.
The policy being considered did meet the guidelines of state law, said Leon Pexton, school board president. It would have released minor students from district schools to be taught at home if the students were taught in the subjects required by the state board of education and for the same number of days (180) they are required to attend district schools.
Reasons for allowing students to be taught in home schools, under the policy, would have to satisfy the district board and the board would have issued a certificate saying the minor was excused from attendance during the time specified on the certificate.
The policies proposed would have brought the district in step with the state board recommendations.
The problem came with a provision saying home-school students would be required to take the same achievement tests as regular students in the Juab District schools.
Home schoolers were also concerned about another policy change saying the Board of Education will approve or disapprove applications for home-school releases.
Legal counsel to the district on the state level had informed the district that the board had the right to require testing. "It's elective on a board-by-board basis," said Pexton.
Home schoolers objected to the testing requirement for several reasons, said Wise. For one thing, he said, home schoolers often teach the required state curriculum in a different sequence, which would mean home-school students might not have learned the same things in the same order as students in the regular schools.
Wise said parents who teach their children at home often put a higher priority on education than parents of students in public schools.
"Imposing requirements above and beyond what the law requires becomes very adversarial on both sides," he said.
The law, he said, requires home schoolers to notify the district of the intent to have a home school, hold school 51/2 hours each day for 180 days during the year and teach the state-mandated core curriculum. Wise said Alpine District, where he lives, follows the law and sends him a certificate of exemption when he complies with his part.
"It may be a paranoia, but what are you going to do with that testing?" he asked.
He suggested the board open the testing to home schoolers but that it not be mandatory.
Scott Nelson said the document prepared by the district seemed negative in tone. "We sensed an adversarial relationship."
His wife, Karen Nelson, said the policy made her "feel guilty until proven innocent." In comparison with the Nebo policy, she said, the Juab policy was negative. "Your policy makes me feel very defensive, like my constitutional rights are being infringed upon," said Nelson.