New Testing Options for Homeschoolers: Part 2 (of 3)

Part 1 of this blog post described the problem: admissions people sometimes view homeschooled kids’ test scores skeptically. Part 2 shows how the director of the New York City Central Office of Homeschooling replied to a parent’s email about this.

The director initially replied:

[…] If you intend to apply to the school, we’ll contact the representative and explain the portfolio process. […]

The parent then asked this clarifying question:

[…] Do you routinely contact the programs/schools that are on each kid’s high school application (and that are “screened” or “ed opt”), or do you contact them only if the parent asks you to? […]

The director answered:

[…] No. We don’t contact the schools. That was explained in the cover letter to the high school application (mailed 10/11/12).

Please revisit the following excerpt:

Each high school your child indicates on the high school application will receive notification that your child has applied to the school. High schools can access data and may make admissions decisions based on criteria including but not limited to attendance, course grades, and results of New York State Education Department standardized examinations. Much or all of this data may not be accessible to schools if your child is home schooled.

Part 100.10 of the Commissioner’s Regulations of the New York State Education Department suggests that parents keep evidence of their programs and their children’s achievement and correspondence with the school district. Parents who wish for high schools to have information about their child’s home schooling program are solely responsible for contacting the school and furnishing them with documents they wish to be considered in the High School Admissions Process. [Note: The preceding sentence is highlighted in yellow in the director’s email.] You may wish to furnish schools with a brief portfolio of recent Individualized Home Instruction Plans, Quarterly Reports, Annual Assessments, and/or other relevant work.

We assumed, based on your inquiry, that this does not satisfy your needs. We suggested a possible solution. But again, you are solely responsible for the “portfolio” process, and while we are happy to offer suggestions, we’ll always wait for you to make final decisions.

Please do let us know how you wish to proceed. […]

The parent answered:

[…] OK, thanks. I know what the letter says. I was just making sure I understood correctly that what you were offering to do isn’t routine at this point – sometimes your procedures change, and we don’t always know the latest developments.

Some of the open houses were postponed because of [Hurricane] Sandy, so we aren’t anywhere near deciding yet.

But even after you get [my son’s] application, please don’t contact anyone on [his] behalf unless I specifically ask you to. […]

The director replied:

[…] Please know that, if we do contact specific schools at your request, we will only provide schools with an explanation of the excerpt below [as quoted in the previous email]. As I wrote, “we’ll contact the representative and explain the portfolio process”. Nothing more.

We understand that this is your responsibility and we’ll only assist at your request.

As we continue to work together, the efforts of this office will always be focused on providing better services to the home schooling community. Nothing less. […]

To anyone new to homeschooling in NYC, it might at first seem odd that the Homeschool Office accepts certain paperwork about test results for the purpose of showing the required “adequate academic progress”, yet won’t vouch for the scores by sending them back out as educational records.

But the function of the Homeschool Office is to meet NYC’s obligations as laid out in the New York State Regulations on Home Instruction, not to be a gatekeeper or screener for schools – public or private, in NYC or outside of it – or for other programs. (This is also the reason that the NYC Department of Education doesn’t enter test scores into its computer records unless the test was taken in a NYC public school.)

So parents may need to come up with their own way of presenting test scores that will be convincing to whatever entity is being applied to.

It’s important to mention here as a side note that parents may be able to force the Homeschool Office to send their children’s official homeschool records to a school, college, or other entity. (More on this in a future post – it has to do with federal law on educational records and certain material on the NYC Department of Education website.) And doing so would answer the objection of the admissions person at the high school fair (see Part 1), who said that it was the Homeschool Office, not the parent, that had to send the test scores to the high school.

But – crucially! – since the Homeschool Office could then choose to enclose in the envelope a disclaimer saying that it doesn’t vouch for any test scores or other evaluations of the child’s abilities that were submitted to it by the parent (no matter who did the testing or evaluating), trying to force the hand of the Homeschool Office on this issue could easily backfire, making it harder for the child to get into the school/program.

Given all of this, Part 3 will be about the new testing options for homeschoolers that PAHSI came up with. Please send any comments or questions to comments@PAHSI.net. To be notified by email when Part 3 is posted (and when other blog posts are), look on this page for “Subscribe to blog via email.”