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Home-school standards need more regulation to succeed

Source:  Argus Leader
By: Argus Leader editorial
May 14, 2012
 
Any parent can teach their children at home, no matter their personal education level. Parents donít have to prove they have a curriculum and need to teach math and language arts only. Local school boards have the authority to revoke a homeschool if students donít make progress based on test scores Ė but those tests in grades 2, 4, 6 and 11 can be taken at home and donít have to be the exams public students take.

South Dakota law needs to change to encourage more accountability for home-schooling. Other neighboring states establish stricter requirements, whether it be additional required subjects, requiring parents to submit a curriculum plan and mandating that a certified teacher administer the standardized tests.

In South Dakota, more than 3,000 students (or one in 40 compared with public school children), are taught at home. Those young people will grow up contributing to society, raising their own families and working at jobs that are important to our economy and to all of us.

A majority of families in South Dakota who educate their children at home rather than send them to school do a great job teaching and making sure their children learn. Many home-schooled students shine academically and do well when matched against a public school student.

But in some cases, parents have tried to avoid truancy changes or disciplinary problems at school by saying they will keep their child at home and teach them.

One school administrator in the state estimates 40 percent of home-schooled students are allowed to stay home and do nothing. Another educator conducted a survey showing that 45 percent of home school families followed the stateís curriculum.

The state Department of Education is the investigating arm and gets involved when receiving (what they consider) a legitimate complaint. But the power to revoke home-school students rests with each local district. That makes it difficult to be a watchdog at the local level.

Written laws seek to catch those doing a marginal job, especially in cases of families who are avoiding an education for their children because of issues with the school system. These families should be required to show they truly are validating a home education. Stricter requirements would make it less appealing to try and beat the system.

While we understand a parentís important decision of wanting to teach their own children in a non-public school setting, we deem it appropriate that the standards at least allow others to know whether basic requirements are being met.



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