Homeschooling

A Call for Action, Proposed Homeschooling Changes in Vermont

If you’re a homeschooling/home study family or potential homeschool/home study family in Vermont, there’s much chatter in Vermont’s Home Study community about proposed legislative changes that could impact you.

If you are against mandatory testing as a sole measure of homeschooling progress, you’ll want to read on and consider immediate action.

Reposted w/permission:
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Please forward to all VT homeschoolers
ACTION ALERT
Vermont Home Education Network
March 12, 2011

Dear Homeschooler:

Please at least read the ACTION section of this email. It is time for ALL homeschoolers to let the Senate Education Committee know that the language that the Department of Education has given them concerning mandatory testing of homeschoolers is unacceptable. Please be polite and respectful. This email has two parts. 1) Action and why and 2) Background and supporting information. Everyone please email and if you are a constituent let them know that as well.

ACTION

Please either email, call, fax, visit, or in some way communicate to all 5 Senators of the Senate Education by Tuesday morning of next week, March 15. If emailing, put what you want the Senators to do in the first sentence or two. If you write a long detailed communication they may not read it because of the volume of communications they will be receiving. Put in the subject line that you oppose the home study legislation. There are two points that all homeschoolers need to make:

Most important message:
1. We want them to pull this language from the Technical Corrections or “Catch All” bill and take no action on it. This language is not a technical correction to education law. It is an overhaul of the home study statute.
2. We wish to work with the Department over the summer to see what improvements, if any, are truly needed in the annual assessment process that homeschoolers now use. Then maybe there would be some legislation that better reflects improvements that truly help homeschool students.
3. The Department of Education, to date, has not worked with nor initiated any communication with homeschoolers concerning this language.

Next important – For Senate understanding:
4. We understand that the Senate committee wants some kind of process for assuring that progress is being made for each homeschooled child. We are not opposed to the current assessment process that the statute now requires.
5. The public school system and homeschooling are two very different models of education. They should not be treated the same.
6. Add whatever you wish to your communication but only after you have asked them to stop this from going forward this legislative session.

Contact information:

CHITTENDEN DISTRICT (6)

Sen. Philip Baruth, clerk
87 Curtis Ave., Burlington, VT 05408
(802) 503-5266
[email protected]

Sen. Virginia “Ginny” Lyons, vice chair
241 White Birch Lane, Williston, VT 05495
(802) 863-6129
vlyons[*at*]leg.state.vt.us
vvlyons[*at*]cs.com

RUTLAND DISTRICT (3)

Sen. Kevin Mullin, chair
118 Oxyoke Dr., Rutland, VT 05701
(802) 353-6770
kjmbjm[*at*]aol.com

WASHINGTON DISTRICT (3)

Sen. Bill Doyle
186 Murray Rd., Montpelier , VT 05602
(802) 223-2851
wdoyle[*at*]leg.state.vt.us

FRANKLIN DISTRICT (2)

Sen. Sara B. Kittell
437 Chester Arthur Rd., Fairfield, VT 05455
(802) 827-3274
Fax: (802) 827-3274
skittell [*at*] leg.state.vt.us

BACKGROUND

February 15: Mark Oettinger, Department of Education (DOE) council, explained the department’s legislative agenda to the State Board of Education in which he mentions that home study is part of this agenda. In a call to him the next day, he tells Retta Dunlap that the language has been written and already given to legislative council. This is the first time any word of this has reached any homeschooler as Retta was present at this meeting.

February 24: Language was presented to Senate Education to fundamentally change the home study statute. It is roughly drafted with many details not fully explained. Donna Russo-Savage from legislative council explains the language to the Senators. This is a first time once over. More testimony will be taken at a later date. Retta Dunlap got a copy of the draft and put it up on the vthomeschoolers Yahoo group. This draft is now accessible at: www.vt-home-education.net

March 9: Mike Mulchay, Coordinator, Student & Educator Support, presented the DOE’s support for this language. He presented this is such a way that it was good for homeschoolers who were getting the job done to have less oversight by requiring a mandatory test for accountability and no other regulations. Senators question the lessening of regulations on homeschoolers. The state testing does not start until grade 3. Senators were concerned about the lack of oversight for the first 3 years of a home study program.

Retta Dunlap testified next. She told them what we did for accountability with the current assessment process and that it was annual. Dunlap also corrected the testimony of Mike Mulcahy as to the nature of “approval” by the department as he stated that this was an approval process. She pointed out that there is a VT Supreme Court Case that plainly tells the department that this is not an approval statute but a notification statute. We again have the department seeing this statute as an approval process, which it is not according to the statute itself and the VT Supreme Court. You can access this case here: www.vt-home-education.net

At this 3/9 meeting the chair of Senate Education, Kevin Mullin, told both Retta Dunlap and Mike Mulchay to go away and come back with language that we could both agree to. The Department of Education has yet to follow these instructions. It is better for children and families if the Department of Education works with homeschooelrs. To date, this has not occurred with this legislation.

The Commissioner of Education, Armando Vilaseca, is currently on medical leave. It is reported to us that he fully supports this and wants homeschoolers to not only take mandatory tests but to take the state assessment. Currently that is the NECAP test. The state is phasing out this test and it will be replace with something created by the “Smart Balance Assessment Consortium”. We have no idea what this assessment will look like, yet we are being informed that the Commissioner wants us to take it. Check out these links for further info on this assessment:

http://education.vermont.gov/new/pdfdoc/board/educ_sbe_strategic_plan.pdf
http://www.k12.wa.us/SMARTER/pubdocs/SBACSummary2010.pdf

This has happened in a very short length of time and had I not been at the State Board of Education meeting to pick up on this, I am not sure what would have happened. Your communications to these Senators by Tuesday is urgently needed. Please contact me with any questions.

Retta Dunlap
VHEN
mountainfoldvt [*at*] gmail.com

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