What the Law Says About Evaluators

        Each year we receive more and more phone calls from families who are having extreme difficulty locating an evaluator. We also hear from some evaluators who are not accepting additional students or ceasing to do evaluations altogether. For these reasons, we would like to remind you about another part of the homeschool law with regard to choosing evaluators.

        One homeschool “leader” has suggested over the past few years that the current homeschool law should be changed to allow parents who are homeschooling 10 years or more to do evaluations. In actuality, homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers of any level of homeschool/teaching experience already can do evaluations under the current law…with the permission of the public school superintendent.

        In the current homeschool law, Section 1327.1(d)(2) of Act 169 of 1988 states, “At the request of the supervisor, persons with other qualifications [other than certified teachers] may conduct the evaluation with the prior consent of the district of residence superintendent. In no event shall the evaluator be the supervisor or their spouse.”

        How to do this-Under this provision, a parent cannot evaluate his/her own child. However, anyone can potentially be an evaluator for someone else’s child. The procedure, as stated above, requires the homeschool parent to request (presumably in writing) that some particular person, other than a certified teacher, be an evaluator for his or her children. In some cases acceptance of that individual may be accomplished better by the parent sending a convincing letter as to why he/she believes that the specifically named “alternative evaluator” should be acceptable. The desired “alternative evaluator” might have to prepare an accompanying resume or letter stating that he/she feels confident to evaluate those particular children or children in general. In this situation, it is best for your planning needs to request a written response from the public school superintendent by a particular date and/or stating that, if not hearing by that date, then it will be presumed that the request has been granted. The homeschool law is very clear though that the homeschool supervisor (the parent) must request the permission. The “alternative evaluator” cannot approach the district for permission.

        What the law doesn’t mention-Nothing in the law specifies when this request is to take place, but it would make sense that it would be when filing the affidavit or early in the school year so that other arrangements can be made, if necessary. The above provision also does not state that such individuals are limited to just elementary or secondary level evaluations. Additionally, it does not limit the “alternative evaluator” from having this request being made by more than one family from that district in a given year.

        Numerous people who have tried this have told us that once their evaluations have been accepted one year, they are free to do evaluations in that district for any other families in the future presuming that the district finds no reason for them not to continue. If you are considering this possibility, we recommend that you read the homeschool law thoroughly and direct any questions to Sarah Pearce of the PA Department of Education (717-783-9287) if necessary before confidently approaching this legal option.

        Types of evaluations-Please note that just as there are varied options available for home educating our children, there also are varied options to evaluation approaches. It is very important to get a proper match between the homeschool family and the evaluator. Several people who have done evaluations in the past hold “how to” seminars for those who are willing to do evaluations. Anyone considering becoming an “alternative evaluator” might want to consider attending one of these seminars.

        Regardless of what takes place in the homeschool, some evaluators are minimalists where the portfolio and written evaluation letters are concerned. Other evaluators want to see portfolios and write evaluations that are so detailed that they go way beyond what the law requires. Still others are more moderate, while yet other evaluators will be flexible based upon the request of the parents. Be sure to discuss these and any other issues with whomever you are considering to evaluate your children, whether a certified teacher or an alternative evaluator, to make sure that you are paying someone who is a good match for the way in which your family complies with the homeschool law.

        What the evaluator checks for-The homeschool law requires that the evaluator “shall certify whether or not an appropriate education is occurring.” The definition of the an “appropriate education” is as follows: “ ‘Appropriate education’ shall mean a program consisting of instruction in the required subjects for the time required in this act and in which the student demonstrates sustained progress in the overall program.”
        The required subjects are as follows:

        “At the elementary school level, the following courses shall be taught: English, to include spell-ing, reading and writing; arithmetic; science; geography; history of the United States and Pennsylvania; civics; safety education, including regular and continuous instruction in the dangers and prevention of fires; health and physiology; physical education; music; and art.”

        “At the secondary school level, the following courses shall be taught: English, to include language, literature, speech and composition; science; geography; social studies, to include civics, world history, history of the United States and Pennsylvania; mathematics, to include general mathematics, algebra and geometry; art; music; physical education; health; and safety education, including regular and continuous instruction in the dangers and prevention of fires. Such courses of study may include, at the discretion of the supervisor of the home education program, economics; biology; chemistry; foreign languages; trigonometry; or other age-appropriate courses as contained in Chapter 5 (Curriculum Requirements) of the State Board of Education.” OBE’s Chapters 3, 5, and 6 have been replaced with Governor Ridge’s Chapter 4 academic standards.

        The time required is either 180 days or 900 hours for elementary school students or 990 for secondary school students. Sustained progress is not defined in the law.

        What the evaluator does not check for-Parents may wish to request opinions from the evaluator regarding various aspects of their homeschool, particularly for the following year. Regardless of what the evaluator’s suggestions are at that moment, the parent knows the child best and is still free to make the final determination on these matters. Suggestions or recommendations for the following year are not addressed in the law as part of the evaluation. They are also only suggestions as the evaluator is not instructed by law to mandate to the parent how the children should be educated. Noting whether or not an appropriate education has taken place for the school year in question is all that is required to be a part of the written evaluation. The following year is dealt with in the subsequently filed objectives and the next year’s evaluation. Any personal information not required by the homeschool law, such as inform-ation regarding your child’s medical health, should not be addressed in the written evaluation by ethical, law-abiding evaluators who are respectful of the family’s right to privacy.

        Taken from Issue #45, July/August 2000 of the “Catholic Homeschoolers of Pennsylvania Newsletter,” © 2000 Ellen Kramer

DISCLAIMER: Information contained on this website does not constitute legal advice and does not replace reading the actual homeschool law or consulting with the Pennsylvania Department of Education or appropriate legal counsel.

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This page was updated on January 26, 2001.