by Celeste Land, Government Affairs
This year’s combined changes to the Virginia home instruction statute (§22.1-254.1) represent the biggest and most significant set of changes to our state’s homeschooling laws in many years. The changes to the home instruction statute go into effect on July 1, 2006.
What do the changes to the law mean for you personally? How do they affect how your family will file its paperwork this year?
As I write this article in early June, the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers continues to collaborate with the Virginia Board of Education to determine how the new laws will be interpreted and implemented across the state. While much is still unsettled, we do have answers to many of your questions about how these changes to the home instruction statute will work in practice.
You can view the text of the new home instruction statute (§22.1-254.1) as it will read after July 1, 2006 on the VaHomeschoolers 2006 Home Instruction Statute Changes page.
Notice of Intent Filing
Q: I have a high school diploma, and have always filed my notice of intent paperwork under option iv. How will I file my notice of intent under the new law?
A: If you have a high school diploma, you may now file your notice of intent under option i (section 22.1-254.1 A). You will need to send your local school district a copy of your high school diploma. If you don’t have a copy of your high school diploma, you may send a copy of your high school transcript instead. (You can get a copy of your transcript by contacting your old high school. There may be a processing fee charge.)
As an option i filer, you will no longer need to submit a description of how your curriculum includes the Standards of Learning, or an explanation of why you are qualified to educate your child at home. Like all parents who file under the home instruction statute, you will still need to submit a description of your course of study to the school district. (section 22.1-254.1 B). However, according to the Virginia Department of Education, “the superintendent is not required to evaluate or judge the curriculum or program of study [for option i or ii filers]. Submission of the curriculum materials is for information purposes only.” Source.
Q: I have a GED. Can I file my notice of intent paperwork under option i under the new law?
A: (Update, February 2007): The Virginia Department of Education Home Instruction Manual (p 5) says that a GED is not considered a high school diploma for the purposes of satisfying option (i) of the home instruction statute §22.1-254.1. This is because the GED is “equivalent” to a high school diploma, not an actual “high school diploma” as required by law. Parents with GEDs who have received an Associate’s Degree or higher may substitute that diploma for the high school diploma. Parents with GEDs may also file under option (iii) or option (iv) of the home instruction statute §22.1-254.1. For more information on filing options, see Filing Your NOI.
Q: I have a college diploma, and have always filed under option i in the past. Do I now need to dig up my high school diploma to continue homeschooling? I don’t even know where it is!
A: The Virginia Board of Education has told the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers that anything above a high school diploma will be considered acceptable documentation for option i filers. So a college diploma should be acceptable for option i filing purposes. If your local school district already has a copy of your college diploma on file, there is no need to provide additional documentation.
Q: Even with the new law, I still need to file under option iv. How does the new law change what I need to do?
A: Under the new law, option iv filers must either submit a program of study or curriculum which includes the standards of learning objectives for language arts and mathematics or provide evidence that you are able to provide an adequate education for your child. Under the old law, you had to provide both; now you may choose one or the other. (Section 22.1-254.1 A) Regardless of which option you choose, you will still need to submit a description of the curriculum, as do all home instruction filers (section 22.1-254.1 B).
Q: When should I file my notice of intent paperwork for the 2006-2007 school year? Before or after July 1, 2006?
A: That’s up to you. Your notice of intent paperwork for the 2006-2007 school year is due on August 15, 2006. If you submit this paperwork after July 1, your paperwork will be processed under the new laws. If you submit this paperwork before July 1, your paperwork will be processed under the old laws. Depending on your filing situation, you may wish to wait until after July 1 to file your notice of intent paperwork.
Q: How will the new law affect me when I file my testing/evaluation paperwork at the end of the school year?
A: The new law provides objective testing options for families who submit achievement test scores to their local school district. If you submit results in or above the fourth stanine from any nationally normed standardized achievement test after July 1, 2006, the school district is now required to accept those results as proof of progress. (The old law concerning the fourth stanine only applied to tests “approved by the Board of Education”; there have been no such tests for several years.) If you submit any other forms of evaluation, they will still be considered under option ii, and must simply determine that the child is achieving adequate progress. (Section 22.1-254.1 C)
Q: I haven’t sent in my testing/evaluation paperwork for the 2005-2006 school year yet. Should I send it in before or after July 1, when the new law goes into effect?
A: Again, that’s up to you. Your testing/evaluation paperwork for the 2005-2006 school year is due on August 1, 2006. If you submit this paperwork AFTER July 1, your paperwork will be processed under the new laws. If you submit this paperwork BEFORE July 1, your paperwork will be processed under the old laws. Some parents may wish to wait until after July 1 to submit their child’s test scores to the school district.
Note: All testing/evaluation paperwork for the 2006-2007 school year will be processed under the new laws.
Q: My son will be attending public school this fall, but I may pull him out and homeschool him later in the year if things don’t work out at his new school. How does the new law affect mid-year withdrawals and filing?
A: The new law clarifies the home instruction statute regarding mid-year withdrawals, stating that a parent who begins home instruction after the school year has begun shall notify the division superintendent of his intentions as soon as practicable, and then has 30 days thereafter to file the notice of intent and accompanying paperwork (curriculum, copy of high school diploma, etc.). (Section 22.1-254.1 B)
Although mid-year withdrawal has been legal for many years, we hope that this legislative change will prevent further misunderstandings between homeschoolers and school districts. The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers continues to work with the state Board of Education to ensure that this part of the new law is appropriately implemented across the state.
Q: My homeschooled teen wants to take the PSAT this year. How will this work under the new law?
A: The new law requires public school districts to make the PSAT and AP exams available to home instructed students. (Section 22.1-254.1 F) To sign up for the PSAT or AP tests, contact your local public or private high school guidance office. Some school districts have registration information for these exams on their websites.
If your teen wishes to take the PSAT this fall, we recommend registering as soon as possible to avoid last-minute disappointments. Some school districts ask that students register in the spring if they wish to take the exam in the fall.
This year, the PSAT exam will be administered on either Wednesday, October 18 or Saturday, October 21, 2006. The AP exams will be administered in early May 2007. You can read more about these exams and how to register as a homeschooled student at College Board – SAT Registration
For More Information
Q: What if I still have questions or concerns about the new home instruction law? What if something goes awry when I file my paperwork with my school district this year? Who can I call for help or answers?
A: Over the coming month, we will be updating the VaHomeschoolers website to reflect these changes to the law. Be sure to continue to check our website and read our Legislative Reports and Updates for the most up-to-date information on homeschooling in Virginia.
You may contact VaHomeschoolers at any time with your questions or concerns about the new homeschooling law. We have created a new email address to track how the new law is being implemented throughout the state. Let us know how things go by emailing us at VaHomeschoolers New Law.
As always, you can also call our toll free number at 866-513-6173, or email Government Affairs with any questions you may have. We look forward to helping you!
The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers is a non-profit public charity with 501(c)(3) status; your donation is tax-deductible to the extent provided by law. A financial statement is available from the Virginia Division of Consumer Affairs upon request.