According to our friends at the Home School Legal Defense Association, a Massachusetts school district has threatened to deny homeschooling approval for families who do not submit to no-notice mid-year assessments. Chicopee Public Schools Assistant for Curriculum and Staff Development Sharon St. Pierre contacted district member families with a request for mid-year work samples that demonstrate “the acquisition of critical concepts, content, and skills.” In her letter she threatened that “If the assessments are not received within one week, I will have no choice but to recommend that the School Committee deny your Home School renewal application for the 2011-2012 school year due to non-compliance with the District’s policy.”

It is the opinion of the HSLDA that Massachusetts law provides no legal basis for a school district to demand a mid-year educational assessment in the form of a work sample, or otherwise. The Massachusetts SJC ruled in the 1987 Charles decision that school districts may properly require “periodic standardized testing” of homeschooled students, and the HSLDA interprets “periodic” to mean at most annually.

“The Charles case does acknowledge that homeschoolers and school districts may, in consultation, choose other methods of assessment including the submission of work samples, even midyear, if the parents agree,” states HSLDA staff attorney Michael P. Donnelly, Esq. “What is wrong is for the school district to require parents to surrender to a one-size-fits-all assessment approach as a condition of exercising their right to homeschool their children. The fact is that the vast majority of school districts in Massachusetts allow parents a choice of assessment options – this is what Chicopee should do also. What is even more egregious is for the district to threaten the right to homeschool if families do not comply with such a request.”

Donnelly says he is in communication with the school district, and is hopeful for a quick resolution.

UPDATE (April 6, 2011 – 4:12 PM) – Here is an update from the HSLDA:

Chicopee public schools has responded to our concerns over their threatening letter to homeschoolers by offering to enter into a discussion with Chicopee homeschoolers to revisit their homeschooling policy. HSLDA has worked with homeschoolers in other districts in the past to help school committees develop homeschool-friendly policies. At this time, the school has gotten the message and no further contact with them is needed.

HSLDA intends to work with homeschoolers in Chicopee to help the school committee develop a policy that complies with Massachusetts homeschool law and respects the rights of parents who homeschool their children. Please do continue to keep us and your fellow homeschoolers in Chicopee in your thoughts and prayers as we work towards this solution.

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