Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Speaking to Local Public Schools--part 2, Charlottesville

So here's what I wrote the homeschool list back in May after meeting with the City of Charlottesville Public Schools:

I thought I would update everyone on what was going on with the Charlottesville City Public Schools. In the fall and since then, a few people mentioned problems they were having with filing their NOI and/or pulling a child after the school year had started. Will Shaw and I visited Beth Baptist on Wednesday, and the main purpose was for Will, once again a board member of The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers, to make contact with Ms Baptist when there were no problems that we knew of, to let her know he’s here, and also to see if she had any questions for us. Sort of a peace keeping mission. We plan to visit with Albemarle Co as well at some point. I would like for us to visit with Greene and other counties as well, as time allows.

Basically I felt that Ms Baptist was reasonable in her approach to processing the NOI paperwork. She said she’s had very few problems with families filing—from her standpoint of course. She mentioned an incident or two where she felt she had not received adequate information and how it was resolved. Going on her testimony :), I think she did not overstep her role or the law. What she asked for seemed reasonable.

She did say that she greatly preferred to receive an evaluation over a portfolio, because portfolios take a lot more time for her to go through. So an evaluation of a portfolio would be quicker, as would test scores. Also, she said that she appreciates it if a family notifies her that they are moving out of the school division or enrolling their child in public or private school, so she doesn’t need to find out why an NOI hasn’t been filed, for the following year. In addition to that, even if you are going to enroll your child in a school the next year, you still need to provide evidence of progress for the year you homeschooled him/her.

She did mention that there have been some instances where a homeschooling family has asked her to fill in a form for either a GED test scheduling, or scholarship or other program, (social security benefits were one specific example) which requires something official—something that states, for example, that the child has been in compliance with the compulsory attendance code, through homeschooling instead of schools. If you think you might need something like that, it’s in your interest to be sure your paperwork is filed, and that you’re not “under the radar.” (My words/thoughts, she never mentioned people who hs without filing.) Otherwise, she has no record of your child and would not be able to fill out the required paperwork.

I asked her about mid-year removal, and this is where she and I disagreed. But I do see her point, and I feel the problem for the school division lies with the way the law is written. Because the law says a parent can remove a child when they want to, and then the parent has “as soon as practicable” to notify the school division they intend to homeschool, and then they have up to 30 days after that to send in the required paperwork, there is a gap of time where the schools don’t exactly know how to count the child. Are they actually going to homeschool the child, or are they just going on a long vacation? LOL Will they send in the paperwork on time, or will they need to follow up, etc. For them absences are a problem, of course. And if a parent doesn’t tell them anything, and doesn’t file for days or weeks, they don’t really know if the child is truant or not. That’s their issue, but it becomes our issue when we drag things out.

I say, that’s how the law is written, and parents are within their rights to do as the law says. On the other hand, I see her problem, in all the administrative problems that can come up for her and the school the child had attended. It would be best for everyone if a parent has the NOI and curriculum description ready to send in at the same time they pull the child out of school. Then they know for sure you are planning to homeschool and have filed, etc.

Generally, it doesn’t take much time to pull this information together, so it’s not unreasonable to try to have it done beforehand. Of course, if there is some special situation, such as bullying or health issues, that requires a parent to pull their child out immediately and then notify the division, that’s another story. And I think that if you can’t find your diploma but have everything else, they don’t have an issue with that—they can start processing the paperwork. Just let them know you’re looking for it or requesting a copy from your school, whatever the case may be.

We discussed curriculum descriptions a bit as well. She said she wants to know that the parent “has put some thought” into what they plan to teach over the year. Some of the descriptions she’s received didn’t demonstrate this to her [her opinion, of course], and in cases where this happened, she said she contacted the parents and received some revision. She didn’t mention having any unresolved issues at this time. Of course, I don’t think that she can really know that a parent “has put some thought” into the year’s learning just from the description—we know that you can just copy what you wrote for the previous year! Doesn’t mean anything. (Just as a brief description doesn’t mean you haven’t put thought into it; you’re just not telling her.) But she feels it does. :)

Also, because of the change in the home instruction statute, which removes the pre-approved curriculum (previously option iii), anyone not filing under option ii (certified teacher) [actually the "approved tutor" provision], which is most of us, will need to have a description. But, if you do plan to use a curriculum, she said it would satisfy her requirements to know the curriculum, that that would demonstrate the “thought” put into the year’s education plan, I suppose. So former option iii filers could probably just write the same thing as before, only file under a different option number.

I did not mention specific families that had problems with her and filing this year or in previous years. But now she knows both Will and me, and I hope that as problems come up, I can help smooth things.

Will may have more to add, I didn’t take many notes during the meeting, so this is mostly from memory. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

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Lostcheerio said...

Good for you for reaching out to her. It probably helps her to put a face with the paperwork as much as it helps us to hear about the person behind the rubber stamp. :)