Bill to reduce home-school testing requirements moves through Senate

By: - April 7, 2022 1:37 pm
A bubble sheet test and pencil

New Hampshire’s standardized testing requirement for home-schooled students has changed in the last decade. (Getty Images)

This story was updated on April 7 at 7:48 p.m. to clarify the purpose of the 40th percentile testing threshold in current state statute.

The New Hampshire Senate is weighing a bill to loosen regulations for home-schooling families and eliminate a testing threshold that home-school advocates say is unfair.

House Bill 1663 would strike a statute that states that home-schooled children achieve “reasonable academic proficiency” if they score in the 40th percentile or higher on annual standardized tests. 

Under the state’s home-schooling law, students must take an “annual educational evaluation” of their parents’ choosing that demonstrates educational progress in a way “commensurate with the child’s age and ability.” The bill would keep that requirement intact, but remove a further part of the statute that ties the standard of proficiency to the 40th percentile threshold.

In a hearing before the Senate Education Committee Tuesday, parents and home-schooling advocates argued that the system was tilted against home-schooled students, noting that similar restrictions do not apply to public or private school-educated students. 

Public schools “may” use the standardized tests to determine entry to “school district-sponsored and directed athletics, fine arts, and academic activities,” though they are not bound to the 40th percentile threshold – or to the tests at all.

“This is very unequitable,” said Michelle Levell, director of Granite State Home Educators. “The academic requirements for standardized tests to be the 40th percentile or above is unique to home educated students, even though we receive no federal tax, no state tax, and no local dollars.” 

Some said the public school programs should be open to home-schooled students because home-schooling families pay local and state property taxes toward those public schools.

Others said that removing the testing threshold would not require public school programs to accept every student; school programs could still set entry requirements as long as they applied equally to all. Sports teams could still hold tryouts, and advanced language programs could still mandate a proficiency test for acceptance. But Levell said that the bill would remove the current need for home-schooled students to also meet the threshold on the general assessment, a standard she said was not directly relevant to the programs in question.

“That 40th percentile means that 39 percent of students fail automatically,” she argued. 

New Hampshire’s standardized testing requirement for home-schooled students has changed in the last decade. Prior to 2012, if home-schooled students failed to test in the 40th percentile or higher for two years in a row, state statute required them to terminate their home education program and return to public or private schools. The Legislature ended that requirement in 2012; the statute now reads that the assessment tests “shall not be used as a basis for termination of a home education program.”

HB 1663, which passed the House on a bipartisan voice vote, would also tweak the notification requirements for home-schooling families; if a family has previously informed the school superintendent in which they live that they are pursuing a home education program, they must also inform that superintendent if they move out of the school district, the bill states. 

And it would require public schools to adopt policies that set out entry guidelines for their sports and extracurricular programs. Currently that is just an option.

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Ethan DeWitt
Ethan DeWitt

Ethan DeWitt is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s education reporter. Previously, he worked as the New Hampshire State House reporter for the Concord Monitor, covering the state, the Legislature, and the New Hampshire presidential primary. A Westmoreland native, Ethan started his career as the politics and health care reporter at the Keene Sentinel. Email: [email protected]