February 27, 2006 @ 4:36 am | Filed under:

The Staunton News Leader is not the only Virginia newspaper to be confused about the home education legislation recently passed by both the state Senate and the House of Delegates; it is simply the most venomous in its criticism. Which makes it all the more laughable that the paper has its facts wrong:

What home-schooling advocates seek is to allow home-school teachers — who are generally parents, naturally — to qualify as teachers while possessing only a high school education.

Such a measure passed both houses of the General Assembly in 2004, only to be vetoed by former Gov. Mark Warner. This year, both the House of Delegates and the Senate have rubberstamped a similar bill and sent it on to Gov. Tim Kaine.

Actually, no. It is already legal for parents who have high school diplomas but not college degrees to homeschool their children in Virginia. This has, in fact, been legal for many years. What the new legislation would change is the range of options under which such parents may file their notice of intent to homeschool. Currently, they are limited to filing under two of the four options specified in the Virginia Home Instruction Statute (not counting the religious exemption, which falls under a different section of the law):

Any parent of any child who will have reached the fifth birthday on or before September 30 of any school year and who has not passed the eighteenth birthday may elect to provide home instruction in lieu of school attendance if he (i) holds a baccalaureate degree in any subject from an accredited institution of higher education; or (ii) is a teacher of qualifications prescribed by the Board of Education; or (iii) has enrolled the child or children in a correspondence course approved by the Superintendent of Public Instruction; or (iv) provides a program of study or curriculum which, in the judgment of the division superintendent, includes the standards of learning objectives adopted by the Board of Education for language arts and mathematics and provides evidence that the parent is able to provide an adequate education for the child.

Here, News Leader, the watchdogs at the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers can clarify the proposed changes for you:

Under both HB 1340 and SB 499, parents with high school diplomas would be able to file a notice of intent to homeschool under option i of 22.1-254.1. At this time, most parents without baccalaureate degrees file under either option iii or option iv. HB 1340 and SB 499 would give parents without college degrees additional flexibility when complying with the home instruction statute.

HB 1340 is the House of Delegates’ version of the bill; SB 499 is the Senate’s. Both bills have been passed and are now awaiting Governor Kaine’s signature. The Staunton News Leader “strongly object[s] to the loosening of standards for Virginia’s home-schooled children.” Perhaps the paper’s editorial board ought to examine its own standards for accuracy. Any Virginia parent, whether in possession of a college degree or not, who homeschools his children must still meet standards of accountability:

C. The parent who elects to provide home instruction shall provide the division superintendent by August 1 following the school year in which the child has received home instruction with either (i) evidence that the child has attained a composite score in or above the fourth stanine on a battery of achievement tests which have been approved by the Board of Education for use in the public schools or (ii) an evaluation or assessment which, in the judgment of the division superintendent, indicates that the child is achieving an adequate level of educational growth and progress.
—Code of Virginia 22.1-254.1.C

Got that, News Leader? Homeschooled children whose parents do not possess a baccalaureate degree have been meeting the state’s accountability requirements with no problem for many years. The new legislation does not alter the “proof of progress” requirement in any way.

The News Leader sputters:

Why would a state with one of the strictest standards of accountability for public education — the Standards of Learning — want to give home-schooled students a pass? Why would a state groaning under the onerous demands of President Bush’s inflexible and unattainable No Child Left Behind Act allow such a dichotomy to exist at the home-school level while the legislature is attempting to strike a bargain with the federal government to get free of NCLB?

It just doesn’t make sense.

Something doesn’t make sense, that’s for sure. NCLB’s demands are so “onerous and unattainable” that the legislature is trying to get rid of them, but in the meantime the state should impose them upon more children? Not that NCLB or the SOLs have anything at all to do with the pending legislation to which the newspaper is objecting.

I might also point out that it is an insult to the merits of a public or private school education to suggest that earning a diploma in such an institution does not guarantee a graduate’s ability to understand and pass on the acquired knowledge that diploma theoretically represents.

The newspaper continues:

Home-schooling should be held to as high a standard as public education. While there are parents with only a high school diploma who possess enough intelligence and education obtained by non-traditional means to give their children a quality education, we cannot apply that standard to every parent who wishes to home-school their children.

Let me see if I’ve got this straight. Some parents who graduated from high school but not from college are qualified to teach their children because they have obtained further education by “non-traditional means,” but others, who presumably have not benefited from this “non-traditional” post-high-school education, cannot be held to the same standards of accountability as college-educated parents? The News Leader‘s flawed logic here is laughable. On the one hand, this article is clamoring for “higher standards” for homeschoolers; on the other hand, it is expressing a lack of confidence in the public schools by suggesting that a high-school education alone is inadequate.

Oh, and regarding the end of that last quote—

we cannot apply that standard to every parent who wishes to home-school their children.

—one wonders that the News Leader‘s editorial board members are not concerned about the failure of their own educations to provide an understanding of noun/pronoun agreement.

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6 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Silvia says:

    I love grammar errors! LOL Great blog, Lissa!

  2. Steph says:

    Excellent post. My impression of the editorial was similar to yours; the writer simply had not bothered to gather any facts. BTW, I had noticed the grammar error, too, and rolled my eyes.

  3. Alice Gunther says:

    >it is expressing a lack of confidence in >the public schools by suggesting that a >high-school education alone is >inadequate.

    This is such a great point!!! I love it! Thank you for yet another thoughtful and important post.

  4. Susan says:

    Thanks for the great post! After I read the Staunton article the question I came away with was: How can you form an opinion in which you “strongly object” when you don’t even have a basic understanding of the issue. Can we assume that these writers and editors are including themselves in the group of people they don’t trust to homeschool their own children? Because they certainly can’t be trusted to do *research* before they jump to conclusions. And this is especially worrisome considering that this a newspaper, which is suppose to be staffed by people who should be able to do research in their sleep. Not only did they fail to read the laws pertaining to this issue before bolding asserting their opinions, they also managed to conflict with their own statements about the validity of public schooling. No wonder they are worried about what other parents are doing with their children at home. Without complicated laws, daily oversight, lots of testing, and stacks of forms to complete these children might have time to well, learn.

  5. The LLama Butchers says:


    Who says mild-mannered homeschooling moms can’t deliver a righteous, brutal fisking of a pompous, idiotic newspaper editor? The last line is priceless, simply priceless….

  6. Spunky says:

    Good for you for trying to make sense of it all. This stuff just makes my head hurt most of the time.