Iowa state board approves new rules for home-school students

DES MOINES | Iowa’s home-schooled children won’t have to take standardized tests, but they are subject to state truancy laws, under rules approved Wednesday by the Iowa State Board of Education.

Still, there’s little school officials have power to do if they think home-schooled children are violating truancy laws.

“Basically, the law has shifted, so there’s less of a burden on the districts. The district has to make a good-faith attempt, they can ask for information,” said Mike Cormack, policy liaison for the Iowa Board of Education. “In the scenario where there’s no response, the district has done what the district can do.”

The next step, Cormack said, would be for someone who thinks a child is not getting classwork done at their home school to contact local authorities.

Questions like these came about as the state embarks on a new way to work with home-school families as outlined in the education reform law of 2013. The law created three choices for parents of home-school children, one of which — independent private instruction — forbade school officials from collecting any information about a home school, its instructor, students or curriculum unless the parent offered it.

The rules that board members adopted Wednesday serve as guides to how school districts will interact with home-school families in their boundaries.

“Whether you like it or not, we have an obligation to go through with this,” said Board of Education member Mike May, noting some board members expressed concern with some of the new home-school rules.

Board member Max Phillips said it would be valuable for the board if test scores between home-school and traditional-schooled children could be compared in aggregate.

“It seems to me at some point somebody ought to say, ‘How’s it work?’” he said.

Cormack said home-school students aren’t required to take any standardized testing if they don’t want to. He added that public school students also have an “opt-out” clause on standardized tests.

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