by Mary Ellen Sullivan
One of the issues that remains a problem for some homeschoolers in West Virginia, particularly at the high school level, concerns the ability to transfer into public school and receive credit for work done as a homeschooler. Currently each county makes its own policies on this issue, resulting in very different handling in the various counties. Two prior interpretations by State Superintendent Hank Marockie support this current practice:
In a letter December 12, 1990, in response to parents asking why credit for home economics could not be granted to their homeschooled daughter: “It is a matter for the county superintendent of schools and county board of education to determine what it will accept for credit from a non-public school and instruction in the home.”
In a letter November 14, 1991, to a county superintendent asking whether local boards could grant diplomas to homeschooled students: “Satisfaction by Exemption B(b) students of the testing requirements merely gives them a right to remain out of public schools. It does not entitle them to recognition of any academic achievement or to credits by the public schools.”
In 1994, a Cabell county curriculum director suggested that WVHEA request an official interpretation that would clarify the county’s authority to grant transfer credits. I wrote to Dr. Marockie for WVHEA in September 1994, pointing out that his 1991 opinion seemed to address students who wished to remain out of school and still receive a diploma, and asking his opinion as to whether county boards are indeed able to “formulate their own methods of evaluating evidence of previous course work by homeschoolers in order to give credit for re-entering students and determine the appropriate grade-level placement.”
I also asked whether the WV Department of Education (WVDE) might develop guidelines that could be adopted by counties, thus preventing counties from adopting restrictive policies that would essentially “create impediments for homeschoolers who wish to return to public school.”
I never received a response from Dr. Marockie. In November 1994, I sent a follow-up letter and received a call from the WVDE director of legal services, Vic Barone. The following is from the report I sent to the WVHEA board of that conversation:
Mr. Barone told me they had received a lot of individual requests from school districts all over the state on specific questions related to this issue. I asked him if he had an idea where the issue might be going, and he said it was going to be difficult to make a broad-based policy. He said they felt it was best not to get into it, because homeschoolers have these lawyers “over in Virginia” who are ready to challenge every move related to homeschooling. “I don’t have a problem with that,” he said, “that’s their right,” but he said this did make it more difficult to make a statewide policy.
He mentioned one request from a district about students who wished to stay out of school for only one or two classes (and confirmed that this was the request from my county, Marion), and said the Department’s thinking was that the law stipulates that a homeschool student can “attend any class offered by the county board of education...upon approval of the county board of education,” but that this didn’t work in reverse, allowing any school student to take a class through homeschooling.
I … repeated that I and other homeschool representatives in the state would be willing and eager to come to a meeting on the issue in hopes of providing them with information and ideas about how a policy might work. He said this might be helpful, and mentioned a recent meeting with Dr. Suiter [a former Asst State Superintendent and head of the WV Christian Schools Assn who has been supportive of and helpful to homeschoolers over the years] and a private school administrator from (I think) Raleigh County, which had successfully resolved another issue. I asked him to please call me when such a meeting would be arranged.
I asked Mr. Barone if he thought this issue might have to be addressed through legislation, and he said possibly so, but just reiterated his feeling that it would be difficult if not impossible to settle with a Department of Education policy.”
That same week in November 1994, Dr. Marockie responded to the Marion County question that Mr. Barone had mentioned by citing his 1990 and 1991 opinions:
In response to Question #1 (Can a local board of education grant high school credit(s) to student re-entering public high school after having been homeschooled pursuant to WV Code 18-8-1 exemption B(b).?), he wrote: “We enclose herewith a copy of a Superintendent’s Interpretation dated December 12, 1990, indicating that a county board of education may grant credits for home school courses upon entry (or re-entry) into the public schools. On the other hand, as indicated in an interpretaton dated November 14, 1991, county boards are not obligated to grant credits for such courses.”
In June 1995, Vic Barone, in a letter to another Cabell County Schools official, cited my September 1994 letter, reiterating that “although county boards are not obligated to do so, they may grant credits for home school courses upon entry or re-entry into the public schools.” He went on to say, “With respect to Ms. Sullivan’s suggestion about statewide guidelines issuing from the Deparment of Education, this subject has been considered within the Department; unfortunately, recent major events have forced us to divert our energies in other directions. … [He cited the Recht decision and safe schools legislation.] … We hope that when all of this settles down, we can turn our attention to these home school-related issues.”
The meeting that I had suggested to Mr. Barone was never set up, and I’m not sure what policies have been adopted by different counties. In Marion County, I was recently contacted by a student who was granted credit for several courses she completed at home, based on the end-of-course tests that the schools have been developing over the last several years. However, former homeschoolers are not granted credit for subjects (like physical education, for instance) that do not have course tests, although these courses are required for public school graduation.
I know that some individuals have resolved these issues of whether credit should be granted by meeting personally with county school officials. Other homeschoolers who have transferred into schools have just chosen to forego the request for credit and attend school without the expectation of receiving a diploma.
We want to hear how others have dealt with this issue in their counties and whether there are homeschoolers who would be interested in pursuing the question again at the WVDE. Please email me at mary.ellen@@ frontiernet.net or call 795-4388.
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