Friday, February 13, 2009

Great Coverage Of HB 367 and 368 Hearings.

The Concord Monitor as well as the Nashua Telegraph both reported the events without bias. Thank you to all the reporters involved.

The comments of both papers are a must read....if you can only read one set of comments you should read the comments in the Nashua Telegraph. The stereotypes and hatred to those who choose to be responsible for the education of their own children is why I fight for education freedom and why I fight to educate the general public about homeschooling.

Spelling and grammar errors as well as typos are left as an exercise for our readers.

Home school field trip to capital Parents, children pack State House debate

By MEG HECKMAN Monitor staff
February 12, 2009 - 7:13 am

KEN WILLIAMS / Monitor staff
Abbey Kessler, 10, a home-schooler from Concord, listens to the debate at the State House on two proposed bills that would require parents of home-schoolers to sign a responsibility form and the children to take a standardized test.

Hundreds of children received quite a civics lesson yesterday when their parents brought them to the State House to protest a pair of bills that would increase state monitoring of students educated at home.

One proposal would require parents to sign a form acknowledging their responsibility to include certain subjects in their at-home curriculum. The other bill would change the way students' achievements are measured, requiring both a standardized test and a professional review of a portfolio. Currently, families may choose from several different forms of assessment.

The bills' supporters say the vast majority of New Hampshire's 4,600 home-schoolers receive fine educations, but they're worried about several hundred children whose parents might not understand the ramifications of removing their kids from traditional schools.

"This is meant to be informative, not punitive," said Mary Heath, deputy commissioner of education. "I'm speaking for the parents who aren't here today, who may not have the depth of understanding."

Much of the testimony yesterday was from parents, kids and lawmakers against the proposed changes. They said the bills unfairly target home-schooled children. Requiring more tests and paperwork, they said, would mean more work and more money for families and the school districts that supervise their efforts.

"This system is not broken," said Rep. Peter Bolster, an Alton Republican. "There is no indication that it's broken."

At least 1,000 people - teenagers, children and babies included - assembled in downtown Concord yesterday, overflowing parking garages, passing out fliers and packing Representatives Hall. The seats filled quickly as did the risers, balcony and aisles, prompting concerns about fire codes.

One member of the House Education Committee, Rep. Scott Merrick, wondered if such a showing said something about the necessity of the bills.

"I think if we take a look at the crowd, the home school community seems to be pretty well aware of the RSAs," said Merrick, a Lancaster Democrat.

Under the law as it now stands, parents who choose to home school their children must alert their school district and agree to supervision by a local superintendent, a private school principal or the state Department of Education.

Parents must provide "instruction in science, mathematics, language, government, history, health, reading, writing, spelling, the history of the constitutions of New Hampshire and the United States, and an exposure to and appreciation of art and music." Textbooks, schedules, curricula and other details are up to individual families.

Each year, parents must assemble a portfolio of their children's efforts and arrange an outside evaluation of their children's progress. Families may choose from several options. Students can take a standardized test, or a certified teacher can review the portfolio. Families may also use an alternative form of assessment if the local school district approves.

The legislation would change that, requiring both a portfolio review and a standardized test each year. The option of an alternative assessment would be eliminated, although the bills' sponsor, Rep. Judith Day, said she foresees school districts having leeway to make exceptions if circumstances prevent a child from being able to sit for an exam.

"This was not an attempt to end home schooling," said Day, a North Hampton Democrat.

While the adults parsed details of the bills and debated the differences between public and at-home education, the older children listened and took notes. Parents sometimes leaned over to whisper an explanation of a legislative term or obscure word. In the back of the hall, children spread math workbooks across risers usually reserved for the press and puzzled over subtraction.

Children wandered the hallways, inspecting antique flags and portraits, or nibbling on afternoon snacks. Outside, they scaled snowbanks and played with friends.

Jane Grady of Londonderry has educated her kids at home for 14 years. Yesterday, she disputed the premise of the bills. The home school families she's met over the years have all been well-informed about the laws governing education.

"The possibility some homeschoolers somewhere may exist that do not comply is, in my opinion, faulty grounds," she said.

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