Homeschool Laws for Students without Disabilities
Starting the fall of 2016 in Oregon, children between the ages of 6 and 18 are required to attend public school unless otherwise exempted. Homeschooling is one exemption. Private school is another exemption. And there are approximately five other exemptions. In order to obtain a home-school exemption, homeschool families must do three things: notify, evaluate, and report. This is true of all homeschool students, though the method of evaluation for students with disabilities differs from students without disabilities and will be discussed in a separate section of this publication.
All parents desiring to home educate their children must notify the Educational Service District (ESD) of their intent to homeschool. They do this once per child either when they are 6 years old by September 1 or when they begin to home educate if the children are older than 6. Children younger than 6 on September 1 are not required to be in public school, so no notification is required.
NOTE: ESDs may not inform homeschoolers on their web sites that there is a paper option for notification. They may instead present an online registration form that often collects more information than is legally required. This may leave the impression that their online form is the only option. OCEANetwork recommends that instead of using their forms or online systems (which often request information beyond what the law requires) you send in a paper notification that only gives them the minimum information. For your convenience, we have provided a template and instructions for sending a paper notification below.
What if my child turns 6 during the school year?
You would notify of your intent to home educate the following September. You are not required to notify the ESD of your intent to home educate until your child is 6 years old on September 1.
What should be in the letter?
The letter of intent to home educate is very short and contains the following information: your name and address, (phone number and/or email are optional), your child’s (or children’s) name(s) and birth date(s), and the last public school your child attended or the school district in which you reside. This is not the time or the place to go into your reasons to home educate or why you are withdrawing your children from public school. Keep the letter short and businesslike.
- “Dear Sirs,
This is to inform you that we
intend to home educate our child, _____________,
birth date ___________. We reside in _____________
School District. Our address is ________________
(if you haven’t included it in the heading).
When is the letter due?
This letter is due within 10 days of the beginning of school or 10 days of withdrawing your child from public or private school. If you write the letter September 1st or the day you withdraw your child from public or private school, you should have no problems. Make sure you keep a copy of the letter for your files. You may even want to send it certified mail to keep a record of its arrival. The ESD is required to acknowledge the receipt of your letter within 90 days. Keep their acknowledgment in your permanent files also.
This letter is sent once. You don’t need to send another letter of your intent to home educate to the ESD unless you move to a new Educational Service District.
This is the basic letter of notification for all home educators. It has some modifications for children with special needs which are discussed here.
Home educated children are required to be evaluated in grades 3, 5, 8 and 10. There are three exceptions to this schedule. 1) If your children have been withdrawn from public or private school, you wait at least 18 months to evaluate their education. Then they are evaluated during the next scheduled grade. For example, you withdraw your child from public school near the end of 4th grade. 18 months would place your child in the beginning of 6th grade. He will not need to be evaluated until sometime in the 8th grade. 2) If your child desires to participate in interscholastic sports, he or she will have to take an annual achievement test to maintain eligibility. 3) If a child falls below the 15th percentile, he or she has to take an annual test as long as the score keeps falling.
For evaluation, students without disabilities take one of five nationally normed standardized achievement tests: the California Achievement Test, the Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills, the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills/Tests of Achievement and Proficiency, the Metropolitan Achievement Battery, or the Stanford Achievement Battery. (The benchmark exams used in the public schools are not nationally normed tests so do not qualify for the use of home educators.) The two most recent versions of any of the above tests are approved for use for homeschool evaluation. (Students with disabilities are evaluated using other tools. See “Homeschooling Rules for Students with Special Needs.”)
Who can give the tests?
Tests must be administered by someone who is “qualified” and not related to the child by blood or marriage. To be “qualified” to administer tests to home educated students, the test administrator must meet one of the following qualifications: hold a current teaching license from Oregon, be licensed by the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners, meet publisher’s qualifications for purchase of the test, or provide evidence of satisfactory completion of a graduate course in which test administration and interpretation is included in the objective. The Department of Education publishes a list of qualified test administrators on July 1st of each year. You can also check with your local ESD or homeschool support group for test administrators available in your area.
What time of year must the tests be given?
Testing can be done anytime during the school year of the 3rd, 5th, 8th or 10th grades with the test being administered between September 1 and August 15th of the target grades. This accommodates year around homeschool situations. However, if your child wants to participate in sports in OSAA leagues, he or she must take an annual achievement test each spring.
What grade is my child?
Homeschool students seldom study all subjects in one grade level at a time. Your child has the freedom to progress at his own rate in the different school subjects, so he may be in 3rd grade for math and 5th grade for reading. Other families may be using an integrated unit study where all members of the family are studying the same thing. If they are all studying the Oregon Trail, does that mean they are all in 4th grade? No.
How is the child’s grade level determined? In their technical manual for home educators, the Department of Education states, “The rule presumes that a parent’s notification of their intent to home school a child at age 6 will begin with the kindergarten, unless the parent specifically notifies the ESD that the child started first grade earlier. The testing requirements will be based on that presumption unless otherwise notified by the parent.” The ESDs are to assume that 6 year old homeschool students are in the kindergarten, unless you tell them otherwise.
Since most children start school in first grade when they are 6, the usual age for third grade is 8. If your child is doing average work, you would want to administer the 3rd grade test then. However, some children are late bloomers and would enter school when they are older. Parents teaching their children at home have the discretion to hold them back also. Since children are not required to be in public school until they are 6 years old on September 1st and could enter kindergarten then, homeschool parents may start counting kindergarten when their child was 6 on September 1st. Even if you gave your child the third grade test when he was 8, you can decide to hold him back for subsequent tests by counting the year he was 6 on September 1st as kindergarten. If the ESD asks for your test results (see “Reporting” below), and you are planning on holding your child back, just write them a letter and let them know not to expect your test results this year and explain why.
What is the “cut off point?”
As long as your child scores at or above the 15th percentile on the total test battery, you are free to home educate. He may score below the 15th percentile on any of the individual tests in the battery and that is OK. Homeschooling progress is determined by the score of all the sub-tests combined – the total test battery score. The 15th percentile is, of course, not our goal as home educators. Many home educated students score well above average on these achievement tests, generally scoring between the 70th and 80th percentiles. (The test average is the 50th percentile.) The 15th percentile is the score that has been set below which some remediation for the homeschool student will need to occur.
What is a percentile?
A percentile (%tile) is not the same as percent (%) correct on the test. A percentile is the student’s standing in comparison to the “norming” group, a statistical sampling of students who are the same grade and have taken the same test. It compares how well your child has done on this test to a statistical group of 99 other students and ranks him 0 to 99. A 15 percentile means that the student scores better than 15 of those 100 students and worse than 84 of them.
What happens if my child falls below the 15th percentile?
Children scoring on the low end of the achievement test scale are the ones who need the one-on-one attention homeschooling provides. Recognizing this, the legislature and the governor’s office placed into this homeschool law a 2 year process for remediation of the situation. If a child scores below the 15th percentile on the test in 3rd, 5th, 8th or 10th grade, he may continue to homeschool, but he must take a standardized achievement test again within one year. This is an opportunity for the parent and child to work together to bring the test score up.
If, on this second test, the child scores below his score on the first test, the superintendent of the Educational Service District can require that the homeschool be supervised by a state licensed teacher of the parents’ choice and at the parents’ expense. There is no set number of hours or number of visits required in the rules. The goal is to provide some help for the family to improve the child’s learning and, hence, his test score. The Superintendent may also let the family continue to homeschool without teacher supervision. With either of these choices a student is required to take third test within one year.
However, if the student scores the same or better on the second test, he reverts back to testing during the target grades.
If on the third test, the student scores below the score of the second test, the Superintendent has three options. He may 1) allow the child to continue under the educational supervision of a licensed teacher and require a test again in one year, 2) allow the child to be taught by a parent or legal guardian and require a test again in one year, or 3) order the parent or guardian to send the child to school for a period not to exceed 12 consecutive months. There is nothing in the statute which requires the school to be a public school.
The goal for this “safety net” is twofold: to provide extra assistance for those struggling and to catch those that might be “falling through the cracks.” If your child is truly struggling to be above the 15th percentile, you may consider having him placed under a “privately developed plan” as outlined in “Homeschooling Rules for Children with Disabilities.”
The statute states “Upon the request of the superintendent of the education service district, the parent or legal guardian shall submit the results of the examination to the education service district.” It was OCEANetwork’s hope as we were lobbying that the ESDs would request test results only in cases of suspected truancy. However, most ESDs in Oregon have indicated that they will still monitor homeschool test results by requesting that parents report the results of the examinations to them.
The ESDs may make this request in several ways. They may calculate the expected date of your child’s examination from the birth date provided in the initial letter of intent to home educate and send you a reminder to send in test results when they think your child is in the appropriate grade level. If they request a test score and you are holding your child back a year by counting first grade as when they were 7 on September 1st, just write them a note and tell them why you will not be sending a test in until the following year.
Other ESDs may send you a “blanket request” in their response to your letter of intent to home educate that says that test results are due to them during grades 3, 5, 8 and 10. The responsibility now lies on your shoulders to turn in the tests during the appropriate grades.
When are test results due?
There is no specific due date for the test results to be turned into the ESD. The tests must be administered between September 1 and August 15th of grades 3, 5, 8, and 10. You should send them in shortly after you receive them from your test administrator.
The homeschool law for most children (those not having disabilities) in Oregon is very straightforward. 1) Parents notify the educational service district of their intent to home educate when their child is 6 on September 1st or when they withdraw the child from school if he is older than 6. 2) Students are tested in grades 3, 5, 8 and 10 and the test results are turned in to the ESD if requested to do so. As long as the child scores at or above the 15th percentile, the parent is free to home educate without any further involvement with the government.
What happens if we don’t comply with the law?
Compliance with the law must be a decision made by each family. OCEANetwork or the Home School Legal Defense Association will tell you that if a law is not in direct conflict with your beliefs, you are well advised to comply. Noncompliance without good cause jeopardizes the freedoms of all home educators.
Legally, parents are responsible to make sure children between the ages of 6 and 18 attend public school unless exempt. The only way you can be legally exempt is by following the proper procedures. If you do not obtain a homeschool exemption, your child is considered truant. Violation of ORS 330.035 is a Class C violation with a fine of up to $150. In addition, some judges have considered home education as “educational neglect” and removed children from their homes for “child abuse.”
From a religious freedoms standpoint, there are godly men who believe that noncompliance on the grounds of first amendment rights has a good chance of being upheld in court. A family who chooses not to comply for religious reasons should review the information provided by the Home School Legal Defense Association.
It is important to explain fully the responsibilities involved whenever asked about this alternative. First, the religious conviction upon which you base your reason for noncompliance to any law must be evident and recognizable by those who share your same belief before the “act” is entered into. This means you can’t make it up as you go. Secondly, the religious conviction involved must be unequivocally nonnegotiable under pressure or threat of loss. Thirdly, can you document the godly principles upon which you base your convictions? Can you state chapter and verse for your beliefs? If you can, you are encouraged to put this into writing, do an exhaustive study of the Scriptures and quote from established commentators so that your convictions are thoroughly documented.
Thanks to the 1999 law, home educators have more freedom to homeschool without government intrusion. OCEANetwork worked hard to obtain homeschool freedom in Oregon and continues to monitor the homeschool laws to protect that freedom. You can help, too, by becoming an OCEANetwork Supporting Family and signing up to receive OCEANetwork Alerts via email.
If you have a student with disabilities, please read the Homeschooling Laws for Students with Disabilities page. Also, don’t forget to read General Considerations for some thoughts about the homeschool laws in Oregon.