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          Front Page




State Doesn't Track Home-Schoolers

By Colleen Heild
Journal Investigative Reporter
      Are the 7,100 children enrolled in home schooling in New Mexico learning anything?
    Are the 5,190 home schools registered with the state actually teaching the proper academic subjects?
    Don't ask the state Public Education Department for answers.
    New Mexico up until 2001 required parents who home-schooled to test students annually to assess achievement according to the statewide and local school district testing programs.
    But the Legislature eliminated that requirement on an overwhelming vote in the spring of 2001, also removing the mandate that disease immunization records or a waiver of that requirement be furnished to the appropriate school district.
    The state mandates home-schoolers receive “a basic academic educational program, including, but not limited to, reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies and science.”
    Veronica Garcia, secretary of the PED, says those who home-school must notify her agency every year, but there's no way for the state to ensure what is being taught or how well students are progressing.
    “We don't have the kind of staff nor the wherewithal (to monitor that). And I don't know that it's the role of the state,” Garcia said. “It's kind of intrusive when you're talking about what's happening in somebody's home in terms of instruction.”
    New Mexico is one of 14 states with low regulation, according to the Home School Legal Defense Association. Low regulation is defined as requiring parental notification only.
    The 20 states with moderate regulation require parents to send notification, test scores and/or a professional evaluation of a student's progress to the state.
    The six states considered to have high regulation also require home visits by state officials, teacher qualification of parents and curriculum that is approved by the state.
    In Pennsylvania, for example, parents must file a notarized affidavit assuring that subjects are taught in English, give an outline of proposed education objectives by subject area and provide evidence of immunization.
    Ten states, including Texas, have no regulation.
    Home-schooling proponents say studies have shown that home-schoolers, on average, outperform their public school counterparts.
    “Home school freedom works,” says the HSLDA Web site. “Home-schoolers have earned the right to be left alone.”
    Garcia said some parents voluntarily choose to have their home-schooled children take standardized tests.
    “At the end of the day, if in fact you did test and you found they weren't progressing, is that still a parent's choice?” Garcia said.
    “You have to hope that people recognize the importance of ensuring their children are being educated. But it's a balance between parental rights and the state's obligation to educate all its kids.”