Revamped Iowa homeschooling law gives families more options

Iowa families who homeschool their children have some new options as the result of legislative actions this year that remove reporting requirements and allow parents to teach unrelated students. Included as part of the state’s major education-reform package (HF 215), the new provisions also allow for parent-taught driver’s education.

“Each homeschooled student saves the taxpayers of Iowa $12,000 per year,” says Iowa Rep. Mark Costello, who helped promote efforts to pass the legislation. “We want to accommodate and encourage them.”
Under the new law, Iowa is adding an option called Independent Private Instruction. Families choosing this option will not need to provide annual assessments of student progress; instead, only some basic information on the students, instructor and program must be provided upon request by a local school district or the state.
Up to four unrelated students can participate in an Independent Private Instruction program. These students cannot be charged tuition, but an outside instructor can charge for services.
“I would expect more sharing of teaching between families,” Costello says about the new law’s impact. 
Students participating in this new Independent Private Instruction category cannot be dually enrolled in a public school — thus restricting their access to the school’s textbooks, classes and extracurricular activities. Free testing, though, is available to all homeschoolers in Iowa, whether or not they have dual-enrollment status.
Along with creating this new category, lawmakers reworked the statute on Competent Private Instruction (the category used by Iowa homeschoolers in the past), adding an option that waives reporting requirements on student progress and allows children to be taught by an unlicensed teacher.
Parents can also choose a homeschooling option with reporting requirements. It requires the filing of a basic report (including an outline of the course of study and lesson plans) with the local school district before the start of each school year. A supervising teacher monitors the student’s progress, and an assessment is done through standardized testing or one of several other methods.
About 2.3 percent of school-age children in Iowa are homeschooled; in the United States, the average is between 3 and 4 percent, says Darren Jones, a staff attorney with the Home School Legal Defense Association.
Jones says the new law in Iowa offers “something for every type of homeschooler” and gives the kind of regulatory flexibility that he hopes every state would strive for.
State laws vary on regulation of homeschooling. A 2009 study by the Education Commission of the States found that 14 states (including Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and Ohio in the Midwest) set test-score thresholds for student evaluation or required a showing of “adequate yearly progress.” The study also found that 18 states (including Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota and Ohio) required certain qualifications of instructors, such as a high school diploma or GED.


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