Tuesday, May 13, 2014


'Discriminatory practice reflects a narrow-minded and statist view of education'

An Indiana-based company has decided not to hire any homeschool graduates, withdrawing a job offer from one candidate after discovering he was home educated, according to the Home School Legal Defense Association.

That’s despite the fact that assessments and evaluations for homeschool students routinely run higher than for public-school students.

HSLDA spokesman Michael Donnelly said NiSource, an energy-distribution company, informed HSLDA it would not hire homeschool graduates.

The decision was based on the company’s interpretation of state law.

Donnelly said he was told by NiSource legal counsel Adele O’Connor that the company “disagrees with the conclusions in your letter as to the legal requirements regarding a diploma,” established in Chapter 3313 of the Ohio Revised Code.

Donnelly, argued, however, that the section applies to public and chartered private schools, not homeschools.

“NiSource is wrongly using Ohio law as an excuse to defend its discriminatory hiring policy,” Donnelly said. “There is simply no legal impediment to NiSource hiring a homeschool graduate – especially the one in question here.”

He said Ohio law “clearly recognizes homeschooling as a legal and valid educational option.”

“To rescind an offer of employment to an otherwise qualified and experienced applicant who received a legally recognized education is unreasonable and discriminatory,” Donnelly said.

He explained that HSLDA got involved when the company, after having initially offered a job to the applicant, whose name was being withheld, withdrew the offer.

The organization wrote letters to the company explaining the benefits and validity of homeschooling, without results.

“In addition to graduating from homeschool in compliance with Ohio law, this applicant had years of relevant job experience and several key industry certifications. During his last two years of high school the applicant took seven courses at a recognized state college and made the dean’s list,” Donnelly said.

Donnelly said HSLDA has been working with homeschool advocates in Ohio to seek legislative action to “prevent this kind of discrimination.”

“The problem may indicate more than just discrimination against homeschoolers,” he said.

“This situation reflects the precise concern that motivates HSLDA’s opposition to the Common Core and its ‘college- and career-ready’ standards – that qualified homeschool graduates who don’t have a state-issued credential will be discriminated against in employment decisions.”

He said HSLDA opposes Common Core because it creates a system based on nationalized standards, assessment and data collection that could negatively affect homeschool graduates and job seekers.

“Research indicates that homeschooled students are well prepared academically and socially for careers and college,” Donnelly argued. “Hiring decisions should be made based on an individual’s qualifications, not a policy that discriminates against an entire class of people based on how they were educated.”

He added that HSLDA “affirms the right of private companies to create their own hiring policies, which may include evaluating the academic credentials of prospective applicants.”

“However, NiSource’s discriminatory practice reflects a narrow-minded and statist view of education that is inconsistent with the values of a free society.”

NiSource responded to a WND request for comment after the story was posted online, stating, “We support the pursuit of non-traditional education. Across NiSource, we’re pleased to hire homeschooled candidates with a GED or officially recognized diploma. Like other hiring requirements, we need a recognized, objective, across-the-board means to verify educational qualifications.”

Home-school.com notes that in public schools, the average scores for reading, language and math is at 50 percent.

But homeschoolers score in the 89 percentile in reading, 84th in language, 84th in math and 86th in science.

As college freshman, they carry a grade point average of 3.41, compared to the 3.12 for other students. As seniors, they outscore others 3.46 to 3.16.

According to the National Home Education Research Institute, “Homeschool students score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ level of formal education,” and they also “typically score above average on the SAT and ACT tests.”

“The research based on adults who were home educate is growing; thus far it indicates that they: participate in local community service more frequently than does the general population, vote and attend public meetings more frequently than the general population, and go to and succeed at college at an equal or higher rate than the general population.”

HSLDA’s own pages of stats on home education reveal that in Pennsylvania, homeschooled students on the state standardized test scored in the 89th percentile for reading, 87th for science and 81st for social studies.

The report said: “Homeschooling works. Even many of the State Departments of Education, which are generally biased toward the public school system, cannot argue with these facts. Not only does homeschooling work, but it works without the myriad of state controls and accreditation standards imposed on the public schools.”


American Students Perform Worse As They Reach Higher Grades

High school test scores released by the federal government Wednesday provide fresh evidence of a troubling theme in American education: Students seem to perform worse on tests as they advance through the public school system to higher grades.

America's high school seniors have mostly stagnated on the National Assessment of Education Progress in reading and math at least since 2005, when a comparable version of the math exam was first given, according to the report. In 2013, the latest NAEP math test, seniors scored an average of 153 out of 500 -- three points higher than in 2005. In reading, students lost ground, dropping from 292 in 1992 to 288 in 2013. In both subjects, achievement gaps between ethnic groups didn't diminish.

“Despite the highest high school graduation rate in our history, and despite growth in student achievement over time in elementary school and middle school, student achievement at the high school level has been flat in recent years," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "Just as troubling, achievement gaps among ethnic groups have not narrowed."

As white students likely become a minority in the nation's public school population for the first time next school year, Duncan said schools "must do better for all students, especially for African-American and Latino students.”

On NAEP tests administered to fourth graders and eighth graders, students have shown incremental growth. In fourth-grade reading, scores increased from 215 in 1988 to 222 in 2013.

In fourth-grade math, scores increased from 213 in 1990 to 242 in 2013. In eighth-grade math, scores increased from 263 in 1990 to 285 in 2013. At both grades, higher percentages performed at advanced, the highest level, than in 2011 or in 1990.

But the high school results barely budged.

This trend is reflected on some international exams, and has led experts to wonder, despite the push for early education, whether America's biggest education problem spot is in the later grades.

"Our high schools take kids who have made incredible progress in fourth grade and eighth grade," said Mark Schneider, a vice president at the American Institutes of Research who previously led the government arm that administered NAEP. "Whatever good we did is gone."

Experts had several possible explanations. "Either our high schools are doing a terrible job, or 12th graders don't care about NAEP," Schneider said. When he oversaw NAEP, Schneider said he saw signs that 12th graders are less motivated than fourth graders or eighth graders to perform on a test that has no bearing on their lives. "They have so much on their plates," he said. "Motivation has always been a problem -- that's the optimistic assumption."

On the other hand, Schneider said, "states and schools have lied about the rigor of their courses. … Students aren't learning what they should be learning in high school."

Current test administrators say they have reason to believe motivation is less of a factor than before. On a Tuesday call with reporters, Cornelia Orr, executive director of the National Assessment Governing Board, said test-takers now see a motivational video before answering questions. "It's a little bit more of an urban myth about students just blowing off a test when they sit down to do it," she said.

Similarly, John Easton, who heads the Institute for Education Sciences, said "we are feeling confident in 12th graders' enthusiasm at this point."

Peggy Carr, who oversees NAEP administration, said in an interview that the Education Department will soon release a paper proving that the patterns of persistence and engagement are not all that different between fourth graders and 12 graders. "It's probably not explained by lack of engagement with the assessment," she said. "There's really no evidence to suggest that's what's going on."

So what explains the stagnation in 12th grade? Carr said it may have to do with sampling. NAEP has been described as the "gold standard" of standardized tests because, unlike many state and local exams, the stakes are low. NAEP results only provide a barometer on performance, unlike state tests, which are used to reward and punish schools and, more recently, to evaluate teachers. So schools have little incentive to cheat or teach to the NAEP test.

In 2013, 92,000 12th graders took the test, the exam's highest participation rate. The sample size included higher proportions of minority students, students with disabilities and English language learners than in previous years.

Over time, as the graduation rate has increased, NAEP has included more students who would have dropped out in previous years. These students are often the lowest performers, and this demographic change would not affect fourth grade or eighth grade scores. But it may cause 12th grade scores to lag.

"What's happening is that students who would normally drop out of school are staying in," Carr said. "Students who would normally not be taking our assessment, they're in there now at larger proportions."


Texas School Suspends Student for Declining to Worship the Flag—Because That's What America's All About

If you are a fan of the First Amendment, you probably have heard of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, the 1943 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court said public schools may not force students to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. I am guessing that officials at Needville High School have not heard of Barnette, because if they had they probably would have thought twice about suspending 15-year-old Mason Michalec for refusing to stand during the pledge. KHOU, the CBS station in Houston (which is about 45 miles from Needville), reports that Michalec was given a two-day in-school suspension for remaining seated. Now the principal is threatening him with another suspension unless he gets with the program.

Michalec explained that he sat as an act of protest because he was "really tired of our government taking advantage of us." He added, "I basically said it from the time I was in kindergarten to earlier this year, and that's when I finally decided I was done saying it....I'm angry, frustrated and annoyed that they would try to write me up for something I have the right to do."

Barnette involved Jehovah's Witnesses, who object to flag worship because they (quite plausibly) view it as a form of idolatry. But the decision was based on freedom of speech, which includes the right to refrain from agreement, as well as freedom of religion. Justice Robert Jackson seemed to think the principles at stake were pretty important:

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.

We think the action of the local authorities in compelling the flag salute and pledge transcends constitutional limitations on their power and invades the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment to our Constitution to reserve from all official control.

Maybe the teacher and principal who suspended Michalec thought making him stand for the Pledge of Allegiance was fundamentally different from making him recite it or making him salute the flag. (It's not.) More likely, they did not think at all.


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