Oregon urging new test for home-schooled

Seattle Post-Intelligencer


BEND, Ore. -- An Oregon state plan to crack down on school districts that receive money for home schooling could require hundreds of students to take a standardized test.

The Oregon Department of Education policy change will require home-schooled students to take the Oregon Statewide Assessment test if they receive tutoring or take special classes in reading and literature, math or science paid by public schools.

Children schooled at home already must take a national standardized test in third, fifth, eighth and 10th grades.

But the federal No Child Left Behind Act has put added pressure on the state to test all students who benefit from public-education funding, said Cliff Brush, an education specialist for the state.

No Child Left Behind grades schools based on how many of their students take assessment tests, as well as how they perform on the tests, he said.

Some districts are already testing home-schooled students, but others, particularly smaller districts in rural areas, often do not, Brush said.

Education officials are touring the state to explain the new policy and determine how many districts are following the law.

A report is due by the end of the year, Brush said.

State officials, including Brush, met with Sisters School District Superintendent Ted Thonstad earlier this month to explain the policy.

According to Thonstad, cutting costs, as well as increasing accountability, may be behind the push to test home-schooled students. Districts that provide services to home-schooled students receive state funding.

Requiring those students to take state tests could be the first step in an effort to crack down on districts that get more home-school funding than the state allows, Thonstad said.

"Home-school programs are taking more and more money out of the general budget because more and more districts are doing programs for home-schoolers," Thonstad said. "I think ODE is looking to tighten that up."

Kristi French, who home-schools her son Jacob, 14, and daughter Daniella, 11, said taking the state assessment test would be an unwelcome burden. Both children take classes through the Sisters School District.

Home-schooling allows her children to learn a variety of subjects at their own pace, rather than absorbing information that will let them pass a test, French said.

"I have friends who test their kids every year just because they want to know where they are compared to other kids," said French who used to be a substitute teacher. "I've taught enough middle school and elementary school to be able to tell where my kids are."



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