19 November 2010

Further Update on the Michigan Board of Education

OK, I admit it. I am completely amazed and very pleased to let you know that Representative Opsommer's office actually did respond to my question -- and pretty fast, too, as these things go.

Dear Ms. Delaney-Smith

Thank you for writing. The minutes may not be out yet, or they may be somewhat bare (most minutes are not word for word of what was said). The following is an excerpt from the Lansing publication Gongwer you may find helpful, but it is not a full transcript of the meeting:


Members of the Board of Education did not question the rights of parents to educate their children at home, but said the state's current system of tracking those students provides no information on whether they are meeting state standards.

That current system is a voluntary registration system that has very few of the potentially thousands of home schooled children in the state.

Home schooling has traditionally been a touchy subject in Michigan, bringing up the specter of infringement on religious rights when registration and standards are discussed. But there was apparent unanimous consent on the board that the current system is potentially leaving some children behind.

"We have young people that, rightly or wrongly, and parents who believe, rightly or wrongly, their students get as good an education as anyone in the state," said board member Nancy Danhof (R-East Lansing). "But we don't have any data to know."

"I know it is said in the home schooling world they don't want to sign up anywhere because it takes away from their freedom. It doesn't," said board Secretary Carolyn Curtin (R-Evart). "Just so we truly know how many kids are out there."

Ms. Curtin noted that state law requires that home schooled students be in an educational setting for the minimum hours required of traditional schools, but there is no way to know if they are complying.

Joseph Martineau, director of the Office of Educational Assessment and Accountability, said some 630 home schooled students took the most recent Michigan Educational Assessment Program and Michigan Merit Exam tests.

But board member Elizabeth Bauer (D-Birmingham) noted that the 2000 Census listed some 250,000 school-aged children in the state who are not enrolled in any school.

And she said local districts have an interest in knowing how many home schooled students are in their communities because in many cases those children re-enter public schools at the high school level.

"They come to high school because they want the social situation," she said. "They often come unprepared."

On the flip side, Matinga Ragatz, current Michigan Teacher of the Year who home schools her son for health reasons, said many of the home school students she has come to her class are actually beyond the students who have come up through the system.

Board member Cassandra Ulbrich (D-Rochester Hills) said current law could serve as a deterrent to families registering. Those who do register are required to use teachers who meet minimum academic standards. "We certainly don't want to drive people further into oblivion to hide from the state," she said. "But I'm also concerned about those children who locked away ...under the guise of home schooling, but the reality is they're just not getting attention."

Ms. Ragatz, echoing sentiments of others, said the situation could be flipped and local districts could offer assistance and services to those who register.

"I would hope that if I registered I would get some freebies like parent education classes or my child could participate in band," she said.

Ms. Danhof was also concerned that, because many home schooled children are not registered and do not take the state tests, there is no paper trail to ensure they have access to higher education.

"By the very fact that they're home schooled, are they given the same access to post-secondary schooling than those who go through public school by the very fact that they have no record other than 'trust me, they're ready?'" she said. "I want to make certain to the best of our ability that we afford those people access."

Board members said they would work on policy recommendations in the coming months and would invite home school groups to assist with that development.

Respectfully in Service,

Paul Opsommer's Office
State Representative, 93rd District

So, my heart thanks to Representative Opsommer's Office. Now I know exactly what concerns to address my letters to.


  1. Excellent!

    It sounds like you guys are supposed to register, and also have state exams? But not very many do? :) Go figure.

    We have a once a year registration to the local district, which is a notarized letter, saying something like "my child is being homeschooled (' course, I opt for 'home educated') according to state law" - which is 180 days, seven hours each. That's it for us. They cannot ask how or when or what. Well--they can ask, but we don't tell them, as it isn't law.

    I'm so glad you have your info, now! :)

  2. Hey, Stephanie!

    The current system is one of "voluntary" registration. There are no exams, we just have to promise that we're following a curriculum substantially equivalent to what the state schools cover, and include a handful of basic subject.

    You guys are way outdoing the requirements for 'time at lessons' -- by my calculations you spend 8,760 hours per year on learning and they only require 1260. I wonder how they turn kids brains off when they're "done"?

    They can ask us if they have reason to believe that the child is being educationally neglected, I think, but it rarely comes up because in cases where they can make that case there are far worse things going on. ;)


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