Miscellaneous Education Changes (H.461) - April 11, 2023

On Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee walked through a side-by-side comparison of H.461 with current statute. Senator Gulick asked about the “Home Study Program,” wondering if it was always called that. She commented that she doesn’t “see there is any mandate to actually study any subjects in it.” Legislative Counsel was uncertain if it had been called something else previously.

Under the home study provision, the current system would shift to an attestation from the parent or guardian of a student at the end of each school year and that the academic progress of their child will be assessed.

Permitted means of assessment include:

  1. A standardized assessment administered by a local school district or other testing service.
  2. A review of the student’s progress by an individual who holds a current Vermont teacher’s certificate.
  3. A report summarizing what the student learned during the school year and at least four samples of student work.
  4. Grades from an online academy or school.
  5. Evidence of passing the GED.

After reviewing the statute and proposed changes, Gulick chimed in again, saying “there is nothing in here about curriculum… I am surprised.” Legislative Counsel explained that the curriculum standards that apply to school districts also apply here. Chairman Campion added parents are responsible for making the “same curriculum choices” here that are being made by teachers and principals. 

Gulick is not satisfied; her experience is that school districts “are driven by standards and EQS, but ultimately what is being taught is under the scrutiny of the school boards. And here there is no school board scrutinizing what is taught,” for home study.

NOTE: Gulick seems to be missing the point that these curriculum are being submitted to AOE for review.

Campion agreed that is a good point and asked the Agency of Education (AOE) to come back to them on this. Legislative Counsel weighed in that some of the requirements around curriculum were being removed by the changes in H.461, particularly around standards (because the reporting of these were so onerous for both parents and AOE). Campion commented that, “it really is a bit of the Wild, Wild West out there.”

NOTE: It is not clear whether there is actually a difference between the standards for school districts and home study curriculum; the requirements referenced in the current statute for districts is the same one cited in H.461 for the home study program.

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