Raleigh, N.C. — Homeschooling in North Carolina saw a big jump during the pandemic, with about one in 10 students now schooled at home.
A law designed decades ago sharply restricts state oversight when it comes to homeschooling. However, with some 112,000 families now homeschooling their students, some lawmakers say it might be time to revisit that.
Chena Flood, who leads the North Carolina Division of Non-Public Education, explained the 1987 law, which says that once parents notify the state they’re opening a homeschool, they don’t have to report details like:
- How many students they have
- What they’re learning
- How they’re performing academically
Homeschools have to give one national test a year of their choice, but they’re not required to report student’s scores.
At a state oversight meeting on Tuesday, lawmakers seemed surprised by how relaxed homeschooling requirements are.
“The test is taken, but they could fail the test and still graduate?” asked state Rep. Erin Pare.
“Yes. The law doesn’t have any stipulations about academic requirements or standards,” said Flood, who holds a doctorate in education.
“The program seems like once they are accepted into homeschooling, that’s it. Is that it?” asked state Sen. Ernestine Bazemore.
Flood said not exactly—but they can’t check on every one, especially given their small staff compared with the over 100,000 home schools in the state.
“Some homeschoolers hold true to, ‘We’re not giving you anything unless you come to our door,'” Flood said. “And that’s not possible.”
Should the laws be updated to track progress of homeschool students?
Bazemore said the law needs to be updated to track more data.
Homeschool parent Matthew McDill, who leads advocacy group North Carolinians for Home Education, disagrees. The group encourages homeschool families to share information the state requests, but he doesn’t believe the state should require any more data.
“The bigger question, of course, is, what do they need to know and why?” McDill said. “Our interest primarily is to protect the rights of parents to homeschool. And so we are not generally interested in more regulations.”
McDill said lawmakers could look at national studies of homeschooled students. He cited one that found they did as well or better than their peers on standardized tests.