Hub homeschooling on the rise, BPS apologizes for ‘unapproved’ letter

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BOSTON — The number of Hub parents opting to homeschool their children has steadily grown since 2010, according to figures released Wednesday by the district, weeks after a tersely-worded letter from the Department of Educational Options claiming year-end standardized testing would be mandatory angered families.

The statistics show that since the 2010-2011 school year, the number of homeschooled students has grown from 108 to 194. The period between the 2013-2014 and 2015-2016 school years witnessed a significant surge, as the ranks of homeschooled students surged by a count of 56.

Meanwhile, in the original letter that drew the ire of parents, Department of Education Options administrative assistant Jessica Escobar-Diaz claimed all homeschooled students would be required to take the Iowa standardized tests as part of a year-end assessment.

“THERE WILL BE NO EXCEPTIONS!!!” Escobar-Diaz warned parents.

A parent later took to Twitter and attached Chang’s user account to a post that included an image of the letter. Chang wrote in a response that the matter “would be addressed.”

A followup letter obtained by the NewBostonPost, however, informed parents that the original letter was attributable to a “clerical error” resulting in the release of an “erroneous, unapproved” letter.

“This communication created some confusion and concern among parents who homeschool their children, which we regret,” Department of Educational Options Executive Director Freddie Fuentes wrote. “We would like to apologize for any misunderstanding that was conveyed that may have led parents to believe that the only standardized assessment that would be accepted by Boston Public School’s Office of Educational Options would be the Iowa.”

The same parent who used Twitter to direct Chang’s attention to the original letter later noted that the letter penned by Fuentes marked the fourth such revision:

According to the Homeschool Legal Defense Association, an organization launched in 1983 which seeks to “defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the education of their children,” Massachusetts is one of five states deemed “highly regulated” when it comes to homeschooling.

Massachusetts does however feature flexible standardized testing requirements. In 1987 the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that while “the superintendent or school committee may properly require periodic standardized testing of the children,” “other means of evaluating the progress of the children may be substituted — such as periodic progress reports or dated work samples, subject to the approval of the parents.”

Fuentes in his letter walked back the warning issued by Escobar-Diaz in the original letter, clarifying that “as allowed under state law” the district “will be recommending the use of a standardized academic assessment as the summative evaluation at the end of the year for each of the students being homeschooled.”

“This will allow for a clear benchmark of the learning of the student,” Fuentes added, noting that parents have the option of selecting from three tests: Iowa’s assessment, the Stanford 10 Achievement Series and the California Achievement Test.

The 1987 ruling nevertheless means that parents have the option of developing and implementing their own method of evaluation.

Read a copy of Fuentes’s letter:

BPS Homeschooling Update by Evan on Scribd