FAQ's About New Reporting Law

 

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the New Reporting Law

August 2011

 

1. In the first year of the new law will all families be required to fill out the full “Initial Report to the Superintendent”?

       No. If you submitted a full compulsory attendance report last year you can begin using the “Letter of Intent to Continue Homeschooling” for this October 1. If this is the first time you are reporting then you must use the new “Initial Report to the Superintendent”.

2. I have filled out the full compulsory attendance report in the past but one of my children has now reached age 7 this last year. Am I required to fill out the new full “Initial Report to the Superintendent” this year and do I have to fill out the “Initial Report to the Superintendent” each time one of my children turns age 7?

       No. You can still use the “Letter of Intent to Continue Homeschooling” for October 1. Simply note the change of a new student being added to your school. Also the law is now very clear that you are only obligated to report students between the ages of 7 and 16 on October 1. The initial report is for the beginning of your homeschool and should be filled out when your first child reaches age 7. The only other times you would fill out the initial report is (1) if you move to a new school district, or (2) if you move into Minnesota. After that new students would simply be added when they reach age 7 by noting the change on your “Letter of Intent to Continue Homeschooling”.

3. If I moved to new school District How soon do I have to submit an “Initial Report to the Superintendent” and do I have to let my old district know I moved?

       Next October 1. The new law requires you to fill out an initial report on the following October 1 after you establish a residence in a new district. You are required to inform your old district within 15 days of moving that you have left their district so that they can close their files. Minnesota law also requires the district to forward school records to your new district within 10 business days of finding out about the transfer. Even though your new school district may know you are now residing in their community you are not obligated to file your next report until the next October 1 reporting. The law requires you to do a full initial report the first time you report to your new district.

4. When my child reaches 16 or has graduated do I need to note that on my “Continuation Letter” the following October 1?

       No. There is no requirement to inform the district that you are instructing a student over the age of 16. The new law clearly spells out the reporting requirements are only for students between the ages of 7 and 16. There is no requirement for you to note the graduation of a student.

5. Do the new reporting requirements apply to the upcoming October 1 report in 2011?

       Yes. The law went into effect July 1, 2011.

6. Have there been any changes to the recordkeeping requirements?

       Essentially No. You are still required to maintain documentation that you have taken the annual test and are providing instruction for your children in the areas of: reading/writing; literature; fine arts; mathematics; science; the social studies of history, geography and government, health and physical education. This documentation must also "include class schedules, copies of materials used for instruction, and descriptions of methods used to assess student achievement.” The major change from the new law is that superintendents no longer have the authority to request an annual visit or to force you to provide this documentation in lieu of an annual visit. These documents need to only be maintained for the rare circumstances of a child protection action or prosecution brought against you by the county. Some of this information also may be needed if your student returns to public school with the intent of receiving a public school diploma and then only for the purpose of placing the student in the appropriate class.

7. How long must we maintain our records?

       The law on this has not changed. The farthest back a county child protection action can be brought is 3 years. How long a school district would need to look back at your records to determine class placement probably does not exceed 3 years. Therefore 3 years would be a reasonable period of time to maintain your records.

8. Can superintendents still make annual visits and request documentation of our curriculum?

       No. The Legislature recognizes that you are doing a great job instructing your children and superintendents no longer need to expend public resources to be our overseers. The associations representing both school boards and superintendents supported this provision. Therefore, if you have school officials thinking this is not appropriate, you can advise them that their own associations supported this change.

9. Are we required to use the forms provided to us by the district or the state?

       No. As with the previous law, there is no specific requirement to use any form. Keep in mind that although the amount of information that you are required to report by law is limited, there is no prohibition against districts asking for more information. For that reason MÂCHÉ and HSLDA strongly encourages you not to use forms from the school district or state. Also, there is no requirement that you use a “form”. We have put together forms because district personnel seem to prefer forms. You can simply provide all the information required in both the “Initial Report to the Superintendent” and the “Letter of Intent to Continue Homeschooling” in a letter format. That is actually what the statute contemplated when it titled the annual update a “letter”.

10. Have there been any changes to the annual testing requirement?

       Essentially no. Your test scores are still private information you do not have to disclose to the school district or the state. You are still required by law to give each of your students a nationally norm-referenced standardized test. The specific test, location and testing procedure still must be agreed to by the superintendent. If your child scores below the 30th percentile on that test, you are still obligated to do some initial assessment for learning problems. You can get the full details on assessments procedures in the MÂCHÉ handbook. The new statutes did clarify existing law that if you enroll your student in the public school to get a public school diploma, you must provide your test scores for the purpose of grade placement. You do not need to provide the tests scores if your student is simply taking a shared time course not intending to get a public school diploma. Also, in the rare case that a child protection action or prosecution is brought against you, your test scores would then have to be provided to the county attorney for proof that instruction is being provided.

11. If my student is taking a shared time class like math at the public high school do I need to provide them with test scores or other documentation?

       No. The law specifically states in this situation you do not have to provide test scores. If they question whether your student should be placed in a particular class you just inform them that if he is not performing they can certainly remove him from the class just like any other student. You may have to indicate that your student has taken the required prerequisites to any public school course, but there is no requirement to provide detailed information about the child's performance. Frankly, most school districts are very happy to have your students on the shared time basis because they get the proportional state aid for the student, and most homeschool students are very well behaved. Therefore, they are lower-cost occupants of their seat time with the same amount of state aid.

12. In the past when asked on the compulsory attendance report which assessment we were going to provide, I always put down “to be determined”. Can I still do that and inform the superintendent what test I will use later on in the year?

       No. In the past determining the test to be used and the compulsory report were not linked together at all. Therefore, technically there was no requirement to report your test on October 1 and you could make that agreement with the superintendent at any time during the school year. The goal of the new law in part was to reduce paperwork and interaction with homeschool families for school officials. Therefore, the identification of the test is now required on the October 1 report makes things uniform and simple for the district.

13. What if I decide to use a different test or testing method than listed on my initial report?

       Not a problem. If you have not given the test already listed on the report, then simply write a letter to the superintendent indicating that change prior to giving the test. The superintendent should be given a reasonable amount time to object. If you have already administered the test listed but were not satisfied with the test, then you can wait to report the new test method when you file the “Letter of Intent to Continue Homeschooling” the next October 1, assuming you are going to use it again the following year. In the latter situation even though you weren't happy with the test you initially reported, you still fulfilled your agreement with the superintendent for that reporting cycle and you are free to note the change the following school year in October.

14. Do I still need to provide proof of having a baccalaureate degree or teacher’s license on the “Initial Report to the Superintendent”?

       No. In the past you were required to provide proof of a baccalaureate degree, teacher’s license or proof of being supervised by licensed teacher to avoid the quarterly report card requirement. The new law deleted that quarterly report card requirement and now there is essentially no difference in the October reporting for someone who has a teacher's license or someone who is a parent. Therefore, MÂCHÉ and HSLDA designed their forms specifically for parents instructing their children. Individuals who have a teacher's license, are supervised by licensed teacher or have a baccalaureate degree may still provide instruction in a nonpublic school setting to those who are not their children. In those circumstances you do need to note that information on the form and still provide documentation. In a traditional homeschooling setting you do not need to provide this additional proof under the new law. For accredited homeschools, there are still some advantages. See below.

15. Is there still an advantage to having your homeschool accredited?

       Yes. Minnesota does have two accrediting agencies that provide accreditation for homeschools. If your homeschool is accredited you do not have to provide a standardized norm-referenced test and you are not under the same document maintenance obligations as other homeschools. The state assumes that so long as you are following the state approved accrediting agency’s requirements, you are exceeding the state requirements for testing and documentation. Thus, there is no need for additional regulation.

16. Is there still an advantage to maintaining my teacher's license or being supervised by a licensed teacher?

       Very little. The October 1 reporting requirements are exactly identical for the parent who maintains a teacher's license and the parent who has not graduated from high school. National statistics indicate that homeschool students from either circumstance still perform well above the national average. The only advantage for having a teaching license from a regulation perspective is in providing assessment in areas not covered by the standardized norm-referenced test. Minnesota law requires us to provide instruction in 10 specific areas and document assessment of all of those areas. They are listed in the statute as: reading/writing; literature; fine arts; mathematics; science; social studies of history, geography and government, health and physical education. If the particular norm-referenced test used does not cover one of these subjects you are required to maintain documentation that you provided assessment of those uncovered areas. For example, I’ve yet to see a nationally norm-referenced health test. Therefore, if you have a teacher’s license you do not have to maintain documentation that you provided assessments in this area. The only time that you would need to provide documentation of these assessments is in the rare case of a child protection matter.

17. Am I still required to provide immunization records?

       Yes. The only change from the new law is that we do not need to send in this information annually. You just need to make sure it's up to date when you initially file in Minnesota and when your child enters the 7th grade (age 12). Most school districts routinely send a copy of the Minnesota Department of Health’s Pupil Immunization Record to home educators. You may use that form or submit a photocopy of immunization history from your health provider. If you choose the conscientious exemption from immunizations, remember it must be signed and notarized. Section 7 in the MÂCHÉ Handbook provides further explanation.

18. If I move into Minnesota after my child is age 7 do I still need to provide them with immunization records?

       Yes. The law specifically states when you first start instructing your child in Minnesota you must provide the district with full up-to-date immunization records or file the conscientious exemption from immunizations. For example, if you move to Minnesota from another state when your child is 9, you will be required to fill out the “Initial Report to the Superintendent” and provide the immunization records.

19. What do I do when I need to update my immunization records when the child reaches age 12?

       Attach it to your "Letter of Intent to Continue Homeschooling". Simply note the need to update your immunization records on your annual continuation letter for your 12 year old and any new students you list that are now receiving instruction who are over age 7. Attach the updated information and you have met the legal requirements.

19. Do I still need to submit an academic calendar with my “Initial Report to the Superintendent” and note any changes to our calendar on the "Letter of Intent to Continue Homeschooling"?

       No. We easily were able to convince the Legislature that this requirement was rather silly given the nature of homeschooling. You are still required to maintain documentation of your "class schedule" but you no longer have to submit the "annual instruction calendar". These requirements are in two separate sections of the statutes. The annual calendar requirement was deleted in the new law. It was never clear what these two different statutory requirements meant, but because they were different sets of words they were assumed to mean different things. In the past we have interpreted the "annual instruction calendar" simply to mean you must disclose when your overall school year began and finished. A "class schedule” is more along the lines of when each of your students started and finished a particular subject. Therefore, you should still maintain your "class schedule" but you do not need to disclose it to the school district. It must be maintained only for the rare case of a possible child protection action and to assist in placement of your child if you intend get a diploma from the public school.

20. I understand that part of the compromise was to give up the ability for homeschoolers to obtain nonpublic pupil aid for textbooks. Is a nonpublic pupil aid now gone for homeschoolers?

       No. We did not have to give up the ability of homeschoolers to access the nonpublic pupil aid. You can go to the MÂCHÉ handbook to get more details on this program. MÂCHÉ does not encourage additional entanglement with school districts. Therefore, we discourage the use of the program but understand that it is valuable for some families.

21. How well educated can we expect our superintendents and school personnel to be on the new law?

       Not very well. When working with your school district be persistent but gracious. These provisions were only a small part of a major K-12 omnibus bill that was passed without much public oversight during the government shutdown. We are not aware that these provisions were talked about in any great length by the associations representing school officials and their members. School district officials are still trying to digest multiple major changes dealing with school policy and financing that are far more significant to their day-to-day operations than the homeschooling law. MÂCHÉ has already received reports of how school districts are interpreting the law which range the full spectrum from some districts not even knowing of the change to others even interpreting it to mean that you do not have to do any more reporting. MÂCHÉ encourages you to provide your districts with links to our instructions and forms. This may help them as they move towards the October 1 reporting date. As always if you have any problems feel free to contact MÂCHÉ or HSLDA and we will help with the education of your district.

 

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