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    WyCAS Testing Yes or No?
The following articles appeared in the Thermopolis Independent Record.  They are opinions on testing homeschoolers in Wyoming.  The first opinion was written by the editor, who brought up the subject of testing all students.  A letter was printed in response to the editor's opinion followed by an answer.

Home School Legal Defense will be addressing this dialogue at the State Convention this spring.  They have encouraged homeschoolers - even outside Thermopolis - to write a response or make a phone call.

Independent Record
431 Broadway
Thermopolis, WY 82443
307-864-2328

    Test All Students
Thermopolis Independent Record, March 23, 2000

Our state government has answered the cry for more information about how Wyoming youngsters are doing in public school.  For the second year, students in grades five, eight and 11 are taking the WyCAS tests to measure how much they are learning in some of the key subjects.

The tests come from outside the state but are based on learning goals set after extensive meetings and research across our state.  The tests aren't perfect, but then none are.

Most importantly, the results by school are released for everyone to see.  We don't see how individual students did, only the averages, highs and lows by school.  The results must be taken with a grain of salt, especially for the first few years while we develop a basis for comparison.  However, there is good, solid information in the results which will allow local school districts to spot some of the weaknesses and work on finding a way to help students in those areas.  All youngsters in public schools, including those with learning disabilities, must take the tests.

But there is a major weakness with the Wyoming testing system.  Students who are being taught at home or in private schools are not being required to take it.  If we really care about all the children of Wyoming, we must find a way to encourage or even force every youngster to take the test.  Those who support private or home school education should be willing to show just how well their children are doing; after all that group includes some of the people who have been most critical of public education.

It would also go a long way toward helping solve another problem in Wyoming.  Some children are not going to school at all.  We are letting them withdraw from public school, then not making certain those children are getting the education they will need to cope in a modern world.  While there may not be many, even one youngster not being offered the opportunity to excel is a blot on the record of a generation which had parents and grandparents who found a way to develop a mandatory education system which catapulted American into its role as the nation which is leading the world.

-Pat Schmidt

 
    Notion is repugnant to American tradition
Thermopolis Independent Record, March 29, 2000

Not everyone finds it possible, or even considers education their own children at home.  For this reason we are grateful to public and private schools for filling in for parents.

The logic expressed in the recent editorial suggesting that home schoolers should be tested just like public school students is missing.  The purpose of the statewide testing of public schools in Wyoming is not to assess how each individual student is doing, but to compare school district to school district to see how they are doing.

Obviously, the students are being tested frequently over the materials that they are being taught in the classroom, which is an accurate reflection of how much the individual student is learning.  The statewide testing in many cases will not be an accurate representation of how an individual student is doing in school.

The purpose of the test is to compare one public school to another and the overall performance of public schools in educating students.  Those purposes do not support mandatory testing of home school students.  Since there is no logical purpose for comparing one home school to another (the student population is too small in each school for valid comparison), the only logical basis for testing home school students is to find out how homeschoolers, in general, do.

That information is already available.  There have been numerous studies testing home schoolers across the nation on how well they do.  Their test scores exceed the national norm, which is the 50th percentile, by at least 20 percentile points.  Home schooling has already demonstrated that it is a superior method of education pupils.  The comparison between how well home school students and public school students do is really unfair.

Educators tell us that the three basic foundational blocks for a successful education program are low pupil to teacher ratio, individualized instruction and a strong nurturing, disciplined environment for learning.  home schooling majors on these three building blocks, which largely explains why home school students test far above the average students' test scores.

The editorial states that testing would make sure that those withdrawing from public school would get the education they need to cope in a modern world, and even if only one youngster benefited from mandatory testing for home schoolers, it would be all worth it.  The U.S. Supreme Court has indicated that this kind of thinking is repugnant to the American tradition.  In the case of Parham vs J.R., 442 U.S. 548 (1979), Chief Justice Burger wrote that parents can be trusted with the upbringing and education of their children.

The statist notion that governmental powers should supercede parental authority in all cases because some parents abuse and neglect their children is repugnant to the American tradition.

there is no evidence in Wyoming that home school children's education is being neglected.  To the contrary, they are required to file an annual notice with the local school district and provide the curriculum that they will be providing.  To saddle Wyoming home schooler with mandatory testing because of the suspicion that at least one youngster might be saved, in un-American and shows extreme distrust of parents.

This type of thinking is statist.  the notion that we cannot trust parents because a few are not responsible must be rejected in our nation and in the State of Wyoming.

We consider it a great responsibility and privilege to raise, train, educate and enjoy our children.  How we prepare our children for life should be our choice, not the government's.

If you would like test scores and other proofs that home schooling does work, write to: 

National Home Education Research Institute
P.O. Box 1393
Cottage St. N.E.
Salem, OR 97309

Or call 503-364-1490.  Ask for a reprint of "Home Education Across the United States."  Cost $2.  Or visit their web site at www.nheri.org for fact sheets.

-Dennis and Libby Meier

 
    Tests
Thermopolis Independent Record, April 6, 2000

Despite a letter (and one other contact) to the contrary, there was nothing in our editorial on making all the children of Wyoming take the WyCAS test that criticized educating children in private or home schools.  What was criticized was the fact we have some children who are sliding through the cracks with little or no schooling.  While some people would have you believe otherwise, there is no law which local or state school officials (or law enforcement) officials can use to make certain every youngster is getting an education.  There is merely a procedure which orders reporting home school students to local districts; it has no teeth.  The editorial also asked why home and private school students should not be treated the same as public school students and take the same test.  Please don't cite out-of-state studies as proof that all private or home school education is better; instead prove it by supporting laws which would allow giving the same tests to all Wyoming children.  The claims against such testing sound almost identical to those of people in public education who opposed testing; yet those fears are being ignored and testing has gone ahead.  Our children are our future.  Call it "statism" if you must, but there is nothing wrong with using statewide testing to make certain every Wyoming youngster receives at least a minimum education.

-Pat Schmidt