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Can Testing Be Required?

In Massachusetts, homeschoolers are fortunate to have flexibility when it comes to the form of evaluations we submit to our local districts.

While testing is preferred by some, many don’t want to use testing, and according to AHEM’s research, it’s not the most common form of evaluation used in Massachusetts.

Occasionally a school district will try to require homeschoolers to be tested, or circulate (but not enforce) a policy that says testing is required. In cases such as this, homeschoolers want to know, can testing be required?

The question of whether school officials can require testing of homeschoolers is not answered definitively in Massachusetts law.

Charles does state that “…the superintendent or school committee may properly require periodic standardized testing of the children to ensure educational progress and the attainment of minimum standards.” (Charles at 339, 340). However, the decision goes on to say, “Other means of evaluating the progress of the children may be substituted for the formal testing process, such as periodic progress reports or dated work samples, subject to the approval of the parents.” (Charles at 340).

It’s important to remember that testing was the chosen method of evaluation for the family involved in the Charles case. It’s likely that when the court stated that standardized testing may be required, it was addressing (and answering “yes” to) the larger question of whether evaluation in general could be required.

The fact that the court offers examples of other acceptable forms of evaluation, and stresses that they should be “subject to the approval of the parents,” indicates that the intent was not to allow schools the authority to dictate what type of evaluation families use. Rather, the intent is to allow parents to retain a choice in how their children are evaluated.

It’s unlikely that at this point a challenge on the requirement of standardized testing for homeschoolers would make it to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. If it did, what might happen?

Charles cautions superintendents and school committees that “…the approval of a home school proposal must not be conditioned on requirements that are not essential to the State interest…” in ensuring that all children are educated. (Charles at 337). Since a majority of districts in Massachusetts have long conducted homeschool oversight without testing, meeting the standard of “essential” in a court of law would be very difficult.

Given the fact that testing would likely not meet the standard of “essential,” and that requiring homeschoolers to be tested does not seem to be in line with the intent of Charles, homeschoolers who wish to stand their ground and say “no, thank you” to standardized testing are in a good position.

This legal summary was not drafted by practicing lawyers and is not intended to constitute official legal advice, but rather is presented by AHEM volunteers and is based on their reading and understanding of Massachusetts homeschooling requirements as they have followed those requirements throughout the years. Readers still need to make their own decision on how best to proceed.