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Ariz. Governor Signs Bill Loosening Home-Schooling Rules

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County superintendents in Arizona no longer have the authority to compel home-schooled students whom they feel are not making sufficient academic progress to attend public school, under a bill approved by the legislature.

The comprehensive home-schooling measure, signed into law last month by Gov. Fife Symington, requires home-schooled students only to pass a nationally normed, standardized achievement test every three years to maintain their status.

In addition, the law permits students to be given the evaluation to determine whether they are achieving academic goals by an independent party, such as a teacher or community-college instructor.

"It gives them more options for testing as well,'' noted Judy Richardson, an assistant superintendent who tracks legislation for the state education department.

The changes in the testing requirement are among several alterations approved with the support of home-schooling advocates.

Another significant provision of the legislation drops the previous requirement that parents who wish to teach their children at home pass the same basic-skills test that the state requires prospective public school teachers to pass before becoming certified.

While the changes do not set any precedents at the national level, they represent an important victory for home schoolers in Arizona, according to advocates.

"They were the only state that had testing for parents, and they knocked it out,'' said Michael Smith, the vice president of the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Association and the National Center for Home Education.

Dropping Superfluous Hoops

In striking down the testing provision, Ms. Richardson explained, lawmakers hoped to encourage parents who may have been teaching their children "underground,'' without notifying local authorities, to conform to state law.

"The home-schooling folks have been so successful in teaching their kids that we felt that a lot of the hoops we make them jump through were superfluous,'' noted Rep. Gary Richardson, the Republican sponsor of the measure.

The new law also requires home schoolers to sign an affidavit that they are conforming to the state's compulsory-schooling law, which applies to students between the ages of 8 and 16, and to teach children every day that public schools are in session.

Mr. Smith noted that the success of the measure was due in part to lobbying efforts by home-schooling parents to "put a human face'' on their cause.

A less permissive measure was vetoed by Mr. Symington last year at the request of home schoolers, Mr. Richardson noted.

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