Instruction Time & Subject Requirements
█ States with academic assessments to provide accountability.
█ States that have required subjects but no accountability.
█ States that allow parents to homeschool without subject requirements or assessments.
(1) Six states—Georgia, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Washington—have assessment requirements but either do not require parents to turn in the results or have no minimum score. Because the assessment category above includes only those states that provide accountability through their assessments, these states are not included in that category.
(2) Five states—Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Tennessee, and Virginia—include subject or assessment requirements in their home education statutes, but also allow parents to homeschool through legal options that lack these requirements. Because these states allow parents to homeschool without subject requirements or assessments, they are included in that category above.
(3) Three additional states—Colorado, North Dakota, and Ohio—offer means to avoid state assessments, but are included in the assessment category above because these means apply to comparatively few cases.
(4) Three states—Hawaii, Oregon, and West Virginia—have no subject requirements or mandated instruction time but do require students to be assessed and show some level of academic achievement. These states are included in the assessment category above. All other states with assessment requirements have either mandated subjects or assessment time requirements or both.
(5) Two states—Colorado and Oregon—require students to score at or above the 13th or 15th percentile overall, and thus fail to ensure that students receive instruction in each subject area. Several additional states also evaluate overall performance rather than subject area, but their thresholds are higher (Ohio, 25th percentile; North Dakota, 30th percentile; New York, 33rd percentile; West Virginia, 50th percentile).
Instruction Time & Subject Requirements Quick Facts
What do states’ subject and instruction time requirements look like?
Some states require homeschooling parents to provide instruction in a list of subjects while others require them to provide instruction in the same subjects required in public schools or to provide “equivalent instruction” to that provided in public schools. Still other states do not have subject requirements. Similarly, some states require parents to provide a set number of days or hours of instruction while other states set no requirements regarding instruction time.
What are the limitations of current subject and instruction time requirements?
Many states have instruction time requirements but do not specify what the required instruction must cover. In these states, parents may be able to legally fulfill the instruction time requirements by providing instruction in some subject areas while neglecting others completely. Similarly, many states require parents to provide instruction in a list of required subjects but do not stipulate the level of this instruction. In these states, parents may be able to legally fulfill the subject requirements by providing a 9th grade student with 2nd grade instruction.
How can we fix these problems?
Some states require instruction to be sequentially progressive, at students’ developmental level, or commensurate with students’ ability. Provided that homeschooling’s flexibility is preserved, these sorts of requirements would go a long way toward fixing current problems. However, even the most effectively worded subject requirements will not replace the need for an assessment mechanism.
Every state has at least some requirements, right?
Well, not exactly. Consider the following:
- Six states—Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Mississippi, Utah, and Virginia—allow parents to homeschool with no mandated subjects or instruction time requirements and no assessment mechanism. In these states, homeschooling parents may not be legally required to provide their children with an education.
- Four states—Kansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Oklahoma—require parents to operate for a certain “term” or to provide a number of hours or days of instruction, but do not stipulate in which subjects this instruction must be provided.
- Four states—Alabama, Florida, Maryland, and Tennessee—allow parents to homeschool through private “umbrella” schools that are exempt from state subject requirements. While these schools’ requirements vary, many make no requirements beyond the state minimum.
This means that in fourteen states, parents may homeschool without being legally required to provide instruction in any given subject. In addition, neither South Dakota nor Texas include science in their list of required subjects for homeschooled students.
Our Policy Recommendations
- Parents should be required to provide instruction in the same subjects as public schools.
- Parents should not be required to use the same textbooks or methods as public schools.
- Students should not be required to be at grade level in each subject; rather, student learning should show progress commensurate with their ability.
We recommend requiring parents to provide instruction (or facilitate learning) in the same range of subjects (e.g. English, math, science, history, etc.) taught in public schools in the state in which they live. This provision is currently in place in states such as California and North Dakota. We recommend requiring this instruction to be sequential and commensurate with students’ ability, as is required in states like Wisconsin and Florida. Because homeschooling allows for positive flexibility and child-led learning, we oppose requiring students to be at grade level in each subject. We recommend clear requirements regarding what instruction must be provided (or what learning must be facilitated) at the high school level (e.g. biology, chemistry, algebra, etc.). We recognize that homeschoolers may take a nontraditional approach to fulfilling certain requirements, and therefore recommend that oversight be more concerned with learning taking place in each subject area than with how that learning is imparted.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will subject requirements force parents to follow the public school’s curriculum?
No. We support subject requirements that require parents to provide instruction in the same subjects taught in public school—math, science, English, etc.—but we are opposed to requiring parents to use the same textbooks or follow the same educational schedule as public schools. We believe that student learning is more important than what curriculum or instructional methods are used.