District of Columbia

Summary: The District Code of Municipal Regulations governs homeschooling. Parents must provide annual notice to the Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE). Parents providing instruction must have a high school diploma or its equivalent (or obtain a waiver based on evidence of competency), provide “thorough, regular instruction of sufficient duration,” maintain a portfolio of their children’s work, and make that portfolio available should the OSSE request to review it. While there is a remediation process should the OSSE determine upon review of a student’s portfolio that “thorough, regular instruction” is not being provided, the OSSE is not required to conduct regular reviews of all portfolios.

Homeschool Statute

Chapter 52 of the District Code of Municipal Regulations governs homeschooling. This chapter was enacted “to establish procedures for home schooling” and “to ensure that children participating in a home schooling program receive thorough, regular education that will enable them to function as productive members of society in the 21st century” and defines homeschooling as “an education program conducted, in compliance with this chapter, by the parent or legal guardian.” See District Code of Municipal Regulations Chapter 52. References to “private instruction” in the District of Columbia Official Code, under which homeschooling previously operated, were not repealed, leaving a dual set of requirements. District of Columbia Code Annotated § 38-202, § 38-203, and § 38-205.

Notification: Parents must provide written notification to the OSSE 15 business days prior to beginning home instruction on a form developed by that office. For each subsequent year, parents must provide written notification by August 15. Parents must also provide written notice 15 business days before discontinuing homeschooling. See DCMR 5202 and 5203. The official code requires parents to report the name, sex, address, and date of birth of each child being withdrawn for private instruction. See D.C. Code Ann. § 38-205.
Qualifications: Parents providing instruction must have a high school diploma or its equivalent. A parent who does not meet this requirement “may petition the OSSE for a waiver” and “must provide evidence” of the “ability to provide thorough, regular education.” See DCMR 5207.
Days or hours: Instruction must be “of sufficient duration to implement the home school program.” See DCMR 5204. The official code states that private instruction must take place “during the period of each year when the public schools of the District are in session.” See D.C. Code Ann. § 38-202.
Subjects: Each student’s homeschool program must “provide thorough, regular instruction of sufficient duration to implement the home school program” and “provide instruction that includes, but need not be limited to, language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, art, music, health, and physical education.”  Homeschooling parents need not use the programs or methods of the public schools or adhere to any specific curricular framework or any other program of instruction adopted by the public schools. See DCMR 5204.
Bookkeeping: Parents must maintain a portfolio of home schooling materials for each child which includes evidence of the child’s current work, such as examples of the child’s writings, worksheets, workbooks, creative materials, assessments, or any other materials that demonstrate that the child is engaged in thorough, regular educational activities in a range of subjects.” This portfolio “should be maintained for at least one year and made available for review by the OSSE upon written request.” See DCMR 5205. The official code requires each individual providing private instruction to keep “an accurate daily record of the attendance” of all students receiving instruction. This record must be open for inspection. See D.C. Code Ann. § 38-203.
Assessment: Up to twice a year, the OSSE may request in writing to review a student’s portfolio “at a time and place mutually agreeable” to the the official representative and the parent. The purpose of the review is “to ensure that the child is receiving thorough, regular home schooling instruction, consistent with this chapter.” However, “a regular periodic review of all portfolios” is not required by law. See DCMR 5206.
Intervention: If the OSSE determines, upon review of a portfolio, that a “thorough, regular education” is not being provided, it shall provide the parents with a Notification of Deficiencies. The parents must then provide the OSSE with a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) that includes “evidence that each deficiency has been or is being corrected.” The OSSE shall notify the parents of the acceptance of the CAP or of the need for further modification. Throughout this entire process, the parent may request a meeting with the OSSE to discuss the deficiencies or the OSSE’s response to the CAP. Should the CAP fail to correct deficiencies, the OSSE shall issue a Letter of Non-Compliance. The parent may appeal to the State Superintendent of Education, and then to judicial review. See DCMR 5208.
Other: “Student records, documents, correspondence, and other materials received in accordance with the provisions of this chapter shall be reviewed pursuant to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, 20 U.S.C. §1232g; the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 34 CFR Part 99, and any other applicable District or federal confidentiality laws or regulations.” See DCMR 5200.2.

Services Available to Homeschooled Students

Part-time enrollment: Yes, at the district’s discretion.
Extracurriculars: Yes, at the district’s discretion.
Special needs: No.
Other: “A child receiving home schooling may participate free of charge in the regularly scheduled standardized testing programs that are administered in the public school the child is eligible to attend.” See DCMR 5209. “Upon application of a child to enroll in a District of Columbia public school from a home schooling program, placement of the child and any credits to be awarded toward high school graduation shall be determined by evaluation. The evaluation may include administration of standardized tests, other examinations, and interviews with the child.” See DCMR 5210.

Background:

Until 1991, the District of Columbia required unannounced home visits and teacher certification. In 2008, after a horrific quadruple murder in a homeschooling family, the District of Columbia enacted Chapter 52, which created new oversight of homeschooling. This oversight falls under the authority of the Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE).

References to “private instruction” in the District of Columbia Official Code, under which homeschooling previously operated, were not repealed, leaving a dual set of requirements. District of Columbia Code Annotated § 38-202§ 38-203, and § 38-205. Some homeschool groups have suggested that homeschooling under the previous law is still permissible, but the OSSE does not share that view.

Resources:

District Code of Municipal Regulations Chapter 52

District of Columbia Homeschooling Program, Office of the State Superintendent of Education

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Home Schooling, Office of the State Superintendent of Education

Notification of Intent to Home School, District of Columbia Public Schools

District of Columbia, International Center for Home Education Research

This overview is for informational purposes only and does not constitute the giving of legal advice.

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