Sunday, May 22, 2011

An open letter to state Schools Superintendent Jorea Marple

Dear Dr. Marple:

I am writing you regarding remarks you made to the Legislature regarding homeschool students in West Virginia. Your remarks were, to say the least, antagonistic. Those of us in the homeschool community question your motivation. Naturally, we are dismayed.

You’re investigating reducing onerous regulations and increasing flexibility for public schools in an effort to improve teaching and learning for those students. Certainly, you are to be commended for taking this common sense approach. The flexibility enjoyed by homeschoolers plays a significant role in why we are so successful. Given the numerous achievements of homeschoolers in West Virginia and the rest of the nation it is hard to imagine why you would even consider imposing additional burdens upon us.

One in four West Virginia high school students fails to graduate in four years, if ever. Reading scores of West Virginia’s eighth graders are lower than those of students in 41 other states. One in every three high school seniors cannot read at the “basic” level. Math scores are abysmal across the board. Is it any wonder more families are opting to educate their children at home?

This really ties in directly to what you told legislators is the reason you wish to implement further “oversight” on homeschooling families. Anecdotal evidence of county “officials” is not justification for intruding in our lives. It seems to me that parents of children who are “under-performing” in these failing institutions are wise to seek other options.

You have a lot on your plate, to be sure. Nearly 300,000 youngsters attend public schools in West Virginia and those students deserve better than they are getting. I suggest you focus all of your energy upon them. If, however, homeschool students are still a concern of yours, I suggest you take action to help these families succeed in their educational journey. Require school districts provide special education services to children who school at home. Allow our children to participate in extra-curricular activities. Invite our children to participate in clubs and athletics. You should order local districts to have requested textbooks available by September 1and provide accompanying consumables.

Perhaps these remarks by you were just an unfortunate misstep. Perhaps it’s just a misunderstanding or a miscommunication. It would be truly wonderful if the new superintendent of schools wanted to increase flexibility for the homeschool community instead of placing obstacles in our paths to educational excellence.

Stephanie E. Butcher

Butcher is homeschooling mother in Leon.

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