THSC receives questions regularly from homeschool families about why they do not have access to extracurricular activities at the local school. After all, 35 other states allow homeschoolers this access, why not Texas?
The UIL Equal Access Bill currently being considered in the Texas legislature is designed to solve this problem.
The UIL Equal Access Bill allows homeschool students to qualify for UIL eligibility during the first six weeks of the school year by presenting an average or above score on any nationally normed assessment. After the first six weeks, the homeschool parent would simply provide written verification that the student is passing their grades.
So how does the testing requirement work and why is it necessary?
Eligibility standards applicable to public school students may not apply the same way to homeschool students because each student group is different. So how can there be uniform standards when various student groups have vastly different educational models?
Making the requirements identical is obviously a non-starter. Thus, the conversation comes down to how the requirements can be made fair.
First of all, for both public and homeschool students, the eligibility requirements during the first six weeks are different than the requirements after the first six weeks. Here is a breakdown of requirements under the UIL Equal Access bill.
UIL Eligibility During the First 6 Weeks of the School Year
During the first six weeks of the school year, UIL rules require public school students to demonstrate that they made proper grade advancement from the prior grade. Under Chapter 28 of the Education Code, public school students are required to take multiple STAAR tests as a criterion for achieving that grade advancement.
For homeschool students, it is obviously neither practical nor desirable for the student to take the STAAR as part of their UIL eligibility. The STAAR is a public school curriculum-based test. Furthermore, it is state controlled.
Making the eligibility requirements for homeschool students identical to public school requirements would be both nonsensical and intrusive. Requiring homeschool students to take the STAAR would be inapplicable to the student’s curriculum and it would put that portion of the student’s academics under state control.
Instead, the UIL Equal Access Bill allows a family seeking UIL eligibility to submit any average or above score from any nationally normed assessment of their choice to obtain eligibility. The assessment results would only be required once every other year.
This would allow the family the flexibility to pick the assessment that best matches their curriculum and is not controlled by the state. A few examples are the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, Stanford Achievement Test, California Achievement Test, or the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills.
The assessment can be taken from any provider and some nationally normed assessments can even be administered directly by the parent.
This approach accomplishes the goal of making the requirements fair between the student groups without the pitfalls that would come from trying to make the requirements identical.
2. Remedies for Students Who Fail the First Test
Public school students who fail the STAAR are required to take accelerated courses and have the remedial option of interviewing before a grade placement committee to obtain their grade advancement.
For a homeschool student who fails to achieve an average or above score on the first try, the student is allowed to retake the assessment or to pick any other nationally normed assessment instead.
3. Eligibility in Grades 10-12
In grades 10-12, the rules for public school UIL eligibility become even less desirable for homeschool students. Public school students are then required to complete a minimum number of course credits each year to maintain UIL eligibility.
The criteria for when those credits are awarded is determined by the local school district. However, making this requirement identical for homeschool students would subject the homeschool students entirely to the whims and bias of the school.
For homeschool students, rather than having eligibility rules vary by district and set by the local school, the UIL Equal Access Bill simply keeps the same nationally normed assessment requirement the homeschool students used for all previous grades.
4. UIL Eligibility After First 6 Weeks of the School Year
After the first six weeks of the school year, public school students retain UIL eligibility by maintaining a passing grade in each subject. For homeschool students, the parent simply provides written verification that the student is passing their grades.
Additionally, a homeschool student would only be allowed to participate at the local school the student is otherwise eligible to attend. The homeschool student must have been homeschooled for at least one prior semester before obtaining UIL eligibility.
Equal Access Opportunities Nothing New
Thankfully, Texas is not plowing new ground. Thirty-five other states have gone before us with equal access opportunities dating back nearly 50 years.
So would homeschool and public school students be participating on a level playing field, although there are significant differences between the educational models?
Because the models are different, the requirements for participation must be different. However, they can be fair. That’s what the UIL Equal Access Bill accomplishes.
If you agree with THSC that homeschoolers should be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities, please sign the UIL Equal Access Bill petition.
Thank you for your help in Keeping Texas Families Free!