Alternative Ed vs Homeschooling

There has been some confusion on the difference between homeschooling under the home-based instruction law and the public school alternative education program.  We have listed the differences in the chart below.

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Homeschooling Public School Alternative Education

What laws regulate the programs?

RCW 28A.200, the Home-Based Instruction Law

WAC 392-121-182, Public School Alternative Learning Experience Programs

Who has control and is accountable for the education of the child?

The parents have control on what, when, where, why, and how their children will learn. The parents are accountable.

Students are to be supervised, monitored, assessed, and evaluated by certificated staff, who will develop student learning plans. Students are to have weekly contact with certificated staff, who are required to provide monthly evaluations of student progress.

What about the curriculum?

Parents have complete control over curriculum content, level, presentation, etc. Parents provide their own curriculum.

ALE program requirements for curricula, course content, etc. will be provided by the district. Student Learning Plan must include connections with EALRs (Essential Academic Learning Requirements) and graduation requirements.

Is a faith-based curriculum OK?

Absolutely. All decisions relating to curriculum and philosophy or doctrine are the responsibility of the parent.

No. It is against the law for public schools to use or provide religious curriculum as part of an educational program.

What are the testing requirements?

There are two testing options:

  • Standardized achievement test
  • Non-test-based assessment – the results remain in the home.

Progress for full time students shall be assessed at least annually using the state assessment (WASL) for the student’s grade level and using any other annual assessments required by the school district.

What are the requirements for student progress?

It is the parents’ responsibility to see that the child’s progress is appropriate for their age or stage of development.

Each student enrolled shall have direct personal contact with certificated staff at least weekly. Direct personal contact shall be for the purposes of instruction, review of the student’s assignments, testing, and evaluation of student progress.

What are the record-keeping requirements?

Parents keep the health, testing and educational records of their child at home.

The district annually reports to OSPI:

  1. Student Learning Plans and documentation of weekly contact.
  2. Student evaluations and assessments.
  3. Student enrollment data.

What about Outcome-Based Education & Goals 2000?

Homeschooled students are exempt from Outcome-Based Education and Goals 2000.

The student’s Alternative Learning Plan must support the Outcome-Based Education goals and objectives.

What about Part-Time Enrollment?

Homeschooled students are allowed to access the public schools on a part-time basis.

Homeschooled students are legally allowed to access ALE programs on a part-time basis and retain their homeschooling status.

For the complete text of the current ALEP statute, go to:

Homeschooling vs. Public School Alternative Learning Experience Programs

Some public school Alternative Learning Experience programs (ALE’s) have the word “homeschool” in their title. How do I know if I’m homeschooling, or in a public school Alternative Learning Experience program? The Alternative Learning Experience Programs are modeled after one of the ways we legally qualify to homeschool, namely, by using a supervising teacher who meets with your child(ren) an average of one hour a week.

You are in a ALE program if: you registered your child for the program on school district forms; you are meeting in a public school building; school district personnel are supervising your child’s work and progress; you have access to district curriculum materials; your child has a Student Learning Plan (SLP); you keep records on hours spent on academic pursuit at home; your child is assessed by the school personnel; your child is expected to take the WASL; and records are being kept at the school on your child.

If the district is receiving full funding for your child, then you are in a full time enrollment ALE program. If you don’t know for sure, ask your district if they are receiving Full Time Enrollment (FTE) funding for your child.

When homeschoolers and ALE participants are aware of the rules regarding the implementation, operation and accountability of such programs, the confusion will no longer exist about whether an enrollee is a homeschooler or a public school student.

In 2005, legislation changed the rule which governed the operation of ALE programs. The complete text of this rule, or WAC (Washington Administrative Code) can be found at: WAC 392-121-182

Key Components of the Newly Revised ALE Code, WAC 392.121.182

WHO advocacy volunteers and others worked for years to guarantee the inclusion of two items in the new code: We are pleased to announce that both these items are addressed in the newly revised code:

1. Recognition of the part-time enrollment rights of homeschoolers in ALE programs: Part-time enrollment has always been guaranteed homeschoolers and private schoolers in public schools. It is specified in the law: RCW 28A.150.350 Part Time Students — Defined — Enrollment Authorized. Now part-time enrollment is authorized in the new ALP code:

“(1)(a) Individual courses of study for students who meet the definition for enrollment specified by WAC 392-121-106. Students may enroll part-time in alternative learning experiences. Such enrollment shall be subject to the provisions of RCW 28A.150.350 and chapter 392-134 WAC.”

2. “Full Disclosure”. Parents must be given the facts, in writing, explaining the difference between homeschooling and ALE enrollment. This information must be given prior to enrollment.

“(3) Alternative learning experience implementation standards: (e) A school district that provides one or more alternative learning experiences to a student shall provide the parent(s) or guardian of the student, prior to the student’s enrollment, with a description of the difference between home-based instruction pursuant to chapter 28A.200 RCW and the enrollment option selected by the student. The parent or guardian shall sign documentation attesting to his or her understanding of the difference and the documentation shall be retained by the district and made available for audit.”

The newly adopted Alternative Learning Experiences code has been greatly expanded. It is comprised of nine sections:

  1. Alternative Learning Experience Requirements
  2. School district board policies for alternative learning experiences
  3. Alternative learning experience implementation standards
  4. Written student learning plan
  5. Enrollment reporting
  6. Accountability for student performance
  7. Program evaluation
  8. Annual reporting
  9. Documentation

What Concerns WHO about Public School

Alternative Learning Experience Programs (ALEPs)

  1. These Alternative Learning programs are being targeted almost exclusively at homeschoolers. In some districts public school students are not eligible to participate. Why homeschoolers are targeted populations? Because each student recruited from homeschooling to a public alternative learning program brings with them Full-Time Equivalency (FTE—money paid to the school district from the state for each student enrolled within that district.) Because homeschool parents already know how to teach their children and will not require supervision or training from the district in order to adequately participate in their ALEP. Because homeschooled students tend to be independent and motivated learners who score well on tests, a bonus for any public school program.
  2. Not all school districts have been honest and straightforward with experienced homeschool parents about the public school nature of their programs. They are not clear about the accompanying controls and regulations, such as records keeping and testing requirements, the illegal use of religious curriculum, and the fact that these students are no longer legally “homeschooled students”, but are, in fact, public school students.
  3. Some school districts are deliberately misinforming parents, who are seeking information about homeschooling, as to their legal homeschooling options under the Washington Home-based Instruction Law and, instead, are misdirecting these families to the ALEPs as being their only “homeschooling” choice. These actions subsequently serve to bring funding from the state into the public school district and their programs while reducing the ranks of homeschoolers in Washington State.
  4. ALEP’s present to the public and governing bodies a more familiar, supervised, and regulated form of “homeschooling”. The eventual result could be a lobbying of the legislature by public education to amend or abolish the Washington Home-based Instruction Law and to absorb the homeschooling community into public education under the auspices of alternative education.

Information and Resources

The WHO Advocacy Committee’s reports on alternative education.

Revised Code of Washington (RCW) – the law Home-Based Instruction Law – RCW 28A.200 Private School Extension Programs – RCW 28A.195.010 Home-Based Instruction Parental Responsibilities – RCW 28A.225.010(4) Home-Based students not subject to Goals 2000, WASL or Essential Learning Requirements – RCW 28A.200.010 Goals 2000, WASL, Essential Learning Requirements, certificate of mastery – RCW 28A.630.885

Washington Administrative Code (WAC) – rules administering the law

Alternative Learning Experience – WAC 392-121-182

Alternative Education
Virtual/Online Schools
Part-Time Enrollment
Public Schools Marketing to Homeschoolers