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:
- Alternative Learning Experience Requirements
- School district board policies for alternative learning experiences
- Alternative learning experience implementation standards
- Written student learning plan
- Enrollment reporting
- Accountability for student performance
- Program evaluation
- Annual reporting
What Concerns WHO about Public School
Alternative Learning Experience Programs (ALEPs)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
Public Schools Marketing to Homeschoolers