Last month you requested that our office provide an opinion on the status of home
schooling in Washington. The request was presented in the form of three queries, each
of which will be addressed in turn as follows:
(1) Whether a home schooling situation in Washington qualifies under section 202(d)(7)
of the Social Security Act as a school that provides elementary or secondary education
as determined under the laws of the State of Washington.
Brief answer Yes.
Discussion: The Social Security Act, section 202(d)(7)(C)(I) defines an elementary
or secondary school as a school which provides elementary or secondary education,
respectively, as determined under the law of the State or other jurisdiction in which
it is located. In Washington State, "home-based instruction" (the name by which home
schooling is referred) is codified by RCW 28A.225.010(4)(Attachment A).
(2) If the requirements in 20 C.F.R. 404.367(b) regarding scheduled attendance of
at least 20 hours per week and a course of study of 13 weeks are met by students enrolled
in home schooling situations in Washington .
Brief answer: If home-based instruction was performed in accordance with the requirements
of Washington state law, 20 C.F.R. 404.367(b) would be satisfied. However, whether
or not a student actually meets the criteria for proper home-based instruction in
Washington must be determined based upon the facts presented in each case.
Discussion: Pursuant to RCW 28A.225.010(4)(Attachment A), the number of hours of home-based
instruction must be equivalent to the total annual program hours per grade level established
for approved private schools under RCW 28A.195.010. This is no less than 180 school
days, or the equivalent in annual minimum program hour offerings as prescribed in
RCW 28A.150.220 (which provides for different minimums dependent upon the child's
grade level)(Appendix B). Thus, if the attendance criteria established by the State
of Washington for home based instruction is met, the minimum requirements established
in 20 C.F.R. 404.367 are also met.
(3) What requirements must be followed in home schooling situations; e.g., must specific
subjects be taught; are students tested; must parents seek written approval from the
school board; are there any specific attendance requirements or verification.
Brief Answer: The specific requirements for home based instruction in Washington State
are set forth in RCW Chapter 28A.200 and 28A.225.010 with cross reference to requirements
for public schools in RCW 28A.195.010.
Discussion: RCW 28A.225.010 (Attachment A) establishes that all parents (defined as
parent, guardian, or person having legal custody of the child) of any child ages eight
to eighteen shall cause such child to attend public school unless ... the child is
receiving home based instruction ... which consists of planned and supervised instructional
and related educational activities, including a curriculum and instruction in the
basic skills of occupational education, science, mathematics, language, social studies,
history, health, reading, writing, spelling and the development of an appreciation
of art and music. Such activities must be: (1) provided by a parent and supervised
by a certified person; or (2) provided by a parent who has earned forty-five college
level credit hours or its equivalent in semester hours or who has completed a course
in home based instruction; or (3) provided by a parent who is deemed sufficiently
qualified by the superintendent of the local school district. Further, RCW 28A.225.010(5)
states that: "The legislature recognizes that home-based instruction is less structured
and more experiential than the instruction normally provided in a classroom setting.
Therefore, the provisions of subsection (4) of this section relating to the nature
and quantity of instructional and related educational activities shall be liberally
RCW Chapter 28A.200 (Attachment C) outlines parents additional duties. A parent must
file a signed declaration of intent annually that he or she is planning to cause his
or her child to receive home based instruction. Parents must ensure that test scores
or annual academic progress assessments and immunization records, along with records
of instruction and educational activities are forwarded to any school a child may
transfer to. If a child wishes to enroll in a public or private school, the school
may require the child to take a standardized achievement test. Regardless, a standardized
achievement test approved by the state board of education is administered annually.
If there are any deficiencies noted, the parent is to make a good faith effort to
correct them. If not, then the child will be deemed as failing to attend school.
RCW 28A.200.020, however, provides that all decisions relating to philosophy or doctrine,
selection of books, teaching materials and curriculum, and methods, timing, and place
in the provision or evaluation of home based instruction shall be the responsibility
of the parent, unless specified in RCW 28A.200.020.