Friday, March 23, 2007

For Homeschoolers - The Myth Of Equivalent Instruction


This post is an excerpt of the article originally written by NHELD.

Many states use the term “equivalent instruction” in their education statutes especially as it applies to homeschooling.

Did you ever think to ask why? Equivalent instruction is a myth. There is no such thing and there can be no such thing. Even if it were possible to reach the goal of equivalent instruction, why would parents who instruct their own children according to their individual needs, want or be required to instruct in a manner with methods and materials that are “equivalent” to the public school system when the public/government school system has proven in many ways to be such a dismal failure? Why should parents be compelled to abandon a superior method of individualized education in favor of a mediocre method of proven failure? Isn’t it time that parents stop engaging in the argument about what laws are best to assure equivalent instruction and start engaging in efforts to eliminate from all laws any reference at all to “equivalent instruction”?

What does Equivalent Instruction mean?
Some states have statutes which say something like this:
"Equivalent Instruction" shall mean a program of instruction approved under the requirements of the compulsory attendance law as an equivalent to attendance at a public school or an approved private school.
Equivalent instruction is an idea that is very difficult to prove or to emulate even within a public school system from district to district, from school to school, from class to class. How, then, can homeschooling parents be held to employ “equivalent instruction” when the very government imposing that rule cannot define it?

For example, Even if you say one should teach math as a subject ... equivalency, in that instance, means nothing – as there are many subjects in math. Any one school may be teaching math in a very different and unequivalent way than another, even within the very same school district! But even if you pick a specific subject like multiplication, that can also be taught numerous ways.

If one school teaches Miquon Math and another teaches algebraic concepts, is that equivalent instruction? Both schools are teaching “math”, but yet the content is in no way equivalent, so how can that subject being taught by those two schools be equivalent? Even if they are teaching the same information, the way it is delivered may also not be equivalent. If one school uses Saxon and another uses Scott Foresman texts, are they still providing equivalent instruction? So how can instruction be equivalent? Perhaps the outcome can be deemed equivalent: you either learned how to multiply or you didn’t.

How can anyone buy into the whole “equivalency argument” especially when in any given local school system, where supposedly they are all teaching the same things, the curriculum, materials, and methods are really unequivalent from school to school and class to class?

In Connecticut, there was a major lawsuit brought against the State Department of Education. In 1989, lawyers for an interracial group of urban and suburban children brought suit against the state. In that case, Sheff v. O'Neill, they argued that racial segregation in the Hartford region violated their state constitutional guarantee of the provision of an equal education. The courts agreed and ordered the General Assembly to create plans for achieving equal educational opportunity. This case was not only about desegregation, but about making equal education opportunities available to all students everywhere. Although the plaintiffs won, and the State was charged with making changes to remedy “unequivalent” education, to date little has really been achieved. Civil rights groups were back in court to again to sue the state in 2004 after concluding it hadn't met a chief goal of a 2003 settlement resulting from the landmark case -- integrating Hartford's public magnet schools. Many magnet schools and charter schools have been designed to be more inclusive and diverse, but one will clearly still get a much different education in Bridgeport (an urban area) than in Simsbury (a suburban area). The problem is not a lack of funding; it is the absurdity of the notion that every school can offer the same education to all children.

So what does this particular public school squabble have to do with homeschoolers? Well, here, again, is the whole notion of equivalency. If the public schools can not even get themselves to have equivalent instruction throughout their state districts and even within some districts, then how can homeschoolers be held to the task of meeting “equivalency”?

If the government is trying to hold parents to a standard of “equivalent instruction”, ask yourself, can the government even define the standard to which they are trying to compel you to meet? Chances are they cannot. What, then, is the result? The result is to leave it up to the “discretion” of the public school official in charge of overseeing the “equivalent instruction.” We know what the results of that is – arbitrariness, inequality, and, all too often, abuse of authority.

If there were such a thing as equivalent instruction there would be one textbook company, one method of delivering information, and one curriculum for all. Perhaps that may exist in a Communist regime, but for the time being it does not exist in a free society such as ours.

Education cannot be homogenized and made into a one size fits all or one product that can be consumed by all. Education must be unequivalent to meet the needs of each child, and how they learn. In reality, education even within the public school system already is and will continue to be unequivalent. Don’t be fooled into thinking otherwise.

Additionally, why should homeschooling parents who already are providing a superior and individualized education to their children bow to the pressures of those who have so miserably failed in operating the public/government school system and succumb to providing “equivalent instruction”?

The education the public/government school purveyors provide should not be emulated. It should be eradicated. Public/government school purveyors can see the success of parental instruction. They see the numbers of parents who are instructing their children continue to grow. They see an ever-increasing threat to their existence. They see that parents with no formal teaching credentials are raising and educating children in a far better manner than people who claim expertise in the field of education. This is precisely why organizations like the National Education Association and their affiliates are so squarely opposed to homeschooling. They need to maintain control over parents to stem the tide of a mass exodus from the public schools. They seek to maintain this control by manipulating the minds of parents and of government leaders. The public/government school purveyors have been successful so far at this. They have succeeded in convincing government leaders into adopting laws that require parents to show “equivalent instruction”. For the most part, they have succeeded in convincing parents that their argument about “equivalent instruction” is a valid one. Parents have fought the adoption of laws requiring “equivalent instruction”, but have not fought the basic premise behind the laws. The premise is false. Public/Government school instruction is not superior. Public/Government school instruction is far inferior to that individualized flexible instruction a parent is able to provide. Why, then, should parents who are providing superior instruction be compelled to forsake the superior instruction in order to provide the inferior “equivalent instruction” of a public school?

If your state law requires you to show “equivalent instruction”, work as hard as you can to get it changed. Tell your legislators that you don’t want to be forced to provide inferior instruction to your child. Let them know that the concept of “equivalent education” is a myth.