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New Term for Independent Study Programs

Independent Study Programs Renamed

By Debbie Schwarzer Co-Chair HSC Legal Team

This notice is both for families who enroll in private school independent study programs and for people who operate private school independent study programs. It is being announced more or less simultaneously with announcements from CHN, CHEA and HSLDA.

Debbie Schwarzer Co-Chair HSC Legal Team

The phrase Independent Study Program (ISP), when used by those in the private homeschool community, has applied to situations where one school files a single private school affidavit (PSA) for multiple homeschooling families whose children are enrolled in their school. Some programs characterized as ISPs are part of a private school campus-based school, some are operated as a business catering to homeschoolers, and others are composed entirely of homeschoolers. In almost all of these situations, the persons actually teaching the children enrolled in the school are the parents or guardians of the children, with varying degrees of assistance or supervision from the school.

The recent homeschooling case in Los Angeles has called into question the wisdom of using the ISP term. For reasons explained more fully below, the Christian Home Educators Association of California (CHEA), California Home School Network (CHN), HomeSchool Association of California (HSC), Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), and Private and Home Educators of California (part of FPM) are jointly making the following recommendations regarding the termination of the use of the term independent study programs in the future.

    1. We are recommending that the private homeschool community at large, and the leaders of private independent study programs in particular, make a change from using the descriptive phrase private school independent study program (and its variants – e.g. ISP, Private ISP, etc.), and instead use the phrase Private School Satellite Program (PSP, with the second S purposely eliminated for simplicity). This will make it clear that these private homeschool programs, in which the students’ education is provided by or under the direction of their parents, are different from public school ISPs, in which there is an assigned credentialed teacher who directs the students’ education while the parents are teachers’ aides.

If a school has the words independent study program as part of its name, we would recommend that the name be changed to eliminate that reference. We are not saying that schools offering this type of program need to incorporate the words satellite program as part of their official name, and we leave the selection of the new name to the schools. We do think, though, that it would be prudent to discontinue the use of the ISPterm. We understand that this creates some hardship and inconvenience for some schools, and assure you that we are not making this recommendation lightly.

    1. We also recommend that the administrator of each Private School Satellite Program (formerly ISP) include in their count of teachers on their annual private school affidavit at least one parent or guardian from each family in their Satellite Program (PSP), so that the number of reported teachers more correctly reflects the actual student-teacher ratio.

In concert with our recommendation #2 above, we want to remind every Private School Satellite Program administrator to continue to require a record of educational qualification of each [teacher] to be maintained at the address specified by the private school on the PSA (see Ed Code 33190(f)(3). The PSA does not ask for the names of teachers, and we do not recommend that any teacher names be given voluntarily.

This change in terminology DOES NOT affect parents who file an affidavit (PSA) for their own private school where they teach their own children, but will affect the remainder of homeschoolers in private school programs to varying degrees. Families who are enrolled in programs that we would now call PSPs do not need to do anything other than confirm with their schools that they are aware of these recommendations. If any school is not aware of them, please feel free to give them a copy of this message and ask them to contact one of the organizations listed above for further information if it is needed.

We are recommending this change because of certain developments in the homeschooling case pending before the California Court of Appeal in Los Angeles. You may wonder why we feel action is needed even though a new, final decision has not yet been issued. In its brief prepared for the June rehearing, the California Department of Education (CDE) expressed their official position on homeschooling, which calls into question the wisdom of continuing to use the term ISP to describe multi-family homeschool programs. It’s the CDE’s position that the only valid independent study programs are those public school home study programs that comply with very specific statutory requirements as outlined in the Education Code. We believe they were confused by the ISP name; in order to eliminate that confusion, we’re making these recommendations. We would like to note, however, that they did concede that one family can legally operate a private school in their home.

We believe that the term Private School Satellite Program accurately describes the operation of a private school that files an affidavit and serves multiple families, whether it be a private campus-based school with a home study option, a school operated as a business exclusively serving homeschoolers, or a private school composed entirely of homeschool families. In each case, the enrolled family’s home is a satellite location of the private school with the parents or guardians operating as the teachers of the children in their homes. We evaluated many different possible terms, researched whether those terms are used in California state laws or the education laws of other states, and determined after lengthy debate that Private School Satellite Program both did a good job of describing the situation and avoided any confusion with terms already used in state statutes or regulations.

Debbie Schwarzer Co-Chair HSC Legal Team


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