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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

HB 1160: Committee Requires Home Schoolers Score Four Points Higher on ACT than Regular Students

The South Dakota Legislature doesn't want to cough up the money to adequately fund K-12 education... but they balk even more at giving scholarships to kids who seek alternatives the public school system. The Senate Education Committee today approved HB 1160, to extend the state's Opportunity Scholarship to qualified home schoolers and other students in alternative settings. However, they increased the qualifying ACT score from 26 to 28.

Remember: students normally need only a 24 on the ACT to qualify for the Opportunity Scholarship. I think I heard Russ Olson brag once that he probably couldn't have qualified by that standard... but he voted to make home schoolers score 4 points higher than their public school counterparts to receive the same scholarship to keep their talents here in South Dakota. I think Russ may just be envious.

Or consider it this way: a public school student has to score in the top 25% of ACT test-takers to get this scholarship. Home school students would have to score in the top 8%.

Senator Olson and his colleagues are saying a homeschooler in the 90th percentile isn't worth trying to keep in South Dakota, but another student in the 75th percentile is... just because that lower-achieving student sat in a desk longer.

I'm starting to feel a little underappreciated for the effort we're going to put into homeschooling our little one. It sounds as if a lot of our legislators just don't believe their own rhetoric about supporting alternatives to public school or school choice in general.


  1. Not just any public school student can qualify for the scholarship with an ACT score of 24. The concern brought up in hearing was that a homeschooled student might qualify automatically by scoring 26, while a public school student with the same ACT score would only be eligible if s/he also fulfilled the course and grade requirements.

    The solution was to establish 28 as an automatically qualifying score for all students, with the lower threshold of 24 reserved for those who had the officially recognized credits. It's not perfect for those homechooled students who score in between while having their own curriculum in order, but it's certainly an improvement on the current status of the Opportunity Scholarship, and well worth passing. It's now only a matter of the details of the thresholds, not of total exclusion of groups.

    — Zack Truelson

  2. Home schooled students nationally score about 1.7 points higher on average with the ACT than public schoolers. The committee must be trying to compensate to prevent a proportional imbalance. If the concern was really for the course and grade requirements public school students take then the solution would be validating the home schooled students had learned the equivalent - which the state should already be doing - instead of creating an unearned advantage out of thin air for public school students.

  3. Cory, you ought to know by now that those who "forsake the throng" must operate against the very fiber of society.

    'T has alvays bean thus ...

    So spite 'em. Let your daugher score 34. Then send her to Oxford or Cambridge!

  4. 34 is aiming low, Stan. ;-)

    Roger, if the state is trying to create some proprotional balance, then it's dumb. The goal of the Opportunity Scholarship is to keep as many high-achieving students in South Dakota as possible. Why would we want to exclude a certain number of high-achieving students and replace them with public-school underachievers?

    Zack, thanks for pointing out that the 28 is a standard for all students who don't take the required Regents curriculum. I'll agree it's an improvement. However, the question remains: what do we really value? Do we want actual achievement, or do we just want people who can prove their endurance by sitting in certain chairs, jumping through certain hoops, and coasting through school with C's?


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