HEF Newsletter December 2010

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The Home Education Foundation Newsletter

Home Educators' Voice At The Capitol - Florida
Providing information and insights to Florida Home Educators Back Home For School 2010
In This Issue

Ask Brenda

Distance Learning at Florida Colleges and Universities

New Florida Math Standards Introduce Algebra Concepts in Middle School

Voter Results

HEF at Work for You!

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Learning At Home

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Brenda Dickinson

Ask Brenda

Can a home education student be enrolled in the school district to receive free books for dual enrollment and still participate in extracurricular activities at a private school?

No. Home education students who register or enroll through a school district for dual enrollment in a college/university in order to receive free books is only eligible to participate in athletics at his/her zoned public school. A home education student cannot be enrolled in a public school in order to receive free dual enrollment books and participate in the interscholastic activity program at a private school. See the Letter on the HEF website specifically related to Alachua School District and Santa Fe College for further detail http://www.flhef.org/faqs/7-hef-frequently-asked-questions-/128-fshaa-and-dual-enrollment

If you have a home education question you would like Brenda to answer in a future issue, please submit it to www.flhef.org/contact-us.

Distance Learning at Florida Colleges and Universities

Editor's Note: HEF asked Kathy Mears to share her non-traditional pathway to earning a college degree. Kathy Mears initially came to Tallahassee to work under Rep. Daniel Webster when he was the Speaker of the Florida House in 1996. Mears was the chief legislative aide to Florida Senator Daniel Webster from 2000 to 2004. She has also served as communication director for two Florida Senate Presidents and a Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor. HEF is pleased to share her experience and pathway with our readers.

The Florida Community College and State University System offer a wide array of independent study and distance learning options for students seeking a higher education degree. With a little research and careful planning, some students have been able to earn a college education without ever stepping foot on campus. “Such a degree is not easy to obtain,” Kathy Mears explains. “It takes a considerable amount of effort, discipline, and drive to succeed using this non-traditional path. However, the ability to tailor a college education plan to a student’s specific needs and goals can make distance learning an attractive option for students of all ages.”

Before entering a higher education institution, students may want to consider the College Level Examination Program (CLEP). Most Florida schools will award college level course credits for the successful passage of CLEP exams. These are 90 minute multiple choice tests that cost $77.00. Depending on the individual college’s policy, each passing score on a CLEP test can translate into 3-12 college credits. General information about CLEP tests including how to prepare, how to sign up, and where to take the exams can be found at the College Board website www.collegeboard.com

It is important to note that the State of Florida has a statutory writing requirement for most core courses known as the “Gordon Writing Rule.” In order to comply with the law, students will need to create a writing contract with an instructor at a college or university. This can be done after the completion of the CLEP exams. Students should refer to the school’s general bulletin for policies and work with a college counselor to ensure that they can meet the state requirements for full credit.

Alternative Credit Programs
There are a variety of other courses and exams that will count toward college credits. For example, Tallahassee Community College has an entire section of their course catalog that outlines alternative credit programs accepted by the school. Community colleges tend to provide more non-traditional credit opportunities for students than state universities. Florida has a nationally recognized matriculation system between the community colleges and state universities, therefore starting at a community college can be a great way to begin the process.

Distance Learning Degrees
There are hundreds of courses delivered through distance learning in Florida; some public universities offer complete Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees through distance learning. There is no distinction between a diploma earned via distance learning and a diploma earned on campus. In fact, students will be able to participate in graduation ceremonies just like all other degree recipients. Students wishing to learn more about degrees offered online in Florida can visit www.distancelearn.org. This site, sponsored by the Florida Board of Education, is an excellent resource. Once again, it is critical that a student check the school bulletin at the specific university where they plan to obtain a degree in order to ensure that the student has complied with all requirements.

With research and resolve, it can work for you.

Distance Learning Works
In 1996, I decided to pursue a college education. The task seemed daunting; I had no idea where to start. I was working full-time while my husband was in law school. I learned about upon the very policies and resources mentioned in this article. Beginning with the CLEP exams, I earned over thirty college credits. Through the online, distance learning and independent courses offered at Tallahassee Community College, I completed my Associates Degree in 9 months while working full time. In 2001, I entered Florida State University and obtained my Bachelor’s Degree in just over 2 years. I will never forget the feeling of accomplishment when I received my degree. The creativity and persistence that it took to complete my goal was as valuable to me as the knowledge received through my courses. Distance learning is available in Florida – with research and resolve, it can work for you.

Kathy Mears graduated from Florida State University in 2003, Summa Cum Laude, with a 4.0 GPA. She is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Public Administration.


P.S. If you have a story to share about how HEF has helped you, how your family has benefited from home education, or a question you would like to ask Brenda, please e-mail me here.

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New Florida Math Standards Introduce Algebra Concepts in Middle School

Editor’s Note: In 2001 HEF successfully gained free access to all of the courses offered by the Florida Virtual School for Florida home educators. For more information on their course offerings, visit www.flvs.net. Thanks to Becky Subrahmanyam for sharing her experiences and recommendations with other Florida home educators.

New middle school math standards in Florida have changed the math concepts students need to know before they start high school math. Becky Subrahmanyam said, “FLVS math has proven to be a very effective tool in teaching high school-level math to my grandchildren.” For many years Becky has helped teach math to her homeschooled grandchildren. She suggests that home educators planning to use FLVS for high school math also use them for middle school math.

Subrahmanyam’s two oldest students took high school math through FLVS and were very well prepared for college math courses. The first child began FLVS math with Algebra I. The second child she started with FLVS math in 8th grade to help better prepare her for Algebra I.

However, when her younger twin grandchildren recently began FLVS in 8th grade, she discovered that the Florida math standards had been changed, adding many additional concepts to the 8th grade FLVS course. Even though the twins knew the same things their older siblings knew, they weren’t as well prepared as the older grandchildren had been because the new math standards introduced some Algebra concepts much earlier than the 8th grade. Subrahmanyam said, “Because some curriculums that home educators may be using for middle school math may not have incorporated the new Florida standards, some students may not be prepared for the new FLVS high school math courses.”

Subrahmanyam highly recommends that home educators who are planning to use FLVS for high school level math should begin FLVS math in 6th grade to ensure their students have learned the required skills to be successful in their FLVS high school math courses.

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Home Education Candidates in the
2010 Elections

Here is an update on the past election. The following candidates which are home educated or home educators won the election.

United States Congress

Daniel Webster (R) District 8

Florida Senate
Rhonda Storms (R) District 10

Florida House of Representatives
Marti Coley (R) District 7
Steve Precourt (R) District 41
Will Weatherford (R) District 61
Rachel Burgin (R) District 56
Kelly Stargel (R) District 64

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HEF at Work for You!

Editor’s Note: The Home Education Foundation works year round with home educators, legislators and other education officials throughout the state to ensure hard-won rights of home education students and parents are preserved, expanded and/or applied correctly. Below are a few of the ways HEF has been at work since our last newsletter.

Bright Futures Scholarships

In June the Bright Futures Scholarship office announced that the approval process for community service hours for home education students had been changed. The new policy would have required home education students to use the list of community service projects approved by the school district in which the student resides. In addition, the new policy would have required a district official, rather than the parents, to approve the community service hours.

Brenda Dickinson has talked with people at the Bright Futures Office, the Department of Education (DOE), legislative staff and with Sen. Steven Wise, chair of the Senate PreK -12 Education Committee. Sen. Wise set up a meeting with top officials from DOE on December 8 to discuss this issue. It was agreed that the current statute does not give DOE the authority to approve the community service hours for home education students. It was agreed that legislation is needed. Brenda Dickinson provided suggested language and will work with Sen. Wise to find a way to correct the problem this year.

The good news is that there will be no changes for this year’s seniors. The bad news is that if the language is not passed this year, the policy will be changed for students who graduate in 2012.

Lee County

The Lee County school district initiated a new practice this summer. They decided that they would terminate the home education program at the end of the year that the student turns 18. This would put some home education students at an unfair disadvantage if they need verification of enrollment in a home education program for Bright Futures Scholarships, for the FHSAA, FLVS and dual enrollment.

After discussion with several district administrators, the district decided not to terminate home education students at age 18. However, through the discussions, HEF discovered a bigger threat - a new student policy which was slated for vote by the school board the following week. HEF had a hard time obtaining a copy of the policy since it was not published online and only a desk copy was available. But with the help of Lisa Schiffli, a home school leader, who drove to the district office, picked up a CD and emailed it to HEF, we were able to read the proposed policy on home education. The proposed policy completely shifted the responsibility from the parent for meeting legal requirements to the Superintendent for ensuring compliance. HEF then called one of the School Board members who set up a conference call with their attorney. HEF urged the district to pull the policy from the agenda and let home schoolers work with them on a new draft. They asked HEF to provide a sample policy from another county that HEF would recommend. The result was the proposed home education policy was pulled from the agenda. At the meeting the school board said they wanted to set up a workgroup to draft a new policy. HEF will continue to monitor the situation and work with Lee County home educators to develop a good policy.

Flagler County

Flagler County instituted a policy similar to Lee County’s age 18 termination (see above). HEF is working with local home education leaders and the district in the same manner as in Lee County. Brenda Dickinson met with representatives from the Department of Education on Dec. 8 to determine if districts had the authority to terminate home education programs when students turn 18. Although the DOE administrators were not attorneys, they said they did not know of a law that even permits a district to terminate a public school student as long as there was no break in attendance. If HEF cannot resolve this issue with the county, then we may have to put language in statute to specify that the district cannot terminate a home education program. We will keep you updated.


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