Pauline's Guide to Homeschooling in PA

Pennsylvania Homeschool Diploma Programs

ON THIS PAGE:  Overview of PA Diploma Programs  /  Comparison  /  Statistics  /  Accreditation  /  Links and Addresses  /  PDE Requirements for Diploma Programs 

Also of interest:

Homeschooling High School
Various diploma options, distance learning, hints and tips, college, resources for more info.

PHEAA Requirements for Homeschoolers
How homeschoolers can qualify for PHEAA funding for college.

Homeschooling Main Page.

There are many options for homeschooling high school, and all of these options have pros and cons.  You will need to decide what is the right choice for your own family.  Please consider your options carefully, and seek advice from others more knowledgeable than I if you are interested in pursuing one of these routes. 

I am NOT a lawyer, and this page is NOT intended as legal advice. 

This Web Page by Pauline Harding for Art Nurk, hardingpj@yahoo.com.
Please do not copy the information on this page without permission.

There are quite a few options for homeschooling high school in Pennsylvania.  This page focuses on the PA home education diploma programs.  For a discussion of other options, and more about high school planning, see my Homeschooling High School page.

About PA Diploma Programs 

A home educated student in Pennsylvania may fulfill the requirements of a PA diploma program and receive a home education diploma.  There are several of these non-profit programs available.  Many are run by homeschoolers, for homeschoolers.  Many of them cost under $100.  Each program has its own guidelines for meeting the graduation requirements in the home education law.  They are all different.  A rough estimate is that almost half of home ed high school students in PA use one of these diploma programs.  PHAA is the oldest and has been the most widely used in the past, but the newer programs are becoming more well-known. 

One of the main advantages to using a typical PA diploma program is that you can combine various kinds of experiences into a diploma/transcript from a single organization.  A typical student might have a math class done at home with a textbook, a music class combining listening to concerts with reading books about classical composers or rock musicians, a history class done on-line, a science class done at a co-op, an art class done at a local community college, a literature class done at a summer program.  Credits can be earned in a variety of ways – by writing a paper, by logging hours (usually 120 hours = 1 credit), by working through most of a textbook, by taking a formal class, and so on.

Another advantage is that a diploma from a PA diploma program is one way to qualify for PHEAA grants for college. 

There are several out-of-state diploma programs, such as NARS (North Atlantic Regional Schools), in Maine, Clonlara School, in Michigan, and West River Academy, in Colorado.   However, in general they cost up to ten times as much as the PA programs, so they are rarely used by homeschoolers in PA, though they are used by homeschoolers in other states. 

Comparisons of PA Diploma Programs

If you are interested in using a diploma program, you will want to carefully consider the differences between the programs, so that you can choose the one that’s right for your family.  I have not fully researched each of these programs (nor am I likely to have time to do so), so I can’t give you a full comparison.  Here are a few differences between various programs.  If you think you’d like to use a PA diploma program, you’ll want to look more closely at each of the programs before deciding which one will meet your needs.

         I know of eight programs:  PHAA, ECHS, Susquehanna, Buxmont, Bridgeway, Mason Dixon, Aleithia, and Upattinas.  Because I haven’t had time to do the legwork, I know more about some of these programs than others – please don’t rule any out without doing your own research!  (Contact info for all eight is here.)

         Some, including ECHS and Mason-Dixon, offer several levels of diplomas (“with honors”, “general diploma”, etc.); some, such as PHAA, offer only one.

         Some, such as ECHS’s General Diploma, have more basic requirements.  Others, such as PHAA, certain diplomas from ECHS, and Mason-Dixon, require more, such as specific reading and writing requirements. 

         Most, such as PHAA, are secular/inclusive in nature, and are not affiliated with a particular religion. Some, such as Mason-Dixon, are associated with conservative Christian organizations.  Please refer to the particular program’s guidelines if you have questions or concerns in this area. 

         Some programs, such as PHAA, require that the student continue to register with their district until they graduate. Others, such as Mason-Dixon, have allowed the student to withdraw at 17, when PA's compulsory attendance laws no longer apply. (See also the PDE's memo of June 10, 2008.)

         Some, such as PHAA, require PA residence; others, such as Mason-Dixon, do not.

         Some, such as ECHS, are open to students who are educated under the Private Tutor law; others, such as PHAA, are not.

·         Some, such as Buxmont, require that you give grades; others, such as PHAA, do not.

PA Diploma Program Statistics:

         According to the PA Homeschoolers newsletter, PHAA graduated 531 students in 2002, making it by far the most widely used diploma option in PA.  ECHS had 87 graduates, Susquehanna had 82, Buxmont had 50, Bridgeway had 50, Mason-Dixon had about 30, and Aleithia had 7, for a total of about 837. 

         The state surveyed the number of PA home education students by age for the year 2001-2002 school year.  They reported 2062 15-year-olds, 1820 16-year-olds, 1208 17-year-olds, and 351 18-year-olds.  (See http://www.pde.state.pa.us/k12statistics/lib/k12statistics/hmedtbl1-0102.pdf .)

         It is difficult to estimate what percentage of homeschoolers use a PA diploma program.  Students aged 17 and above have “aged out” of compulsory attendance laws, and thus may choose not to file with their school districts as home educated or privately-tutored students.  State statistics on home-educated students include only students who file as home educated students, not privately-tutored students or non-filing homeschoolers.  Assuming that the number of 16-year-old home ed students is approximately the same as the number of graduating homeschoolers, then about 46% of home ed graduates used a diploma program in 2002.  Please understand that this is a rough estimate at best.  (If the number of graduating homeschoolers is actually lower (due, perhaps, to some homeschoolers attending bricks-and-mortar high schools or using public cyber-charter schools), then the percentage using a PA diploma program would be much higher.)

A Word About Accreditation

Some of the PA diploma programs (generally those associated with a school, such as Bridgeway and Upattinas) are “accredited”.  Others, such as PHAA, ECHS, and Mason-Dixon, are not. 

All of the PA programs that have gone through the process of filing their standards and procedures with the PA Dept of Ed are fully recognized by the PDE to issue these diplomas.  Because of this, PHAA, for example, seems to have a pretty good track record of getting their credits and diplomas accepted by organizations which require an “accredited” diploma (colleges, employers, scholarship programs, government agencies, etc.); I assume ECHS, and Mason-Dixon and perhaps others are similar.  Specifically, PHAA has been fully accepted by NCAA as if it was a school (very useful if your student is a college athlete), by PHEAA for Robert Byrd scholarships, and by Social Security for student status for benefit eligibility. 

If you think accreditation may be important to you, it’s worth learning more about what this means.  Quite a few different organizations do accrediting.  Knowing that a school is accredited is not enough – you must ask which agency is doing the accrediting.  With some, there is a complex process the school must follow, and standards that their curriculum must meet.  Generally speaking, this kind of accreditation is not available to most diploma programs, because the diploma programs do not require a specific curriculum.  With other accrediting agencies, the school has to do little more than pay a fee.  Given this, some accrediting agencies are more widely known and respected than others; therefore some accreditation credentials are more widely accepted than others.  Just saying that a school is “accredited” is largely meaningless; accreditation by an unrecognized agency, or one with low standards, may not have any value. 

         Seton Home Study School has a page on accreditation that is well worth reading.

         National Association for the Legal Support of Alternative Schools - N.A.L.S.A.S. (accredits Upattinas)

         National Association of Private Schools (accredits Bridgeway)

         www.accreditedschools.org: Database of Accredited Schools (Lists a number of accreditation agencies – scroll down for list.)

PA Diploma Program Links & Addresses

Addresses and links for many of the diploma programs are listed at Home Education Organizations Serving PA Families.  A list with more details is at http://www.pahomeschoolers.com/diplorgs.html.  Here is my own brief list with a few links and addresses:

         Pennsylvania Homeschoolers Accreditation Agency (PHAA) (Inclusive).

         Erie County Home Schoolers Diploma Association (ECHA) (Inclusive).

         Susquehanna Valley Homeschool Diploma Programs, Inc. (Christian).

         Buxmont Christian Educational Institute, Inc. (Christian).

         Bridgeway Academy

·         Mason Dixon Homeschool Association Diploma Program (Christian).

         Aleithia Learning Center (Christian).

         Upattinas School and Resource Center  (Inclusive).

PA Diploma Program PDE Requirements

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has a number of requirements for diploma programs.  They must be non-profit, have written by-laws, consist of at least five non-family related members, be managed by a board of directors, have written procedures for evaluating portfolios, have some controls on the diplomas (e.g. registration numbers), provide appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities, and so on.  The application for a diploma program is here:

         Diploma Program Application

Memo from the PDE regarding Diploma Programs.

It is my understanding that this memo was prompted by concerns that 1) Students who are enrolled in a correspondence school must also file as home educated students, and 2) PA Diploma Programs should not issue diplomas to students who have never been registered as homeschoolers. If you have questions about this memo and how it may apply to your situation, talk to someone from your diploma program as well as the PDE to understand the details.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
June 5, 2008

SUBJECT: Correspondence High School Providers,
Home Education Organizations and Compulsory Attendance

 

TO:

School District Superintendents

Private Licensed Correspondence Schools

Chief Executive Officers/Directors Home Education Organizations

 

FROM:

Diane Castelbuono, Deputy Secretary Office of Elementary/Secondary Education

Kathleen Shaw, Deputy Secretary Office of Postsecondary/Higher Education

 

In this memorandum, the Pennsylvania Department of Education clarifies compulsory attendance requirements as they pertain to education by home education organizations that the Department has recognized as being able to issue diplomas and education by private licensed correspondence schools.

 

Students of compulsory school age, between the ages of eight and 17, are required to either attend a public or private day school on a daily basis, be privately tutored or be home educated. There are several exceptions to this requirement for working students.

Private Licensed Correspondence Schools

Students of compulsory school age cannot meet compulsory attendance requirements through enrollment in a private licensed correspondence school. These students may enroll in the private correspondence school, but they must comply with their resident school district’s home school requirements in order to be in compliance with compulsory attendance requirements. Students of compulsory school age who enroll in a private licensed correspondence school without complying with home education requirements will be considered truant.

 

Any private licensed correspondence school with approval to offer a K-12 curriculum must ensure that its enrollment materials clarify that Pennsylvania students who are of compulsory school age must also comply with home school requirements or the students will be truant. However, such schools may continue to enroll students who are not of compulsory school age without any additional requirements.

 

An entity that offers correspondence or distance learning curriculum to students ONLY in an approved home education setting is considered to be a curriculum vendor and is not required to be licensed as a Private Licensed School.

Home Education Organizations

There are organizations that the Department has recognized as home education organizations that can issue diplomas. These organizations can provide curriculum for use by students of compulsory school age in a home education program and they can issue diplomas to students who complete the courses required for graduation in a home education program. However, a student of compulsory school age cannot meet compulsory attendance requirements if the student tries to take these courses without complying with the home education statute.

 

Unlike private licensed correspondence schools, the home education organizations cannot provide their high school courses to students who are not of compulsory school age and issue diplomas to those students, unless the students are continuing in a home education program with the acceptance of the school district. If these organizations want to use their programs for students who are not of compulsory school age and not continuing in a home education program with the acceptance of the school district, they must seek appropriate licensure from the Division of Private Licensed Schools.

School Districts

Students of compulsory school age can use curriculum from a licensed private correspondence school and a home education organization only in conjunction with a home education program. School districts must ensure that these students are meeting the home education requirements. Thus, a student of compulsory school age who claims that he or she meets compulsory attendance requirements by being “enrolled” in a private licensed correspondence school or by using curriculum from a home education organization without complying with the home education law is to be considered truant.

 

For further information regarding private licensed schools, please contact Patricia Landis, Division of Private Licensed Schools, 717-783-8228, plandis@state.pa.us; for home education, please contact Sarah Pearce, School Services Unit, 717-783-6610, spearce@state.pa.us

cc:

Patricia A. Landis

Sarah J. Pearce

Karen S. Feuchtenberger