Data show most required homeschool assessments aren’t completed

The investigation into the death of 14-year-old Kyneddi Miller revealed that although the Boone County child was homeschooled, her parents had not turned in her 8th grade assessment as required. There was no follow up by Boone County school officials.

Police say when they found Kyneddi dead on the bathroom floor of her home she was “emaciated to a skeletal state.” Her mother and grandparents are charged with child neglect resulting in her death.

Again, homeschooling did not cause her death, however it has resulted in questions about how the state education system keeps track of these students and whether the assessments are completed.

West Virginia law requires that the parent or guardian of a homeschool student provide to the county school system an academic assessment of the child at grade levels three, five, eight and 11. However, data from the State Department of Education suggest that more often than not, the assessments are either not done or there are incomplete records.

The figures show that between the school years 2020-21 and 2023-24, 17,111 students were actively homeschooling in the four grade levels that require the end-of-year assessments. However, the records show only 37% (6,341) of the homeschool students in those grades had assessments submitted.

School Superintendent Michele Blatt cautioned that the statistics come with a number of caveats. She believes counties are doing their best to keep accurate records, but it remains “very concerning that only 37% of our students are submitting assessments or portfolios at the required grade level.”

“With this large number, there is not enough central office staff or circuit court judges to address the issue,” Blatt said. “I believe the Governor’s Office, the Legislature, the state Board of Education, the state Department of Health Services and the state Department of Education must all work together to determine the appropriate guardrails and streamline the process.”

We should not take that 37% number as gospel, but it is an indicator that the system set up in state law to ensure homeschooled students are learning at grade level is not functioning as it should. Theoretically, when there is no assessment it should trigger a review by the county school system and potentially lead to the child returning to the public school classroom or a different home school.

Anecdotally, I hear that rarely happens. One of the reasons is that the law states a county superintendent “may” seek a court order denying home instruction, but they are not required to pursue it. 

Homeschooling has taken root in West Virginia, and there are currently 27,000 students whose families have opted out of public schools. That is their right, and many of these schools are finding new and exciting ways to educate children.

But there is growing evidence that some parents are misusing the law to keep their children out of school, for whatever the reason. The most recent data from the Department of Education suggest that many of these parents are failing to follow even the most basic assessment requirements.

Hoppy Kercheval is a MetroNews anchor and the longtime host of “Talkline.” Contact him at [email protected].