This program is for PA residents only. For non-PA residents click HERE.
THE IMPLEMENTATION OF PENNSYLVANIA HOMESCHOOL DIPLOMA PROGRAMS
In 1990 the question was posed – who should award PA homeschool students’ diplomas so that they could qualify for financial aid in PA? The homeschool law had passed in 1988, legalizing homeschooling and providing requirements for graduation from a home education program. However, no PA homeschool students could qualify for financial aid. In the early years of the law, the local school superintendent could not sign that a homeschooler had completed the home education requirements and was eligible to receive financial aid (that option was not allowed until many years later). Philip Mulvihill, Chief of the Office of Advisory Services of the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) proposed that homeschool organizations develop diploma programs to award diplomas to home educated students. His premise was that the homeschool organizations, not the state, should oversee and develop criteria for diplomas that would be recognized by the PDE and the PA Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) so that those students would be eligible for financial aid.
LEGAL REQUIREMENTS FOR HOMESCHOOLERS
The PA Home Education Law, Act 169-1988 requires that the parent/supervisor keep a portfolio that shall consist of, “a log, made contemporaneously with instruction, which designates by title the reading materials used, samples of any writing, worksheets, workbooks, or creative materials used or developed by the student” documenting 180 days or 990 hours (7-12th grades.)
The law also requires that the student be evaluated at the end of the school year by an Evaluator who meets the requirements of the home education law. The Evaluator meets with the student, reviews the portfolio and log, and writes an evaluation certifying that the student is receiving an appropriate education, defined in PA as “sustained progress in the overall program.” The parent submits a copy of the evaluation to the school district, along with the log and portfolio at the end of each school year.
Additionally, a diploma program in Pennsylvania is required to have the Evaluator determine if the student has met the organization’s criteria for credits and for graduation. Diploma programs in Pennsylvania must keep on file a copy of each 9-12th evaluation and the credit information signed by an Evaluator. Diploma programs are prohibited from issuing a diploma to any candidate whose PA educational program is under review or pending a hearing for non-compliance, until the review of hearing is completed and confirms that an appropriate education has occurred.
MASON DIXON HOMESCHOOLERS ASSOCIATIONS ROLE
Mason Dixon Homeschoolers Association (MDHSA) is a Local Support Group in Franlin County, PA that was founded in 1986. This organization also conducts a diploma program, which is a completely separate entity from the Support Group. Students who desire to register with the MDHSA Diploma Program are not required to become Members of the MDHSA Local Support Group. (Thus, any student participating in the MDHSA Diploma Program is not automatically a Member of the MDHSA Local Support Group, which requires a separate Membership form and dues.)
LOCAL SUPPORT GROUP FORMS vs. DIPLOMA PROGRAM FORMS
Families living at a distance from MDHSA (Franklin County, PA) may find it difficult to fully enjoy the benefits of Membership in the Local Support Group, such as participating in local activities and events, or the MDHSA Co-Ops; it usually is not beneficial for those families to join the Local Support Group.
Thus, it is important to use the correct forms when registering with the Diploma Program. If an MDHSA Membership form is erroneously submitted, the student IS NOT registered with the Diploma Program. The MDHSA office staff has no way of knowing that this student desires to participate in the Diploma Program. Each student wishing to participate in the Diploma Program must submit a Diploma Program Registration Form found in the “Forms” section of the Diploma Guide (also available in the Diploma Program “Forms/Instructions” section of this website.) not a MDHSA Membership form.
SUMMARY OF THE MDHSA DIPLOMA PROGRAM
The MDHSA High School Diploma is recognized by the PDE and the PHEAA as substantially equivalent to a public high school diploma and should be accepted as such for all intents and purposes. This diploma is available to all students who have read and met the requirement in the MDHSA Diploma Guide.
There are four diplomas awarded by MDHSA:
- The Standard Diploma is awarded to anyone who completes the minimum requirements of the PA home education law in accordance with the MDHSA program as outlined in the Diploma Guide.
- Honorary Diploma – The Diploma with Academic Honors is awarded to those students who have completed an academically enriched program. The enriched program would include college preparatory English, History, Science, and Math classes. Foreign language study must be included.
- Honorary Diploma – The Diploma with Distinction – (Leadership / Service OR Academic Achievement) is awarded to those students who have shown excellence or eminence of leadership, service, or character OR performance in any specific subject or area.
- Honorary Diploma – The Diploma for Performance in Fine Arts with three subsidiary categories is awarded for Music, Drama, Dance, and Fine Arts (painting, drawing, ceramics, fiber arts, etc.)
- Honorary Diploma – The Vocational Honors is awarded to those students who have completed courses and credits in a specific vocational / technical area (mechanical, technical, agriculture, computer science, etc.).
All diplomas are requested by the submission of a Diploma Request form and the required fees. A third party recommendation is required for the honorary diplomas, preferably someone who has assisted the student to complete the requirements for the honor.
- Subject Areas – The student must study at least the following number of units in these subject areas between 9th and 12th grades. 4 units of English 3 units of Math 3 units of Science 3 units of Social Studies 2 units of Arts and Humanities
- Minimum Courses – These courses must be studied some time between 7th and 12th grades: Geography Civics World History General Math Algebra Geometry Music Art Physical Education Health and Physiology History of the U.S. History of PA Safety Education/Fire Safety
- Credits – Any ONE of these methods may be used to earn one unit of credit:
- Completion of at least two-thirds of a textbook. One-third of a textbook counts as one half of a unit of credit.
- One hundred twenty daily logged entries of study or activities related to the course content.
- Logged entries describing at least 120 hours of study and/or activities related to the course content. Note: Logged Entries and hours are not interchangeable.
- Completion of a substantial research paper or research project using a minimum of three non-encyclopedic resources, including at least two non-internet resources. Completion of a college course, by correspondence, on the Internet, or on campus.
- Passing test score on an Advanced Placement (AP) or College Level Examination Program Exam (CLEP) or other specific college course exam.
- Participation in an apprenticeship or on-the-job training program.
- Completing a public or private high school course.
- Any other evidence of completion of a course, at the discretion of the evaluator.
- Public Speaking – 15 hours of public speaking from 7th – 12th grades. This includes instruction in public speaking, preparing, researching, practicing, teaching (Sunday School, etc), debates, drama, etc. One public performance is required between 7th and 12th grades.
- Reading Requirement: There is not a specific number of books required per year, however, a variety of genre is required.
- Composition Requirement: 10 pages per year. The pages may be one long paper or several partial-page summaries of school studies or any combination and may be in any subject; they may be book reports, essays, creative writings, stories, etc. No research paper is required for the general diploma.
MDHSA does not sell curriculum, nor does it dictate what curriculum to use. However, there are curriculum suggestions in the “MDHSA Diploma Guide” as well as in the MDHSA “Fine Art of Homeschooling” booklet. Families choose and acquire their own curriculum. An MDHSA Evaluator evaluates your program at the end of the year.
COMPULSORY SCHOOL AGE CHANGE: There is a change to the requirement for Pennsylvania students who are above the compulsory school age.
MDHSA started its Diploma Program in 1997 and awarded its first diploma in 1998. MDHSA submitted its standards and procedures to the PA Department of Education (PDE) in 1997. In the 1997 Diploma Guide, PA students who were above the compulsory school age were given the choice to file an affidavit/portfolio with the local school district or not to file an affidavit. However, the MDHSA Diploma Guide stipulated that MDHSA students who were not going to file an affidavit had to continue keeping a portfolio/log and continue having an Evaluator evaluate their program. This was all included in the Diploma Guide that was sent to the PA Department of Education in 1997. MDHSA has continued this policy, which was accepted by the PA Department of Education, since they accepted our diploma guide/standards and procedures.
However, in June of 2008, MDHSA and all other diploma programs, received a letter from the PA Department of Education that this practice would not longer be permitted. Any students who turn 17 must continue filing an affidavit and keep a portfolio, even if they are in a Pennsylvania Diploma Program. If you have any concerns or questions about this, or problems with your school district, please contact Suzanne Tallman at the PA Department of Education in writing, either by e-mail or by postal mail. Please send a copy of your letter to MDHSA at firstname.lastname@example.org or to:
32 West Main Street, #5
Waynesboro, PA 17268
The addresses for Suzanne Tallman are:
Pennsylvania Department of Education
333 Market Street | Harrisburg, PA 17126-0333
RAemail@example.com | www.education.state.pa.us