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Update: Homeschool students exempt from Smart Core requirements

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Yesterday, the Examiner article, Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship changes rules for 2014, outlined changes to qualifying for the scholarship. Starting in 2014, all high school students must complete the Smart Core curriculum in order to be eligible. Homeschoolers are not subject to the same rules as public schools. I contacted the Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE) in order to clarify if and how this rule change impacts homeschoolers. Kristi Rainwater was gracious enough to answer my questions. Homeschool students do not have to complete the Smart Core curriculum.

Smart Core

Smart Core is the college- and career-ready set of courses that is the default curriculum for all Arkansas public high school students. Completion of Smart Core with a 2.5 grade point average is also one of the qualifications listed for the Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship.

The Smart Core curriculum was implemented several years ago. It holds high school students to a higher set of standards. Currently, students have the option to opt out of the Smart Core program. However, doing so will disqualify them from the Academic Challenge Scholarship. This is important information for homeschoolers. Many homeschool families decide to put their high school aged students into private or public high schools. If your family is going to make that choice, it should be made before the student enters the ninth grade. This is when Smart Core begins.

Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship

Homeschooled students do not have to complete the Smart Core program. This was verified by the ADHE on Dec. 17, 2013. For a homeschool student to qualify for the Academic Challenge Scholarship, he needs an ACT score of 19 or greater or an equivalent score on a different test. An equivalent SAT score would be a combined verbal and math score of 900, An ASSET combined score of 40 or greater, or a COMPASS combined score of 64 or greater.

Deciding on the best choice in testing for your child can be daunting. Much of the decision depends on the student’s post high school plans. Attending a four-year college will require an SAT or ACT score. Community and two-year junior colleges may allow COMPASS or ASSET scores. The Examiner article, Homeschool through high school: choosing the ACT, SAT, or COMPASS exams, explains in detail the pros and cons of each test and how to determine the best choice for your child.

In order to apply for the scholarship, homeschool students need to fill out an application form. You will receive an email requesting your child’s transcripts. Send the ADHE an email, explaining that you homeschool. You will need to send in the test scores and any other information they request. You more than likely will not need to send in transcripts.

Lynda Altman has homeschooled her 4 children over the last 15 years and has 2 children in homeschool. She believes that homeschooling is a parent’s G-d given right. Lynda writes a blog called Homeschooling When Mom has Cancer. Get notices when this page is updated by clicking on the subscribe link, by email, or contact Lynda @fusgeyer on Twitter.

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