The PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) and AP (Advanced Placement) exams are tests that every high schooler (and graduate) is familiar with. The PSAT mainly helps students prepare for the SAT. AP exams are college-equivalent exams on various subjects, ranging from calculus to art history. These tests not only show colleges that students can handle the rigorous courses at their institutions but can also earn students thousands of dollars in scholarship money. At the moment, though, these tests are exclusive to public and private school students and nearly impossible for homeschoolers to access.
Thankfully, if the North Carolina House passes Senate Bill 411, this may no longer be a problem. The latest version of the bill passed the N.C. House and as of June 28 sits in the Senate Rules Committee.
Schools ranging from the University of Alabama to the University of Southern California offer generous scholarships for those who score well on the PSAT, and many colleges even offer full rides for those that score very well. AP classes can also save high schoolers thousands in tuition at many colleges, since a passing grade provides college credits.
Unlike the SAT and ACT, which are administered directly through the College Board, the PSAT and AP exams are given by the high school. As a result, it is very difficult for homeschoolers to sign up for the PSAT and AP exams independently, so mainly public and some private school students reap the benefits of these standardized tests.
Senate Bill 411 may solve this issue.
The bill’s short title, “Students in Home School Take PSAT/AP,” describes exactly what the bill is intended to accomplish. Homeschool students will be allowed to take the PSAT, PreACT, and AP exams through their local public high schools. The testing location that the homeschooler will report to will be the school that “the student would be assigned to had they attended public school,” according to the bill.
Before taking the PSAT or the PreACT, the student must have completed a course or test that demonstrates competency in Algebra 1. This requirement is there so test takers are prepared for the math content on the exam, such as basic geometry and systems of equations. This requirement is already required by several public schools in North Carolina.
The parents of the child will be charged the price of the test by the “local school administrative unit.” Parents also may need to assist in proctoring the test if the proctor-student ratio is altered by adding another student in the testing session.
For AP and other advanced tests (International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education Courses, and similar tests), the process is identical, except the student must meet all the requirements for a given exam before taking it. These requirements will be established by the organization creating the test (ex: College Board), as well as the “chief administrator of the homeschool” (generally the student’s parent), according to the bill. Local school boards cannot force homeschoolers to take any courses prior to taking the exam.
As a public high school student myself, this bill will not personally affect me, but I believe it is an excellent bill to level the educational playing field. The bill allows those that wish to take non-conventional K-12 educational paths to have a comparable education to those that take conventional educational paths.
I was drawn to the realm of public policy after taking classes like AP Macroeconomics and AP United States Government and Politics, which allowed me to learn more in-depth about the subject areas that I was interested in. If the bill is passed, homeschool students may also be able to learn more about areas that they are interested in with greater detail in AP classes.
Homeschooling is also rising as a popular alternative to “traditional” schools. The number of homeschool students rose from 2.5 million during the 2019-2020 school year to over 3.1 million during the 2021-2022 school year. Senate Bill 411 will help ease the transition process for the rising homeschool population and make homeschooling much more accessible.
Dr. Robert Leubke, director of the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Foundation, commented, “I’d support S.B. 411 because it levels the playing field for home schooling students. It allows students educated at home to participate in advanced test placement at local public schools and to take tests in a similar manner as public school students. Because it corrects current disparities, North Carolinians should work to make it a reality.”
The bill can be read below, with Section 2 covering the topic of homeschool test takers: