Compulsory attendance is required for children ages 6 through 16.
A student may not begin a home school program until the home school program is approved by the school district in which the student resides. "Prior approval of the superintendent or [school] committee is a prerequisite to the removal of children from school and to the commencement of a homeschooling program." Care and Protection of Ivan, 48 Mass. App. Ct. 87. 89 (1999).
Home education programs are subject to the same standard of approval as private schools. The instruction in all studies required by law must equal in thoroughness, efficiency, and progress of the child, that in the public schools of the same town. Mass. Gen. Laws Chapter 76, § 1.
In Care and Protection of Charles, 399 Mass. 324 (1987) the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court set forth the following guidelines for parents and school officials in considering home school proposals: (1) curriculum, number of hours of instruction for each proposed course and length of the proposed school year; (2) the competency of the parent (teacher certification and advanced degrees are not required); and (3) textbooks, instructional aids and lesson plans.
In Care and Protection of Charles, 399 Mass. 324 (1987), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court included in the guidelines for parents and school officials in considering home school proposals that the superintendent or school committee may require periodic standardized testing or other evaluations of the student's educational progress.
A home school student is eligible to participate in interscholastic athletics run by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) when (1) the local school committee has a policy allowing home educated student participation and has all home- educated students in its boundaries listed on the MIAA enrollment form; (2) the student's home education plan is approved; (3) the public school principal places the home-educated child in a grade from nine to 12, based on age and education plan; and (4) the principal determines the student meets the eligibility standards required for all other students and certifies the eligibility at the same time as all others. MIAA's Rules and Regulations Governing Athletics.
Attendance at a private school satisfies the compulsory attendance requirement if the school is approved by the school committee. Massachusetts General Laws (Mass. Gen. Laws) chapter (c.) 76, §1. (The "school committee" in Massachusetts is the local educational agency.)
School committees will approve a private school when satisfied that its instruction equals the public schools in the same town in thoroughness and efficiency and that private students are making the same progress as public school students. A school committee may not withhold approval based on the school's religious teaching. Mass. Gen. Laws c. 76, §1.
Massachusetts' law does not specify a required length of school year for private schools. However, a memorandum put out by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) suggests a school committee include in the criteria for approval adequate student learning time. Student learning time includes the number of school days, and hours in a school day. Advisory on Approval of Massachusetts Private Schools Pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws c. 76, § 1.
There is no mandate regarding what courses private schools shall teach. The Department suggests that the "thoroughness and efficiency" criteria can be interpreted to include approval based on the private school's program of studies and curriculum. Advisory on Approval of Massachusetts Private Schools Pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws c. 76, § 1.
The supervisory officers of all private schools must report the name, age and residence of any child enrolled in the school to the superintendent of schools in the town where the children reside within 30 days of enrollment. If a child withdraws from the school, the officers must notify the superintendent within 10 days. Mass. Gen. Laws c. 72, §2.
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant St.
Malden, MA 02148-4906
Phone: (781) 338-3111
Fax: (781) 338-3770
For children of compulsory school age (6–16), home schooling requires advance approval by the district in which the child lives, under the policy that the school committee has adopted. Home schooling is governed by General Laws Chapter 76, § 1.
Home schooling is provided by or at the direction of a child's parent, instead of enrolling the child in a public or private school; home schooling is not remote learning provided by a school district. The requirements that apply to public schools, such as educator licensing or structured learning time, do not apply to home schooling.
Parents planning to educate their child at home must notify (preferably in writing) the Massachusetts school district in which they live as the first step in the approval process. Notification alone does not authorize a parent to begin home schooling. Removing a child of compulsory school age from school without an approved home schooling plan would cause the child to become truant.
Once the school district receives a parent's notification that they wish to educate their child at home, the district must provide the parent with the district's policy and process for approval of home schooling and ask the parent to submit the proposed home schooling plan.
If the parent's notification includes the proposed plan, the district should still provide the parent with its policy and process for approval of home schooling plans and then proceed with its review of the proposed home schooling plan.
Each school committee in Massachusetts has a policy on approval of home schooling plans; details are available from the Massachusetts school district. The school district approves and provides oversight of home schooling, with a focus on whether "instruction in all the studies required by law equals in thoroughness and efficiency, and in the progress made therein, that in the public schools in the same town." See General Laws Chapter 76, § 1.
Home schooling plans are reviewed and approved by the Massachusetts school district where the child resides. The Department does not approve home schooling plans or oversee school district policies regarding home schooling or review districts' decisions on home schooling proposals.
Upon receipt of a proposed home schooling plan, the school district evaluates it and then either approves it, requests modification or additional information, or disapproves the proposed plan. Districts typically review a proposed home schooling plan for the content, instructional materials, duration and frequency of instruction, methods of instruction, evaluation, and whether it enables the child to make adequate progress in the areas that Massachusetts identifies as essential.
The school district must communicate its decision to the parent, preferably in writing, within a reasonable period after receipt of the parent's home schooling plan.
Under Massachusetts law, home-schooled students have a right to special education services. In addition, school districts are required to evaluate students suspected of having a disability and re-evaluate students eligible for special education services consistent with federal and state requirements. Please see the advisory for more information about the provision of special education and related services to home-schooled and privately educated students.
Home schooling is a private alternative to public school enrollment. Each school district may establish its own policy on whether to allow home-schooled students to participate in its programs. While not required, school districts have the discretion to allow home-schooled students to join district-provided courses, programs, or extracurricular activities, including athletics. This is a local decision, and DESE does not review those decisions.
We do not publish content that discriminates based on personal attributes such as age, gender, gender identity or expression, sex, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, national origin, family status, marital status, disability, or medical or genetic condition.