Pennsylvania Homeschoolers Accreditation Agency

About PHAA, School Code# 392057

PHAA was established in 1990 and incorporated as a non-profit corporation on January 1, 1996, in order to accredit the diplomas of Pennsylvania home education graduates. At the annual membership meetings, members elect the Board of Directors who in turn elect the officers. When changes in the bylaws are proposed at a membership meeting they are voted on through a written ballot in the fall issue of the PHAA Excelsior newsletter.

PHAA publishes the state-wide high school student newsletter the Excelsior. This publication is sent to all PHAA high school students whose parents have joined the program (the Filing Form is on page 28) and is sent to all current evaluators.

PHAA also holds two graduation ceremonies each year, one in Harrisburg and the other in Western PA, and an annual High School at Home conference in July. The annual PHAA Membership meeeting takes place at the conference.

The PHAA Difference

What really makes PHAA unique is our high standards-- we believe in excellence and do our best to attain it. For example, in 2009 our members voted to change the PHAA bylaws in order to require that evaluation letters be substantative narratives.

Our membership wanted to keep PHAA from being harmed by a trend within the homeschooling community in which evaluators have extremely brief meetings with the family being evaluated and then issue only identical form-letter evaluations. The evaluator hastily goes through the portfolio, often telling the family that they have too many sample papers included. Afterwards the evaluator gives the family a form letter identical to every other one, simply stating the very minimum required by law. Instead of telling the world about high-quality work, service activities, or individual initiative demonstrated by the student, they sign an identical letter that could fit any student.

In contrast, most PHAA evaluation letters create pictures of what the students did during the year, and of the students themselves. They tell about excellence encountered in the home education programs. These letters translate easily into college recommendation letters, allowing evaluators to fulfill the role of guidance counselor or accademic reference in students applications.

Although some diploma programs only send out the transcript of grades and credits to colleges, PHAA has always considered the transcript to just be a summary of the evaluation letters. We attach all of the evaluation letters, 9th through 12th, to each sealed transcript that we send out. Those evaluation letters further function like recommendations of the particular students.

There are several other homeschool organizations that are also recognized by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to award diplomas to graduates of PA home education programs. We serve those homeschoolers who want to tell the world about the excellence of their programs.

How well do PHAA Students Score?

The College Board reports that 128 of our class of 2009 PHAA students took the SAT exam. Their average scores were 602 on the Critical Reading section and 560 on the Math section, and 572 on the Writing section. The national average for all college-bound seniors was about 500 on each section.

PHAA Standards

One joke asks, What is the difference between someone who is illiterate and someone who is functionally illiterate? The answer, The functional illiterate has a high school diploma. When putting together the initial requirements for PHAAs diploma, we tried to design requirements that would insure that the same thing could not be said of our graduates. PHAAs standards are based upon seven principles:

  1. Homeschool graduates should be literate. They should be able to read, write, and speak well. I expect that over time employers and colleges will recognize that homeschool graduates are not only trustworthy and honest, but have strong communication skills.
  2. Requirements should be construed in flexible ways. Homeschoolers are round pegs and graduation requirements are square holes. Our idea was to make the square holes flexible enough so that they could fit round pegs. For example, people will have a choice on whether to use textbooks or not, on whether to grade their children or not, on whether a course consists mostly of study or mostly of real-life activities, and on whether to teach a half-year course in a half-year block or spread it out throughout the school year.
  3. Homeschooling Families Can be Trusted. Homeschooling families can be trusted to do meaningful activities to fulfill reasonable requirements.
  4. Outside Structure Can be Helpful. There is usually a certain amount of power sharing between parents and teenagers, and it is not always easy for parents to get their teenagers to do reading, writing, or a particular subject area (depending upon the student). With PHAA requirements, the parents can be on their teenagers side helping them to do the required work, but not have to be the heavy who makes the requirements.
  5. Requirements Should be Clear. We tried to specify the minimum requirements so clearly that students can know exactly what they have to do in order to meet them.
  6. Diplomas Mean More if Someone Outside the Family is Involved. Since Pennsylvania families must already have evaluators certify each year that they are giving the student an appropriate education, it is natural for the evaluator to sign the transcripts and diplomas along with the supervisor of the home education program (i.e. parent).
  7. Graduates are not Drop Outs. Since PHAAs diploma is based upon meeting the requirements of Act 169 of 1988, it cannot award diplomas to people who drop out from complying with the home education law. Also, we dont want PHAA graduates to be perceived as drop outs by the school superintendents and the general community. So, on the transcript form, the supervisor of the home education program will have to sign this statement: I certify that this student met all of the requirements for graduation from a home education program as specified by Act 169 of 1988, and that the home education program was in full compliance with Pennsylvania law at the time of graduation. This means that the supervisor filed an affidavit with the local school district at the beginning, or during, the senior year and will turn in a portfolio at the end of the senior year. Parents who want their children to drop out from complying with the home education law once their children pass the compulsory school age should choose another diploma option.

What PHAA Offers

PHAA offers a numbered diploma (including an embossed seal) which is signed by the senior year evaluator of the home education program, the supervisor of the home education program, and the Executive Director of PHAA. Also, PHAA keeps transcripts on file with attached evaluation letters from each high school year and sends out transcripts with evaluation letters attached to prospective employers and colleges upon receipt of a request from the supervisor or the student.

PHAA stands behind its diplomas:

  1. PHAA collects statistics on how well its graduates score on SAT tests, which colleges admit its graduates, and the success that its graduates attain in the years immediately following graduation. Such statistics can be made available to prospective employers and colleges.
  2. PHAA intervenes by phone call or letter whenever it is informed about a high school, college, or employer who is not recognizing PHAA diplomas or transcripts-- most of these cases are solved very quickly as info is provided on PHAA.
  3. PHAA organizes two graduation ceremonies in Pennsylvania each June, one in Western PA and one in Eastern PA, making it convenient for families to attend.