How Accurate is Home Schooling Data?

On May 11, 2010 the Houston Chronicle reported that more than 22,620 Texas secondary students who stopped showing up for class in 2008 were excluded from the state’s dropout statistics because administrators said they were being home-schooled, according to Texas Education Agency figures.

Are students who are leaving schools being disguising as thousands of middle and high school dropouts ?

While home-schooling’s popularity has increased, the rate of growth concentrated in Texas’ high school population has nearly tripled in the last decade, including a 24 percent jump in a single year.

In some states, parents are required to file sworn affidavits when they withdraw their children. Many states also require families to submit curriculum, attendance records or test scores when they opt to home-school.

In Texas, the Texas Education Agency requires a “signed statement from a parent/guardian or qualified student” or “documentation of an oral statement by the parent/guardian or qualified student made within 10 days of the time the student quits attending school in the district, signed and dated by an authorized representative of the district” noting that they intend to attend home-school.

A 2008 audit of one of the Houston-area districts with the highest number of home-schooled high schoolers — Clear Creek ISD — concluded that only 167 of the 276 students had sufficient documentation from parents to meet the state’s definition. Information was lacking in the other 109 cases.

The U.S. Department of Education found that roughly 77 percent of home-schoolers are Anglo. Most are also the children of college educated, middle class parents. More than one-third of parents cited providing “religious or moral instruction” as the primary reason for their decision to home-school.

The Texas Home School Coalition estimates that more than 300,000 Texas children are home-schooled, with an annual growth rate around 7 percent since the mid-1990s. Leaders also estimate that between 2 and 3 percent of all Texas students are educated at home.

Once families withdraw from public school, there is no follow-up.

Some advocates complain that Spanish-speaking and special-needs student are especially vulnerable to being pushed out of public schools.

Home schooling provides an alternative path for students to graduate and as such I am in favor of it.  However, if it is being used to disguise students who dropout than that is an entirely different matter.