Student ‘Push Outs' On The Rise
April 13, 2006
MARYSVILLE, CA -- Parents who coddle misbehavior and endorse disrespect may find a surprise awaiting them. The school may try to give their children back - permanently.
Some parents say they are forced to homeschool because school districts are increasingly willing to get rid of students with behavior problems. Ditto for those not performing up to the school's standards. The drop-out problem has become a push-out problem.
Loosely defined, being pushed out refers to those students who, for one reason or another, are denied access to public education. Parents in these cases may not wish - or be equipped - to educate these children. While many families who turn to homeschooling make heroic efforts to save the child's education, others find themselves housing a child who cannot even get a GED.
It isn't only the troublemakers who get pushed out: Critics charge that schools push out the neediest students. Parents of children with special needs such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder often say that they feel their children are not welcomed into a regular education setting.
Savvy parents can pursue their rights to have their children receive the “free and appropriate” education guaranteed by law. This can be done under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), through an Individual Education Plan (IEP) process or via a Section 504 Accommodation Plan for those who qualify. While the process may be cumbersome or time-consuming, it can force both parents and educators to take a fresh (and honest) look at why the student in question is struggling.
Other parents may take a different approach. Seven years ago, for example, my children were learning English as a second language. Their teacher looked at me and said “If you don't like the curriculum, go down to the kindergarten and get something else.”
The teacher's bad attitude was not official school policy, but it was enough. I did not set out to be a homeschooler, but being pushed out led us down the best educational path we could have chosen.
Homeschooling is not an easy road, and it is certainly not for everyone. The decision to homeschool should be made carefully and with much consideration. Homeschooling requires changing outlooks, lifestyles, budgets and career options.
Many in the homeschool community are watching recent court cases in Canada, in which school districts were accused of discriminating against children who were not taking Ritalin and other prescribed medications. The school districts' argument: They cannot deal with students who are constantly disruptive.
Here in the U.S., the push-out problem may be an unintended result of the No Child Left Behind Act. Students who are pushed out can be reported as homeschoolers without leaving a black mark on the school's dropout rate.
Looking good on paper is important, especially when it comes to NCLB, federal legislation that determines how schools qualify for federal funding. Reducing the number of underperforming children improves the percentage of children who are meeting school standards.
As for those who are pushed out for chronic behavioral issues and lack of accountability, the homeschool movement does not openly embrace these kids any more than the schools do. Some worry that teens who have been pushed out due to truancy, drugs, or offensive behavior only make the homeschooling community look bad.
We know that not all children and families choose to pursue education, either on or off campus. And school officials may be justified in pushing out children who refuse to learn and constantly disrupt classes.
Just don't confuse these troubled kids with homeschoolers who actually try to learn, and don't pretend all parents who keep their children home know how - or even try - to teach.
Rose Godfrey is a speech pathologist and homeschooling mom of eight children in Marysville. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org