Educators left in the dark as Indiana retreats from compulsory education
Source: Chesterton Tribune
By: KEVIN NEVERS
March 30, 2012
Duneland Assistant Superintendent Monte Moffett tells a funny story about homeschooling.
So Moffett gets a call from an angry parent complaining about a kid in his neighborhood who’s undercutting his own son’s grass-mowing business because the kid’s going from home to home while his son is in school.
Turns out, his son’s competitor is being homeschooled and he’s got the time to be entrepreneurial.
Couple of points to make about this story. First—as the Indiana Department of Education (DOE) notes on its website—homeschooled children must attend 180 days of school per year but the parents themselves decide which days to teach and how many hours to teach.
Second, the Duneland School Corporation (DSC) has no supervisory or administrative role to play with respect to homeschooled children who reside in the district, with one exception only. Under Indiana Code, the local superintendent may ask to review the daily attendance record which homeschooling parents are required to maintain for their children.
Does DSC Superintendent Dirk Baer routinely inspect such records, as he’s legally entitled to do?
Baer does not, Moffett said, except in the cases of homeschooled children who are newly enrolling in DSC.
In short, Moffett said, “We’re not the homeschooling police. That’s not our duty. Our duty as a public school system is to our students. When you’re homeschooled, you’re not one of our students. We’re concerned about the children who are enrolled in the Duneland Schools.”
In fact, Moffett is unable to say with anything like certainty how many children in Duneland are being homeschooled, just as DOE is unable to say how many in the state are.
That’s because homeschooling parents are not required to report the fact—either to the local public school corporation or to the state—that they are homeschooling, DOE Communications Director Stephanie Sample told the Chesterton Tribune. Reporting is entirely voluntary, Sample said.
The 2011 Graduation Rate Mobility Report, however, does provide this piece of information: of the 89,324 students originally enrolled statewide in the Class of 2011, 5,020 of them would eventually withdraw from high school to be homeschooled. That figure, 5,020, represents 35.1 percent of the total number of students from the Class of 2011 who would withdraw before graduation.
No graduation rate mobility report was available from DOE for any high-school class previous to that of 2011. No comparable report exists at all for students withdrawn from public school prior to ninth grade. And DOE did not provide the Tribune with the number of homeschooled children voluntarily reported to DOE.
According to the same mobility report, 21 students withdrew from CHS’s Class of 2011 to be homeschooled, or 30.4 percent of the total number—69—who withdrew before graduation.
CHS’s 30.4-percent homeschool-withdrawal rate is far higher than the 8.1 percent reported by Portage High School, where 11 of the 136 students who withdrew from the Class of 2011 did so to be homeschooled; and higher as well than the 10.0 percent reported by Valparaiso High School, where five of the 50 students who withdrew did so to be homeschooled.
Over the last 10 years, Moffett said, a total of 80 students has withdrawn from CHS to be homeschooled, based on the records of stated-mandated exit interviews.
Information on the number of students withdrawn from other schools in DSC is harder to come by, as exit interviews are not required for withdrawals in grades K-8. But Chesterton Middle School Principal Craig Stafford reported that, since academic year 2001-02, a total of 20 students has been withdrawn from CMS to be homeschooled, with the majority—15—since academic year 2006-07.
And Bailly Elementary School Principal Michael Grubb reported that, since academic year 2007-08, a total of seven students has been withdrawn from BES to be homeschooled. Of those seven, three are children in the same family and one is being homeschooled for medical reasons.
How many children in Duneland were never enrolled in DSC in the first place, because their parents began homeschooling them at age 7?
There’s “no way of knowing,” Moffett said. “We haven’t a clue.” Under Indiana Code, parents who begin homeschooling their children at the compulsory age of 7 are required to “certify” that fact to the local public school superintendent, but only at the superintendent’s request. And practically speaking, if the local public school has no record of the child to begin with, a superintendent would have no basis on which to seek that certification even if he or she were inclined to do so.
It occasionally happens, Moffett noted, that homeschooling parents complain about DSC’s policy of not permitting their children to participate in extra-curricular activities or to enroll in select courses, as Indiana Code clearly allows—but does not require—public schools to do.
In DSC’s case, Moffett said, the decision has been made that public-school offerings will be made available only to public-school children. “We can only provide services to those children enrolled in the Duneland Schools. We don’t have the resources to do otherwise.”
Duneland’s state funding is based on the number of full-time sudents enrolled in the system.
It also occasionally happens that a Chesterton Police officer on patrol during regular school hours will see a school-aged child out and about. In that case the officer typically questions the student to determine whether he is truant, School Resource Officer Sgt. Randy Komisarcik told the Tribune.
If the child tells the officer that he is being homeschooled, the officer will then contact the child’s parents to confirm his status.
“It doesn’t happen all the time, not every day, but it does happen,” Komisarcik said.