Homeschool Group Raises Concerns about Dropouts

For Immediate Release: Data on homeschool transfers during high school raises concern in multiple states 

Canton, Ma., 10/23/2019—Officials in a growing number of states have become concerned that some public school administrators have been using homeschooling as a loophole to pad their graduation rates by listing dropouts as homeschool transfers. There is also concern that high school who are not legally old enough to drop out may be using homeschooling as a way to legally drop out of school. Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, a group founded by homeschool alumni to advocate for homeschooled children, takes these concerns seriously. “We are concerned that some school districts are using homeschooling as a way to offload challenging students, leaving these children without the resources they need to complete their education,” she said.

A 2018 report on homeschooling released by the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability (OEA) revealed that a full half of public school students who transfer to homeschooling are high school students, and that two-thirds of homeschool transfers were chronically truant prior to withdrawing to homeschool. The report also found that the number of public school students who transferred to homeschool in their junior or senior year of high school increased dramatically after the compulsory attendance age was raised from 16 to 18. Meanwhile, lawmakers in Indiana have been struggling to make sense of high schools that appear to be fraudulently listing dropouts as homeschool transfers in order to raise their graduation rates. In a recent article, Dylan Peers McCoy, a reporter at Chalkbeat, pointed to Emmerich Manual High School in Indianapolis as an example: the school’s class of 2018 consisted of 83 graduates, 6 dropouts, and 60 homeschool transfers.

“Not every family is prepared to homeschool,” says Coleman. “Homeschooling should not function as school districts’ dumping ground.” While many officials are focusing on the point where these students leave their schools, Coleman points to data from Kentucky and Virginia that suggests homeschool graduates may attend college at as little as half the rate of other students. “What happens when students who are already at risk of not graduating are pushed out of public school?” Coleman asks, noting that most states offer little or no support or guidance for families that homeschool. “These students are being left in limbo.” 

Proposed solutions vary. In the last legislative session, Indiana lawmakers briefly considered counting homeschool transfers as dropouts for the purposes of calculating high schools’ graduation rates. In Kentucky, lawmakers have suggested tightening laws to address students who transfer to homeschooling after high rates of truancy. Coleman urges lawmakers to consider the needs of the whole child. “Many of these students are not receiving the support and guidance they need to ensure that they will finish high school with a diploma and a path to college or the workforce,” she says. “Solutions should focus on providing students with the help and support they need, whether within or outside of school.”

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The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.

Rachel Coleman

Dr. Rachel Coleman is the Executive Director of CRHE. She was homeschooled K-12 and is an instructor at Indiana University.
Rachel Coleman