Indiana State Superintendent Tony Bennett released new non-waiver graduation rates today with a news release that suggests Indiana high schools might be "counseling students out" of public schools and into homeschool. Last week, I blogged about a New York Times article on private schools "counseling out" struggling students and I cited some examples of northeast Indiana parochial school students who transferred to public schools at the parochial schools' request.
The Department of Education news release raises suspicions about the legitimacy of transfers from Indiana public high schools to a homeschool: "While we believe the vast majority of Indiana's schools are doing the right thing, we fear some schools may be issuing waivers for students that aren't quite ready to graduate and even counseling students out of traditional public schools and into 'homeschool' where the students then become untraceable," Bennett said. "We are doing these students no favors and must reexamine this process. Homeschool is an excellent choice for some students, and such a decision should be made with each individual student's needs in mind. However, if a student is reported as having transferred to a homeschool program, that student should, in fact, be participating in a legitimate program."
And therein lies the problem – what's a "legitimate" homeschool program? For better or worse, Indiana is among the states with no regulation of homeschool instruction.
If the state superintendent is concerned that public schools are gaming graduation rate figures with homeschool transfers, perhaps his education reform agenda should include regulations for homeschooling.
The graduation waiver procedure that DOE suddenly appears concerned about was developed by the DOE under a previous administration. The intent was primarily to serve special education cases. There were heartbreaking examples of special ed students who satisfied every requirement of their Individualized Education Plans only to be denied high school diplomas because they couldn't pass the state's standardized tests. The waiver law was a common-sense and compassionate response to those cases.
Seems to me that common sense and compassion should continue to rule.