Indiana Manipulates Drop-out Statistics, Smears Homeschoolers

Some school districts in Indiana have come up with a clever scheme.  Apparently, their high school dropout rates are measured by the No Child Left Behind Act.  This gives them an interest in reducing their high school dropout rate, because if the high school dropout rate is too high they get penalized.

[Personally, I don’t mind if some kids drop out of high school.  School is not good for everyone, and if we dumb down high school so that everyone can pass it, then pretty soon everyone will need a college degree just to prove that they have functioning brain cells.  Meanwhile, adulthood will get pushed farther and farther out.]

Anyhow, to reduce their high school dropout rate, they decided to force high school drop-outs to register as “homeschoolers,” and require them to come under the home education laws.  This scheme is reported by the Home School Legal Defense Association here.  This has one of two bad effects:

1.  The school districts in Indiana are extending the compulsory education age beyond what is required by law, and are thus breaking the law.

The laws in Indiana allow a student to drop out of school at a certain age.  Kids do this all the time, for some good reasons (i.e., they are not suited to school, or perhaps there is a family need), and many bad reasons.  You are still allowed to be stupid in the USA, and dropping out of high school is one great way to exercise this privilege.  If a kid drops out of school, that means he is allowed to stop being educated.  Or in many cases he simply transfers his education to “The School of Hard Knocks,” which has many famous and distinguished graduates, such as The Prodigal Son.  Once the kid has learned what options are available to a high-school dropout, he will often decide to get a bit more education.

2.  Secondly, their scheme is also giving home schoolers a bad name.  High school dropouts, by definition, don’t want any more education.  Homeschoolers do want to learn, but in a non-traditional setting.  To call these two groups by the same name is slanderous.  Pretty soon, all of the 17 year old home schooled kids will have to say, “No, I really am a student, I’m not a drop-out.”  Teenagers have enough trouble without adding the burden of explaining themselves to the MacDonald’s hiring manager, the Army recruiter, and the college admissions officer.

The high school dropouts will also have test scores that are way lower than the test scores of real homeschoolers.  So when someone who has done badly in the public schools for 10 years suddenly becomes a “homeschooler”, that kid will now be used as evidence that “homeschooling doesn’t work.”  Isn’t that special?

The Home School Legal Defense Association is urging homeschoolers to reach out to those wannabe dropouts to help them adjust to this situation.  Personally, I think that someone needs to take action to affirm their right to drop out of school.  Compulsory education has its limits, and these limits should not be pushed by some school district trying to make its numbers look better.


12 thoughts on “Indiana Manipulates Drop-out Statistics, Smears Homeschoolers

  1. Why am I not surprised that my home state has done this? Stupid, stupid Indiana lawmakers!

    I am with you that school is not for everyone. I was fortunate to live in a school district that people clamoured to get into, and therefore had (at least at the time) some of the best education in the state. Even so, there were people in my “class” who dropped out and didn’t graduate. I never saw a rush to qualify them as homeschoolers. My guess is these districts are the inner-city districts that are mostly minority (South Bend comes to mind….my neighbor city).

    You are also right that there is a legal age to drop out in Indiana and that kids should be allowed to do so if they have reached the legal age. I honestly think that if they want to curb the drop-out rate, they should do it properly and raise the age limit from 16 (I believe) to, say, 18 or to just make it illegal to drop out of school alltogether.

  2. And, furthermore, what makes them think that a student who drops our of school is going to want to do the same work at home that he didn’t want to do in school in the first place?

  3. Trisha,

    I don’t think they are doing this for educational purposes. I actually don’t think they even care if the kids drop out of homeschool 15 minutes after they have dropped out of public school.

    They do care about making their numbers look good. Drop outs and expulsions look bad for their No Child Left Behind metrics, so they have to hide these unpleasant occurrences.

    This leads me to a problem with No Child Left Behind. As Pastor Doug Wilson (see Blog and Mablog on my sidebar)says, “Can’t we leave just one child behind?”

    NCLB is based on the premise that all children can be well educated. It is just a fact that some kids are smarter than others, and some have a better attitude than others, and some have better parents than others. NCLB is to some extent based on a politcally correct fantasy which no politicians has the guts to dispute in public.

  4. This is really silly!! I do agree with you. They should call it something different, as homeschool is really the only way that a child can learn and move on without having all the silly children, that don’t have a learning culture, all around them. Homeschool has always had a good name and that’s going to be destroyed by these silly law-makers…

  5. I’ve included our link to the Indiana education code (in English) in my link.

    I’m the project coordinator for the Indiana Home Educators’ Network. I also co-manage the IndianaHomeschoolers e-list on YahooGroups. (The largest homeschooling e-list in the state.)

    This has been going on since easily, last Fall. HSLDA reported a few incidents… IHEN has been getting mail related to this issue since September, and while not all of them are Ex-Schoolers (I’ve been calling them excommunicated schoolers) as described above, many of them (I have around a couple hundred letters of various degrees of disgust with the public schools. are close enough to be calling this a small wave of exodus from the public schools.

    First some clarifications: Legislators aren’t “doing” anything. The public school Supers are taking it upon themselves to make sure that disgruntled parents, parents of expelled and drop outs are told in no uncertain terms that they should be homeschooling if their child is not in a public school.

    A few parents have said they had the IDOE enrollment form signed for them. I believe most of the parents are just being told to “sign this” which they do, and the Supers kick them out the door as “TRANSFER” students. (To a private school, which in Indiana, homeschools are non-accredited, non-public schools.)

    Indiana’s dropout age was recently raised from 16 to 17. This accounts, IMO, for the increase in dropouts. The kids are imprisoned for one more year, so they stew and grow more rebellious, and some, more violent.

    Raising the dropout age to 18 would, IMO, double the dropout rate.

    Except… if Supers just call all their dropouts TRANSFER students to homeschooling, then the dropout rates will fall.

    Some schools with decreasing enrollments also get extra money for empty seats. 80% full payment the first year, 60% the second… etc. for four or five years.

    If the student somehow slips into another Indiana public school, then the taxpayers will be paying twice for him.


    Due process rights can be trampled, kids can be kicked out almost instantly, if they can coerce the parent to sign a piece of paper that says she’s homeschooling… and there’s more.

    We’ve been talking about it for months on IndianaHomeschoolers and on our Legal Eagles e-lists.

    HSLDA hasn’t been getting much mail since, well… they are a Christian legal support network and many of the parents who are now parents of Ex-Schoolers, are just clueless about what homeschooling is about, let alone that they’re supposed to come to it with serious prayer.

    Keep following it. It’s bound to blow up sooner or later.

    /s/ Ben Bennett


    Project Coordinator:
    Indiana Home Educators’ Network: |
    IHEN: Helping Hoosiers Homeschool since the turn of the century.

    Statewide E-lists:


  6. Regarding how this hurts the homeschooling community.

    It does… but the more I think about it, some of the scenarios mentioned above are unlikely.

    e.g.: Kids who drop out are highly unlikely to take another test again. So “poor homeschooler test scores” because of Ex-Schoolers is not likely. ACT and SAT scores are what most homeschoolers use to get into college. A public school dropout turned homeschooler, is SO unlikely to take these to get into college, that this doesn’t appear to be something that will bother the homeschooling community.

    – What about kids commmitting crimes that “say” they’re homeschoolers? That is a concern, but I’m hoping that in the process of booking a REAL criminal who SAYS he’s homeschooling, someone will find out that the kid was only just recently told to leave his public school. The media won’t pick up on it… but that’s why myself and others with IHEN have been chatting about this with some reporters for months. They’re waiting in the wings for this to blow up on the public school Supers. (I’m hoping.) The wasted tax money will hopefully be a good hook.

    – What about employers looking to hire? That’s troubling. We’re just getting mail directly from employers asking if we can send them homeschoolers to work for them. 🙂 It would be a shame if a wave of idiots looking to flip burgers ruins the karma. What I’m hoping is that it will be pretty easy to read a book by its cover in the resume and employment form department. A few poor spellings and the usual junk, and they aren’t going to even get to the school part.

    – Army recuiters? Everyone has to take their test. That will weed out most of the Ex-Schoolers.

    Over all, I remain optimistic, while vigliant. Oh… and we’re still getting 3-5 e-mails a week from parents who are fed up and aren’t going to take it anymore. That’s over double from last year.


  7. “- Army recuiters? Everyone has to take their test. That will weed out most of the Ex-Schoolers.”

    True, but what happens to public or lawmaker perception if the average pre-enlistment test score of homeschoolers suddenly drops 10% in a single year because of all the “Homeschooler” dropouts taking the test?

  8. I actually met recently with two prominent people from the state department of education. They indicated that there are no drop-outs (literally, not at all making this up) in Indiana. Students that are no longer in school are either being homeschooled or have been expelled for behavior issues. How then, is it, that Indianapolis has the highest drop-out rate in the nation as publicized in a wide variety of media? Everyone knows…there is no such thing as a drop-out in the state of Indiana.

  9. I am doing research on home schooling for a college speech.
    I found this information about drop-outs being transferred to home schooling. I know of two teens that dropped out and then went to home schooling. Neither were trouble making hoodlums that were what it seems everyone is stereotyping here. One girl became pregnant as a teen and her parents worked, her grandparents were not able to take care of her child and there were no day care options that took infants so she had to drop out of school. She chose to be home schooled paying $2000 for a tutor to come to her home and teach her. She is now in college also and doing very well. The other case is a teen girl that had a lot of medical problems. It caused her to miss so much school that she was unable to keep up in school so her parents decided to home school her. If she did not have that option and it had not been explained to them by the administrators she would have been a drop out as well.
    From the research I have done so far, I see two sides. One where there are home schoolers that take education seriously and their children’s success will validate this in years to come. The other is the parents that do not want to take responsibility for making sure their children get an education so if they call them home schooled they can stay home and no one checks on them, there is no curriculum that has to be met, and there is no mandatory testing to make sure they are doing any schooling at all. They are pulling their kids out of the schools so they do not have to be inconvenienced by following state guidelines and rules.
    These are the children I am worried about. Some of their parents were high school drop-outs. We worry about the quality of our teachers in schools that have degrees but yet we allow children to be home schooled by unqualified, unmotivated parents that are just trying to beat the system? I have issues with that.
    Again, that is not the parents that home school that get into the home schooling networking, get appropriate curriculum, and are very responsible in their home schooling efforts. But what about the others?
    I don’t see that these people will skew the testing systems as pointed out, but do think that the home schooling testing is skewed saying that home schoolers test higher in what I have pulled up on SAT and ACT. These numbers are skewed too since not all home schoolers are tested only the brightest ones that are college bound and been prepped for the testing.
    I believe that the government should have some responsibility to make sure that home schooled children are really home schooled and not just being pulled out of the system as a convenience for irresponsible parents and thought that testing each year by the school system and mandatory curriculum in Math, Reading/English, Social Studies, and Sciences would be good to make sure they are getting education in core areas. The parents could add whatever else they wanted to teach them such as Arts and Religion.
    I see several home schooling web sites have issues with that mandatory testing of home schoolers and core curriculum standards. I believe that those children would excel in the testing and it would flag the children that are not being taught at all.
    Otherwise, how can we make sure that children are really learning and not falling behind?

  10. Sandra,

    Welcome to my blog, even if you have come to the conversation late on this post.

    I’m not sure you got the point of the article, which is that Indiana is calling their drop-outs “homeschoolers” in order to reduce their dropout rate. This gives the real homeschoolers a bad name if our test scores are mixed with the test scores of high school dropouts. Since homeschoolers number about 2-4% of the schooled population (and there are more homeschooled kids in the lower grades), it wouldn’t take much to make our numbers look bad.

    A number of homeschoolers (myself included) have a principled objection to mandatory testing by the state. The real question is, who is in control? One point of home education is that we want to teach differently from what the public school is offering. This could be a different method of teaching (i.e. Montessori method), or it could be teaching from a different underlying philosophy (i.e. an Amish person may want to teach his children in a way that is suited to that religion and culture.) If we have to report to a public school for approval, then our freedoms to direct the upbringing of our children could easily be restricted. Fortunately, most state intrusion has decreased over the years.

    There is another objection I have to being accountable to a public school official. If my child scores at the 20th percentile in any subject, I, as a homeschooled parent, am in trouble. However, if a kid at East High School 3 miles away scores at the 20th percentile, it is no big deal. I am actually being held to a higher standard than the public schools. We also have to log 180 hours of instruction, even though in the local public schools there are many days, such as the day before Christmas, when very little education happens.

    Incidentally, while there are a few irresponsible homeschoolers, I think that most irresponsible parents would rather have the free babysitting that public school provides. Usually, the unsuccessful homeschoolers will put their kids back in school after a bad year or two.

  11. “I don’t see that these people will skew the testing systems as pointed out, but do think that the home schooling testing is skewed saying that home schoolers test higher in what I have pulled up on SAT and ACT. These numbers are skewed too since not all home schoolers are tested only the brightest ones that are college bound and been prepped for the testing.”

    Sandra, I don’t at all understand what you’re saying here. The very same is true of kids in school — few non-college bound students take the SAT or ACT, and most have access to some kind of prep. I am aware of a few relatively small Catholic high schools here that mandate the SAT to all students, but no public ones (except the college-prep public school my own kids attend — again, 99% college-bound students.)

    So if the prepped, college-bound homeschoolers are still slightly outscoring the prepped, college-bound school kids, that still means they are outscoring comparable students. How is that a skewing?

  12. Update: There are accusations that Richmond Community Schools are “transferring” large numbers of students to homeschooling. Now… this could be simply a symptom of a very bad school system, and parents are just bailing. Even assuming all of the transfers are legit… this year RCS was credited with a huge increase in their graduation rate. (They were the dropout factory last year.)

    So did they do amazing things to keep kids in school, or did losing 70+ kids a year for the past three years, solve their dropout problem for them?

    More on the current articles coming here:

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