Education
12:52 pm
Fri October 11, 2013

Where Homeschooling is Happening in Kentucky, and Why Education Leaders are Paying Attention

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Kentucky doesn't monitor homeschooling very well, Education Commissioner Terry Holliday says.

But as the state prepares to implement a new dropout age of 18 in a few years, Holliday says it’s an issue the education department wants to keep an eye on.

This week, he presented broken down homeschooling withdraw numbers to the Kentucky Board of Education with. On average, less than 1 percent of Kentucky children were withdrawn from the public school system to be homeschooled last year, according to the data (see below).

Further, that rate has been consistent for the past several years, despite nationwide reports that mention homeschool rates have been on the rise.

Holliday says the education department wants to collect baseline homeschool numbers and watch them closely as the rollout of the increased dropout age occurs, which all schools will implement by the 2017-2018 school year. 

Holliday says some superintendents have told him parents use homeschool to scoot by the public schools system.

“Our concern was that as we implement raising the dropout age we might see an increase so we want to get baseline before to just see if indeed that does happen,” he says.

There are nearly 2 million children who are homeschooled throughout the country.

The reasons families choose to homeschool vary widely, according to the National Home Education Research Institute:

  • customize or individualize the curriculum and learning environment for each child
  • accomplish more academically than in schools
  • use pedagogical approaches other than those typical in institutional schools
  •  enhance family relationships between children and parents and among siblings
  • provide guided and reasoned social interactions with youthful peers and adults
  • provide a safer environment for children and youth, because of physical violence, drugs and alcohol, psychological abuse, and improper and unhealthy sexuality associated with institutional schools
  • teach and impart a particular set of values, beliefs, and worldview to children and youth.

As Holliday pointed out this week, some districts have seen an “abnormal” percentage of students withdrawn for the home school option, which he wants superintendents to be aware of.

For example, in Campbell County ‘s Silver Grove Independent school district 3.8 percent of students are homeschooled. It's 0 percent in Jefferson County Public Schools—27 students are recorded as homeschooled (the 100,000 student population rounds the average to 0 percent).

Though Kentucky’s numbers have remained consistent over the past five years, data show, the state does not do a good job monitoring those students who are homeschooled, Holliday says.

“Most other states do it much better,” he says. “That’s a district responsibility and we don’t have a way to monitor that.”

Holliday says there are some good home schools in Kentucky, but there are a lot of families who choose to homeschool to escape the public school system. While Holliday says he’s a strong supporter of parental choice, he also adds that it would likely take more resources and a General Assembly effort to increase monitoring of home schools.

There are thousands of students who are homeschooled in Kentucky (the data below speaks only to the withdrawn numbers for the specified years) and some parents say the option fits their student well.

In Jefferson County, 1,720 students were deemed home schooled as of this month, which could also include e-school students who complete courses online.

Under Kentucky law, families who homeschool their student must notify their local school district prior to removing them from the public school system. But an NHERI report says about 10 percent of homeschooled students nationwide are thought to exist in underground schools that don’t comply with state laws.

Also under Kentucky law, attendance and pupil records are to be recorded, including examples of the students work. 

Updates to this story we're made on Oct. 14 to better reflect the below report.

Here's a list of how many Kentucky students are homeschooled, broken down by district:

(Image via Shutterstock)