THE HOME SCHOOL OPTION IS A WARNING THAT PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE NOT SERVING STUDENTS
Recently, a prominent Texas Legislator was quoted regarding concerns about home school students. As superintendent of four charter schools, I am familiar with the process through which some students “use” the home school opportunity to avoid attending public school. I am also familiar with the wonderful achievements attained by most home school families. As in any arena of opportunity, some abuses occur. Obviously, many educators and legislators are conscientious and dedicated public servants. They are, however, perhaps missing a key ingredient to the solution for too many drop outs (to home schools).
Several years ago, I published an article that included the statement, “The sound you hear is the rush of feet as at-risk students leave public schools.” The article addressed the reasons too many teenagers vacate public school programs. I also pointed out that the combination of home, private, residential, and charter schools do not equal the quantity of students who are dropping out of public schools and not enrolling in any educational program! Concern over students who “abuse” the home school opportunity to leave public school is legitimate. However, the point of focus of inquiry might better address the need for options for those students, so they do not feel restricted to quitting their pursuit of a high school diploma.
A recent article addressed to alternative school educators suggested establishment of “Triage Academies” for students who have lost hope of obtaining a standard high school diploma under the conventional public school system. I would like to prop my feet up on a table to discuss with legislators some observations about the conflict between high aspirations and the test-based indicators and benchmarks set by the educational establishment. The reality is that all students are not “wired” to master all four academic disciplines (Social Studies, English, Science, Math) established by Legislatures and State Education Agencies. For example, only about 6 to 8 percent of high school graduates enter a college or career field that requires application of physics or Algebra II competencies. Yet, all high school students are expected (unrealistically) to like and master those subjects at a level required for entrance to any post-high school institution.
A computer technician once commented to me, “Dr. Johnson, how can you be so brilliant and so stupid at the same time?” I have five college degrees and have a measure of professional success, yet I could not measure up to the level of math and science competencies expected of contemporary students. I have been accused of being “a genius up to seven digits.” The point is that my aptitude for administration and entrepreneurship is pretty high, but my aptitude for remembering long sequences of data or digits is obviously limited. Would that mark me as a failure? Under contemporary criteria, yes.
The perception I am attempting to clarify is that the current high school exit pandemic (30 to 50 percent…depending on geographic locations) reflects more than a wounded student’s opportunity to drop out of school under the disguise of home education. A real and legitimate reason for the pandemic exit level from public schools is directly associated with leavers’ perceived insurmountable mountain of “high expectations” tied to demonstrable competency in all academic disciplines, and the students’ discomfort with standard public school modus operandi. State legislatures are obligated to evaluate carefully the dilemma faced by at-risk students in the halls of most public schools. The combination of traumatic, domestic wounds and the narrow field of options available for earning a high school diploma literally force many students to “opt out of public school”. Some are fortunate to access a charter or private school designed to recover and restore wounded students. For thousands of public school dropouts, the availability of the home school opportunity is actually an effort to buy time while the students “sort out” perceived insurmountable obstacles to adulthood. Unfortunately, many “enroll in street school” rather than engage in home school studies. What they really need is local school choices that fit the students’ mental wiring, current domestic status in life, and provide hope for tomorrow.
Closing or restricting the home school option will not adequately address the real issue: the sound of students exiting the one-size-fits-all public school system!
Dr. Johnson is president of Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum. He is a conference speaker, author, and trainer for school administrators and boards. Additional information is available at www.pacworks.com. He can be contacted at Learn@pacworks.com or P.O. Box 3159 Early, Texas 76802.