Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Is Tn Homeschooling Up or Down?

The buzz in Tennessee's homeschooling world this morning is a report that originated in Murfreesboro's Daily News Journal which was sub-headed "Parents increasingly opt for homeschooling children" is being picked up and passed on with a different twist by other local media.

WSMV and WKRN focused on the decrease in the number of homeschoolers registered with the LEA and headlined their piece "Statistics show decline in state home-schooling".

I don't believe homeschooling is down at all in Tennessee. What may be down is the number registering with the local education agencies (LEA). I've no doubt that bothers some people.

DNJ reporter Robinson-Blair quoted some statistics from the Tennessee Department of Education

Figures released from the Tennessee Department of Education indicate the state had 5,365 homeschool students in 2004. That number jumped to 6,418 in 2005 but dropped to 4,525 in 2006, according to the state.
There is some background information that is not included in this story and three things really do need to be mentioned for context.

1. During that big jump Dr. Randy Hankins was in charge of the TN DOE office for homeschooling. He communicated with the homeschooling community in a way quite unlike any other in his position ever had. I'm sure some of his peers considered him too pro-homeschooling. He expressed to me several times that public schoolers and homeschoolers were not enemies but should be working together to ensure the education of the children. I believe his attitude and professionalism made homeschoolers feel more welcome and safe in registering with the LEA.

2. The TN DOE has been pushing since just before Dr. Hankins left in the spring to clean up their homeschooling numbers. I don't know why. I do know that recently a report came out from that office suggesting the legislature take another look at the homeschooling regulations. From page 6 of that report's .pdf:
The General Assembly may wish to consider whether more information is needed on home school programs and students, including information on compliance with state laws. The General Assembly may wish to consider whether the Department of Education should have the responsibility to monitor compliance with and ensure enforcement of the home school laws. Additonally, if it determines that more information is needed on the home school program, it should amend state law to give the department authority to collect such information.
Publicily calling for more oversight of homeschoolers will drive them to private entities.

3. At the request of the TN DOE local LEA's have been cleaning up their files and several have been asking for more information than is legally required, Davidson County included. It's difficult enough for homeschoolers to trust the public school system, but throw in the fact that they're already asking for more information than required and it's no surprise if families decide to take a different route.

Yes, it's a frustration for bean counters when they can't track and study us. But as long as we're complying with the law and our children aren't filling up the police blotters or welfare rolls--it's really not any of their business.

Everything I'm hearing and experiencing leads me to believe that homeschooling is still growing in our state. It's becoming more diverse ethnically, religiously, politically and especially growing amongst families with special needs children. Perhaps that growth is a problem for those who make their living in a different education choice--but protectionist tactics isn't the best way to deal with competition.

1 comment:

Ned Williams said...

Great post, Kay. My wife and I saw the report on WSMV and--though surprised by the headline in light of our personal experience, basically ignored it. But your post highlights the junk-foody nature of much journalism. Thanks for providing something to chew on.