Bulletin #30 No Child Left Behind and Push Outs 03/29/04

 

Did you know? As a result of NCLB students who do not do well in public school are being asked/forced to leave in order to bring up test scores, so that the school can stay off of failing school lists.

 

These families are being asked, in effect, to place their children in private schools, or educate their children at home. Of course superintendents and school administrators may deny this practice, but it is happening, and it is slowly being documented. Drop-out rates and other statistics are hiding the truth about what is really happening to these kids.

The legislation, "No Child Left Behind" (HR1) has mandated that school's performance be measured and that the schools must show improvements and be accountable for their test score results. Government funding is tied to testing results and schools that do poorly will be placed on failing school lists, which will be mandated to make various forms of restitution and other modifications.

The homeschool community (nationally and locally) is seeing families being "pushed out" of public school. Homeschool support group leaders are hearing statements like, "They didn't know what to do with my child and they suggested I homeschool him. I didn't really want to, but here I am..." Some other leaders are hearing that kids are just made so miserable and given such little help that the kids beg/cry to be taken out. Some parents are fed up with the system, and the school administrators are only too happy to be rid of the whole problem. There are various ways that families handle this situation. Some begin a home grown curriculum, some find alternative programs, and some find private or tutoring options, or use long distance learning programs. Most seek help from local homeschool organizations.

Fortunately, many states have very strong, vibrant and committed homeschool communities. Various homeschool organizations are terrific in helping, and giving advice, and pointing people to helpful resources. They have been offering families help regarding any homeschooling questions that they have. It is desirable that homeschooling is a choice that families can make, but schools are supposed to be required by law to offer appropriate education, and a safe environment, for those who want to be in public school.

It should be pointed out that just because public schools are not doing their job and are refusing to solve problems, that this is not a reason for the homeschooling community to be punished or scrutinized. Superintendents in the past have tried to get legislation passed that would be burdensome, discriminatory and unnecessary simply because they were seeing families leaving the public school. We know that they see us as some kind of threat. Clearly the NEA (National Education Association) and some other organizations have taken very anti-homeschooling positions, and they are looking for any reason to put legislation upon us that would attempt to make it more difficult to homeschool, or worse yet, to let the state have complete oversight over homeschooling. Homeschoolers should refuse to be punished for their successes, and should not accept that failing school systems should have oversight over homeschooling practices.

Additionally, homeschools are being persecuted in some places not because of problems or failures of homeschooling in and of itself, but because of the failures in DCF (Dept of Children and Family). A case in point is homeschool being held suspect with regard to abuse and neglect, especially based on some irresponsible media reporting. Legislators should know not to believe everything that is reported in the media. Clearly the media did little to fully explain the case of the Jackson family in New Jersey. They blame homeschooling for hiding the problem, but they failed to mention to the public that this family was already being investigated by DCF for abuse and neglect. But more importantly, legislators need to be reminded that abuse and neglect is a social issue and is not a homeschool issue. Just like stealing is not a homeschool issue. Stealing is stealing no matter who does it, and there are laws in place to deal with it already. Homeschools cannot and should not be brought under suspicion and legislated because of unfortunate social problems. The homeschool community is vigilant of legislation throughout the nation. Legislators should be aware that we will be very vocal and very active if we see that homeschooling rights are attempting to be changed because of people who wish to pin blame on us for issues that are not our fault. If the homeschool community is growing because of NCLB and "push outs", our community will be there to help those families, but every state homeschool organization should be on the doorstep of their legislature if homeschoolers are picked on for doing so.

There are articles all over the Internet regarding the issue of push outs. Some of them are listed below. Most articles are NOT specifically related to homeschooling, but the occurrence of 'push-outs' and the implications of it are being reported. Apparently, it's common and it's widespread. It seems like any kid who can't get their scores up poses a problem. This is an important issue, not just for homeschoolers, but for education in general. For some schools it is MUCH cheaper to push a student out of school than it is to determine why the child has not been successful in a traditional program, and to meet the child's needs, which might include vocational education and/or community college, or other intervention methods. Many times the reason a child has left public school is not truthfully documented.

It is noted that there are anecdotal stories from all over the country about kids being pushed out of school. Many people don't wish their names or other details to be used because they fear press or retaliation by local school administrators. And we do know that some may not be directly due to NCLB - lots of the stories started before it went into effect. However, there are people who have been watching certain trends over the years and have seen that kids with disabilities who are high school age have been, apparently, pushed out of high school programs for years. Those people are waiting to see if those trends sky rocket when certain education reports are due out in the spring from United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.

People have written news articles regarding the difference between drop out rates and graduation rates and the way in which schools categorize drop outs.

What some people are seeing, which is attributable to NCLB, is that SEA's (State Education Agencies) all over the country are looking to establish new 2nd, 3rd and 4th class high school-type diplomas for kids with disabilities who can't possibly complete the regular diploma programs. And New York State is canceling upgrading its standards and maintaining a diploma (local high school diploma) that it was going to eliminate (because, according to a Deputy commissioner, it represented a two-track diploma system with the lower one not meeting any meaningful standards). Nationally, what we're seeing is that they're trying to set these up for kids with disabilities and in some places (like NYS) for schools with a high proportion of black and/or Hispanic students. These groups happen to have over-representation in the group of kids who are classified as disabled; the inter-relationship between the two is not yet known.

Additionally we're also seeing some families being "pushed out" by control crazy schools not willing to follow the orders of a child's physician. Schools have become surrogate parents and now are denying not only the rights of parents to educate but also the rights of parents to medicate (or not), and the Department of Children and Family Services is being used as the agent of enforcement.

One of the problems (and an outcome) with this is: if they eliminate enough marginal kids out of the system, then in a few years their results for no child left behind will be stunning, and they will show how this mandated legislation really did "do the trick" to improving public education.

Authors like John Taylor Gatto have been writing about this for years.

Home Education Magazine has stated: "We have an increasing number of calls that could be classified as push-outs. From kids who can't sit still and are offered drugs or homeschooling, to kids who have gotten themselves in some sort of trouble and have a probation officer "following and certifying" homeschooling as terms of probation. (That means court ordered homeschooling). "Push Outs" is really the concept of selecting for certain students and against others. This is not a new. Private schools have used this process forever and charter schools more recently. What is new is that public schools now have a process to use this concept. With the hysteria towards testing and assessments of students and institutions tied to big bucks this effect is inevitable. Yet, we really didn't see it coming this blatantly and this fast."

Here are only a few examples:

Ohio: An 8 y.o. boy diagnosed with A.D.D. His mother has been told by the school, there is nothing they can do, she should home-educate him.

Illinois: The kid had been getting homebound teaching because of a chronic illness, and one day the teacher told the mom that her job was being cut because of budgetary concerns. So now the mom is homeschooling. She'll do fine, but it's not fair. She was not really given a choice. When her boy was in public school, he wasn't treated well because of his disabilities and illness. She said, "We could fight it in court, but there's no point in it". She should give her time and attention to her son. In another case, the child has a terminal illness, AND asthma, AND allergies, AND an anxiety disorder. The mother feels that he should be treated kindly, and the public school doesn't want him in their buildings, but they also have cut back on homebound teacher expenses. The mom doesn't have a problem with homeschooling, but it was not her choice initially.

Virginia: A mom whose son had been pretty much expelled ('permanent suspension') from middle school because they couldn't manage his ADHD. She was concerned that they might give her trouble if she told them she wanted to homeschool him, but at his permanent suspension meeting they were 'very supportive' of her decision to homeschool.

Connecticut: In Groton A parent who has no problem with school curriculum and has a child with Down Syndrome. Because of the doctors care and the interventions, she is capable of academic performance appropriate for her age and her socialization skills are the same as anyone else her age. The school refuses to recognize the child's capabilities and have no expectations for her, despite what the child's doctor recommends, so the only option left was to homeschool. In another case, the parents of a 7th grader had a PPT scheduled but the teachers have started saying things like "Some kids just aren't good at school". Homeschooling was given as an option. In Norwich, a 7 yr. old boy in 2nd grade was "diagnosed" with ADD/ADHD and the family said they were being told to homeschool. In the Litchfeld area - a parent reported, "My kids have chronic fatigue syndrome triggered by the moldy environments of the school buildings. We are "home schooling" not by choice but because the schools did not help us." In Simsbury, when the child was not doing well academically, the guidance counselor suggested to parents that perhaps they should consider "alternative" schooling. This was suggested in response to the allegation that the child was not studying, pulling the grades, etc. The not so subtle impression was that poor performance can skew their scores, and schools in Simsbury, thrive on their "high scores" reputation.

 

Below are some relevant articles:

http://www.advocatesforchildren.org/pubs/pushout-11-20-02.doc

An Analysis of High School Discharge Figures: A Report by The Public Advocate for the City of New York, Betsy Gotbaum Public Advocate (Advocates for Children

Advocates for Children is working on this problem in NY State. In order to mitigate ghastly test scores and a rising drop out rates, they are saying that the kids being asked to leave, have left in order to pursue an alternative education, either private school or homeschooling. Pushing Out At-Risk Students

 

http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/pub_dropouts.asp

Public High School Dropouts and Completers from the Common Core of Data - This report presents the number and percentage of students dropping out and completing public school (among states that reported dropouts 1997-2001)

 

http://www.suntimes.com/ archives SCHOOLS PRESSURED TO DROP BAD STUDENTS - Chicago Sun-Times, January 9, 2004

 

http://www.gothamgazette.com/article/education/20030808/6/487

High School Push Outs August, 2003

 

New York Times - To Cut Failure Rate, Schools Shed Students - July 31, 2003

 

http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0338/hentoff.php

Testing to Create Dropouts? Playing the Numbers Game for Kids' Futures - September 12th, 2003

 

 

 

Attorney Deborah Stevenson - Executive Director of National Home Education Legal Defense.

www.nheld.com or email : info@nheld.com

Judy Aron - Director of Research, NHELD imjfaron@sbcglobal.net