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Home Schooling Accountability

With the number of home-schooled children at a record high of close to 1.8 million, it was only a matter of time before questions arose about their success.  The logical place to try to answer that question is Texas, where 300,000 children participate - more than in any other state ("Can Texas districts require proof that home-schooled children are learning?" Los Angeles Times, Nov. 3).  

What makes the issue so controversial is that Texas and 10 other states do not require home-schooling parents to register with the school district or the state. Fourteen states do not specify any subjects that must be taught, and only nine states require that parents have at least a high-school diploma or equivalent to teach their children. Most glaring in today's accountabilty era is that in half the states home-schoolers never have to take a standardized test or be subject to any formal outside assessment.

When the El Paso school district ordered the McIntyre family, whose nine children were all home-schooled, to prove they were properly educated after relatives complained that they never seemed to be studying, the family sued claiming that their "constitutional educational liberty interests" had been violated.  It's impossible to know how the court will rule, but it's interesting to note that in June, Gov. Greg Abbott appointed a home-schooler to chair the Texas Board of Education ("A Texas Teaching Moment," The Wall Street Journal," Jul. 22).  

As I see it, the issue is not where education takes place but if it takes place.  Contrary to popular belief, not all parents who choose to home-school their children are religious fanatics.  Many are simply frustrated and angry at the failure of some public schools to do their job.  I think most home-schooled children are shortchanged, but I support the right of parents to make that decision for themselves. Apparently so do others, based on the 61.8 percent increase in home-schooling over the past 10 years.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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