Nobody knows how many students are being home-schooled in Alabama.
According to the last National Household Education Survey, conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, 1.1 million students were being home-schooled nationwide in 2003.
Gail Mulligan, project manager for the NHES, said the survey can’t help to estimate home school populations for specific states. However, she said it’s clear that home schooling has continued to grow in recent years — between 1999 and 2003 the percent of students in kindergarten through high school being home-schooled increased from 1.7 percent to 2.2 percent.
More children are being home-schooled in the United States than there are children enrolled in charter schools or conservative Christian schools, said Steven Broughman, a statistician at the National Center for Education Statistics.
Some researchers argue that the Department of Education’s estimates are too low, saying home-schoolers were less likely to have participated in the survey or to have answered honestly, Mulligan said.
Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute and a home-school father, is one of the critics. He estimates that in 2006 between 1.9 million to 2.4 million students were home-schooled in the United States, and he said 30,000 to 38,000 of those students were in Alabama.
Yet, the Alabama Department of Education and local enrollment supervisors say they have no way to count students being home-schooled in the state.
The only connection the state has with home-school families is a single piece of paper — a church-school enrollment form that includes a student’s name, date of birth, grade, home address, and the name and address of the specific church they will be attending, said Dee Black, a lawyer for the Home School Legal Defense Association.
Most local enrollment supervisors keep count of these forms. In 2006, Calhoun County had 422 children enrolled in church schools, and Shelby County had 525. Yet public school officials admit these numbers don’t truly reflect their districts’ home-school populations.
The information they receive does not differentiate between actual parochial schools and home-school organizations. And though some district officials ask church schools to update their enrollment yearly, a parent only has to declare their child’s absence from the public school system once, said Mike Stiefel, the Calhoun County Schools enrollment supervisor.
If a parent begins home schooling a child in the first grade and continues until 12th grade, they only have to file the form once, Stiefel said.
The Christian Home Education Fellowship of Alabama has a membership of more than 300 church schools with home-schoolers, but Chris Christian, president of CHEF, said the number is not a comprehensive list. The Alabama Department of Education does not monitor church-school enrollment or the number of church schools in the state, said Michael Sibley, spokesman for the Alabama Department of Education.
Black said he was recently notified of an attempt by the Alabama Department of Education to count the number of church schools in the state. However, HSLDA has told church schools that they don’t have to comply, he said.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Posted by Andy Johns, mobile reporter at 8/21/2007 09:50:00 AM