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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

School Districts Record Dropouts as "Homeschoolers"

The Houston Chronicle reports today on a widespread practice in Texas school districts aimed at avoiding accountability for high school dropouts. Rather than recording them as "dropouts" in attendance records, school officials instead label them as "homeschoolers."

This practice is not limited to Texas, although it is apparently rampant in the Lone Star State. It is an obstruction of social justice designed to avoid accountability by school districts that are not making Adequate Yearly Progress as defined in the No Child Left Behind law.

Every state has a set of attendance codes that are used to record student departures from school districts. As long as a student can be labeled a transfer to another school district, a withdrawal for homeschool, or a transfer to a private school, then the district is not penalized for a dropout. What officials are doing when a dropout looms is to convince the family to sign a document claiming that the student will be homeschooled.

This practice is an abuse of the public trust in public school officials, as well as an obstruction of justice, in my opinion. NCLB was designed to force schools not to "hide" dropouts or groups of low-performing students. Falsely labeling dropouts as homeschoolers in an effort to circumvent the law should be punishable by jail time and loss of state licensure.

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