a division of Home School Legal Defense Association
June 22, 1999

Public School Failures

Shootings a Boon to Home Education; More Parents Opt Out of System After Colorado

While politicians and pundits debate the cause of the recent shooting tragedy in Littleton, Colorado, parents have decided to take matters into their own hands by considering home schooling their children.

Phone call inquiries to various state home school associations throughout the country have jumped since the Columbine shootings on April 20.

Due to fear of a similar situation many students fear going back to the public schools. There is some consensus among home schooling advocates that the Columbine incident has caused an rise in interest of home education as an alternative to public education. Joe Adams co-director of the Christian Home Educators of Kentucky is expecting a 25% increase in attendance for this years state convention.

Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC) have been swarmed with inquiries. Calls have increased fivefold, from about 60 a month to over 300. CHEC holds monthly workshops to explain home schooling laws, curriculums and philosophies to curious parents. Participation grew from 15 in February to 45 in May to 500 for the June session.

In Colorado, in the month after the Columbine shootings, the state education department fielded 68 calls about home schooling, about 60 percent more than usual, said Suzie Parker, who oversees home schooling for that agency. (excerpts from “Brave New Schools,” Paul Chesser, World Net Daily 1999, “Home School Queries Spike After Shootings,” by Lynn Schnaiberg, Education Week, June 9, 1999)

Public School Students Fear Violence

Many American teenagers be-lieve a shooting rampage like the one last week in Littleton, Colo., could happen at their school and think they know students -who might be troubled enough to carry one out, according to a new Wash-ington Post-ABC News poll of teenagers and parents ...

About a third of the teenagers have heard a student threaten to kill someone, and few of them reported the threats to a teacher or other adult. Four out of 10 say they know students troubled enough to be potential killers. (from “Teens Nationwide See Signs of Potential

School Violence,” by Hanna Rosin and Claudia Deane, Washington Post, April 27, 1999, p.A1)

Disappointing Results in the New Virginia Statewide Achievement Tests

Research shows that more than 97 percent of Virginia public schools had failed the first round of tests, administered last spring to students in grades three, five, eight, and high school. Only 39 percent of the state’s 1,800 schools, or 2.2 percent, met the performance goals that, in several years, will have an impact on school accreditation and high school graduation. Joseph Pedulla, a senior research associate at the Center for the Study of Testing at Boston College, noted that Virginia’s scenario is “not uncommon.” He added that a very high percentage of students either failed or fell into ‘needs improvement’ category in recent statewide tests in Massachusetts. “This is a trend you will see, especially the first time around.” (excerpted from “High stakes and high anxiety in Virginia—will your state be next?” by Judith Brody Saks, The American School Board Journal, March 1999, pp. 6-7)

State Mandates Don’t Work

While exercising authority may bring a degree of compliance, Thomas Kelly, a trainer in school improvement has written his latest book Systematic Assessment for Quality Schools, argues that only leadership can bring excellence. During his training sessions he has asked thousands of teachers and administrators this question: How many of you think that teacher evaluation has brought any real improvement to your schools? Virtually no one ever thinks so. He once asked this question of 500 teachers, administrators, and college teachers, and not one raised a hand in the affirmative. He mentions that W. Edwards Deming observed that at least 95% of the chronic problems in organizations have structural or systematic causes. These problems stem not from the workers in the organization, but from the structure of the organization itself C from its policies, practices, rules and so on. (Excerpted from “Why State Mandates Don’t Work,” by Thomas A. Kelly, PHI DELTA KAPPAN, March 1999, pp.543-546)

Reading Scores Still Lag

Reading skills of American fourth-graders are on the rise, according to test scores released earlier this year. That’s the good news.

Still less than a third of all fourth-graders—and only 10% of black fourth-graders—can read at a level experts deem “proficient.”

[E]ven California—where three years ago lawmakers mandated phonics as a way to improve the state’s last-in-the-nation reading scores—is finding that it’s easier to pass a mandate than it is to change a classroom. (Excerpts from “Why Reading Scores Still Lag, Ed School Resist Mandates To Teach Phonics,” By Anna Bray Duff, Investors Business Daily, Wed., June 2,1999, p.1)