Nearly 3,700 Indiana students who were expected to graduate in 2019 but did not earn diplomas were left out of high school graduation rates.
Those students were wiped off the books because they were labeled as leaving to home-school — a designation that helps boost graduation rates for high schools but does not ensure the students are educated at home.
The state total for the latest graduation data is nearly identical to the number in the prior year despite growing attention to the problem. Across the state, 47 fewer students were marked as leaving to home-school in 2019 compared to 2018, when just over 3,736 students in the graduating class were designated as homeschoolers.
The data comes after a recent Chalkbeat investigation revealed that many teens leaving to home-school are clustered at some of the state’s most troubled schools. As a result of the problem, Indiana students who have diminished opportunities because they don’t earn diplomas are left out of state graduation data, creating a hidden dropout crisis at many high schools.
Following that investigation, a state panel called for lawmakers to reconsider how they calculate graduation rates. The panel also released a plan for high school accountability grades to be based largely on whether students are enlisted, employed, or enrolled in post-secondary education when they graduate — deemphasizing graduation rates that some say can be easily manipulated.
The new numbers coincide with rising concerns among Indiana policymakers that students are being improperly labeled as leaving to home-schools. Last year, the legislature passed a law that targets schools with large numbers of students leaving to home-school and requires them to show “good cause” or those students will be designated as dropping out.
The state expects to begin implementing that law with the 2020 graduating class, but Indiana State Board of Education officials have not yet determined how they will measure “good cause.”
Emmerich Manual High School, an Indianapolis campus that was the focus of Chalkbeat’s reporting last year because of its high rate of students leaving to home-school in 2018, saw a significant decline in the number of homeschoolers in 2019. The dip was driven in part by a routine state audit, which found that the school did not have appropriate paperwork for many of the students initially designated as homeschoolers.
In 2019, the high school with the largest number of students labeled as leaving to home-school — and the highest rate among schools serving traditional students — was Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy. At the scandal-plagued virtual school, which abruptly closed in September, 126 students were marked as leaving to home-school.
Find out how many students at your high school left to home-school with our searchable, sortable database. It shows how many students from the class of 2019 left to home-school, dropped out, and graduated.