Did you know that more school-age children are schooled at home full time than attend charter schools? That statistical tidbit comes from federal data released earlier this month by the National Center for Education Statistics.
According to the report, 2.9 percent of children in grades 1 through 12 were being taught at home in 2007. In comparison, the report says, about 2 percent of children in kindergarten through 12th grade were attending charter schools that year. I find the comparison surprising, given all the debate raging on at the national level about charter schools. Undoubtedly, the charter school population has grown since 2007. Still, I wonder why we don’t hear more about the seemingly larger, but mostly invisible, population of children learning at home.
Overall, the report notes that the percentage of students attending their assigned public schools dropped from 80 percent in 1993 to 73 percent by 2007, which seems like a pretty steep drop over 14 years. That trend was true for both white and black students—but not for Hispanic pupils. Likewise, the decline was evident among better-off students but not for poor students.
That doesn’t mean all those students are fleeing the public school system altogether. While the percentage of students in private schools did increase some over those years, the growth was greater for “chosen” public schools—a category that might include, for example, charters and magnets. But does it mean that fewer families are satisfied with their neighborhood schools? Or just that the choices before them are becoming much greater? That’s hard to say for sure.
The study is based on data from the National Household Education Survey. Look for the full report, “Trends in the Use of School Choice: 1993 to 2007,” on the Web site for the Institute of Education Sciences.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.