Bad news for Idaho Kiddies... 

Looking for some fascinating, depressing bathroom reading? Check out the latest report put out by the Center for School Improvement and Policy Studies in the College of Education at Boise State University. Titled "Educational Neglect and Compulsory Schooling: A Status Report," the 58-page publication compares state census reports to public school, private school and home school population estimates and dropout rates and determines--ready for this?--a whopping 13,954 Idaho children are unaccounted for by any school.

Of course, the number is affected at least slightly by the fact that Idaho is one of six states with no governmental oversight of home-based educators, and that don't require home-schooled students to register with the state (so in the report, all home-schooled students count as missing). But the according to the report's authors, that gap is an important revelation. In their survey of school districts nationwide, 96 percent of districts had no written procedure for tracking missing students, and less than half were able to estimate the number of home-educated children in their district--as opposed to those who were habitually truant or simply swallowed up by what the authors refer to as "educational neglect." Idaho's missing population, which if assembled would constitute the third-largest school district in the state, is nearly double the national average, per capita. However, it is still far behind such states as Texas and Virginia, who can't account for 364,889 and 217,611 children, respectively.

To combat this educational sinkhole, the report advises a variety of actions including a single statewide definition of habitual truancy (currently, it is up to individual districts' discretion), requiring home-schooled children to register with the Idaho Department of Education, and establishing a clear statement of responsibility for educational neglect within the Department of Health and Welfare. That is, once we figure out how to remove our palms from our foreheads. To read the report, visit http://csi.boisestate.edu/policy_studies.htm or follow the link with this story at www.boiseweekly.com.

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