Why do parents remove their children from public schools? Why do they switch to homeschooling, private, or charter schools? What makes them believe that technology is the answer to their child’s problems? Sometimes, it’s simply because they prefer other settings, and they have no complaints about public schooling.
But parents who remove their children from public school, could have concerns about public schools and teachers.
This is exactly what billionaires who support choice and charters want. They hope to convince parents that public schools fail. They want to privatize public schools. Many of the reforms that they’ve put in place due to their wealth and influence, cause the changes that drive parents out of public schools.
It’s imperative that we listen to why parents leave public schools. We must try to understand their needs when it comes to their children.
It’s also important to remember, that most parents still prefer their local public school more than other settings. Ninety percent of America’s students attend public schools.
Because public schools should reach out to all students, I reviewed the literature and social media to find complaints. Here is what I found.
Parents who remove their children from public school, often feel deprived of services they believe their children should have in order to thrive. Their child has been identified with some type of exceptionality. Students with dyslexia, autism, learning disabilities, behavioral difficulties, gifted students or a combination of exceptionalities have parents who sometimes are unhappy with services, or the lack of services, for their student.
This is troubling because the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (once PL 94-142) should involve Individual Educational Plans that parents approve of and instruction that addresses the needs of their children.
Some states and school districts have intentionally denied students their rights. Texas is a good example of this, instituting caps on the number of students they permitted to have services, but other states, like Michigan, also fail students with exceptional needs.
Here are complaints from parents.
- Students don’t get the reading instruction they need.
- Teachers are not prepared to teach exceptionalities.
- There’s little assistance in inclusion classes.
- IEPs are inadequate.
- A child is labeled or mislabeled.
- Class sizes are large.
- There’s bullying.
- Children might not make enough improvements.
- Resource classes are not helpful.
- Some believe specific reading programs should be used.
- Common Core troubles parents.
- There’s fear of online data collection.
- Parents worry about technology.
- The school denies a child inclusion.
- There isn’t enough phonics.
- Some believe online classes are better.
- Charter schools might appear more flexible.
- Public schools look like they cater to college-bound students.
- There’s fear children won’t get the skills they need to attend college.
- Some worry their student won’t get a real diploma.
- What happens after high school graduation?
- Do public schools value their child’s abilities?
- Too many tests are given and students feel punished.
- The school atmosphere is negative.
- There are few electives.
- There’s little art or music.
- Staff are not friendly or helpful.
- The building is old and overcrowded.
- Teachers do not address the needs of their student.
- Students do not receive the attention they need.
- Complaints take too long to resolve, and parents can’t afford legal representation.
If I have neglected some, parents, feel free to comment.
Mostly, these complaints involve problems that could be solved with several possible solutions to make schools more welcoming.
- Lower class sizes so students get better individual attention.
- There needs to be less testing.
- End the collection of unnecessary online collection of personal data.
- Online programs in school should be understood and approved of by parents.
- Improve teacher ed. programs, and ensure that for-profit online programs are held accountable.
- The arts and other electives need to be a part of the curriculum.
- Decently fund special education.
- Support teachers, and special education teachers.
- Listen to parents and be sensitive to their needs.
Parents must find the best placement for their child, and sometimes they believe that means going outside public education.
Charter school selection remains worrisome, because many charters aren’t always what they seem. Charters might make promises that they’re not able to deliver, but by the time a student and their parent realize this, it’s too late.
It’s also concerning that while many students from charter schools graduate, they fail to go on and graduate from college. These concerns come from charter groups who want to better those statistics.
We live in difficult and challenging times. Public school officials must try to understand why parents reject public schooling, and try their best to remedy the situation. Many politicians never liked PL-94-142, and still dislike IDEA and spending money on students with disabilities.
This falls into reform plans. Deny parents services for their students, and drive them to charters, private or parochial schools. Few of these schools provide the services students need. And parents will give up what few rights they have under IDEA.
We need to provide services promised under the law, for our students with special needs. There’s a reason for IDEA. Schools must address the needs of all students!
As a parent, I’ve been both thrilled and completely dismayed at public education. So much depends on the principal and superintendent for a family’s experience.
We’ve experienced five superintendents and six principals.
For the superintendents, we’ve had:
1) Ready to retire and wanted to keep the status quo.
2) Listened and had grandiose ideas, but couldn’t implement
3) Interim and wouldn’t listen.
4) Power-hungry and egotistical.
5) Listens to parents and works for the win-win.
For the principals, we’ve had:
1) Bitter and awaiting retirement.
2) Great, but shoved out by superintendent #4 after we were there one year
3) Interim and powerless
4) Bull in a China shop
5) Checked-out and awaiting retirement
If we had all along the experience my youngest daughter is getting now with superintendent #5, principal #6, and a great teacher, we would think that public education is the greatest innovation of the past 200 years. (I also know that we fought extremely hard for this opportunity.)
There have been several years that have been absolute disasters for us and had us looking at home-schooling, private schools, and even starting a charter school.
We’ve had a number of mediocre years that were neither great nor abysmal.
Our best situation has come in a district ranked good, but not great.
Our worst experiences have come in a district ranked at the top in the state.
What it has taught me most is the importance of choice. It is often the only power a parent has. School boards can no longer be relied upon to represent parents. When schools present “take it or leave it” stances, “leave it” must be an option. And we have exercised that option. We switched elementary schools inside a district. We switched to another district. We switched to a consortium school. These have all been for the better and sometimes it actually got a school district to listen.
Nancy Bailey says
Hi Joshua, It’s good to hear from you! I agree with most of your points. There is no excuse for superintendents, principals, or teachers who bottleneck the progress of students and parents and getting good programs.
It is the choice point that is troubling. I agree school boards are influenced by outside factors and groups. This shouldn’t be. And parents can’t wait for good programs for their children . They must take action as you did, Joshua. And your choices were within the school district. I have always supported your efforts.
But the State of Michigan has really made a mess of their schools with choice and charter promises and defunding schools with the hopes of corporate privatization. I hope they can turn it around.
Roy Turrentine says
The reason most people do not like public school is personal. These are some of the reasons I have heard:
1. I was bullied and my kid is not going through that.
2. I do not want my kid around a bad group
3. My schedule does not fit theirs
4. School teaches children to be violent
5. The school does not challenge my kid
6. The school gives my kid too much work
7. The school does not reflect my values
I bet there have been more, but that is all that strike me now.
Nancy Bailey says
Wow! 2 and 4 are especially troubling. I wonder why they would think this.
Peter Wieczorek says
I think the fundamental problem with the public school/Choice debate is that we are living in a time of abundant choices, and most public schools have not caught up with this reality. We live in a time where just about everyone can make choices on everything from the phone service, their television viewing options, shopping experience and food preferences, and in most cases have them overnight. Schools are one of the last societal institutions that hasn’t quickly adapted. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, but it is a reality. As a school administrator I have students and parents who come to us with all of the negative experiences you listed and they have been to 4 or 5 schools – sometimes the same year. I love the list provided, but until this country gets behind education – particularly special education, school funding, class sizes and teacher pay/preparation parents are going to continue to seek out the options they think are best for their children, and who can blame them.
Nancy Bailey says
My goodness! Where do you live? We’ve been stuck with Comcast forever. And Macy’s took over many local department stores. Marshall Field’s, Burdines, Goldsmiths, etc. all a memory.
Where we do have so many choices it is confusing. How do you determine your toothpaste? How many movies to we get to go through and still not find anything good we haven’t seen on Netflix?
Honestly, I think many schools with proper funding, adapt quite well. I learned how to use the Internet with PD as a high school teacher.
But, Peter, I totally agree with the last part of what you wrote. The country needs to get behind their school system. Breaking it up into charters and traditional public schools means a fractured system that provides splintered services.
Thanks for commenting!
Peter Wieczorek says
Nancy, I think your context on choice reflects an old paradigm, most millennials will never have cable or broadcast television, and rarely set foot inside traditional box stores. They have grown up in a world where choice is at their fingertips and often delivered overnight. Brand loyalty is thing of the past, young people are looking for personal value and don’t hold to the same long term identities that many of us have. I did a presentation several years that warned administrators and teachers that if we don’t address the things that students are interested in – flexible schedules, personalized learning, skill based vs content based curriculum, high school/college/trade school options, addressing social issues they will find an alternative either within district, charters, home schooling, hack schooling, etc. and just for the record I am in favor of multiple options for students and families, as long as there is a level playing field.
Nancy Bailey says
Wow, Peter! You sound like you’re a friend of Betsy DeVos!
Like there’s really a level playing field when it comes to charters and public schools?
Yes choice is nice for some things. But education is not a commodity, and while many of the things you mention sound nice, they lack proof.
How sad for parents who sign their child up for a charter that closes a year later.
And many parents are frightened that their student will be steered into a skills economy where they will end up being a serf to corporations.
Not to mention online data collection.
Many students don’t know what they like until they get exposure to it.
Give me a public school with a well-rounded curriculum with the support of the community that helps students navigate their interests. They still exist in some places.
Peter Wieczorek says
Nancy, it’s truly unfortunate that when the conversation of school options comes up many people only see the binary opposites of traditional public schools and Betsy DeVos style school choice reflected in her version of corporate for profit charter schools and voucher programs (which by the way I am vehemently against just about anything that comes out of Betsy DeVos mouth). What is lost in the conversation is the many high quality school options that fall in between the two. Your article asked the question “Why some parents turn their backs on public schools?” You listed many of the reasons and others added some additional ones. One of them that is often overlooked is that parents and their students don’t have time to wait for school districts to change. If you are in a situation where your child is being bullied and nothing is being done about it, your child’s IEP goals are not being addressed, the school and/or the class sizes are too big, or your child’s learning style is not being met, you don’t have time to change the system. Let’s face it most traditional schools have not changed much in 150 years except for the increased obsession with standardized testing and curriculum. While the testing is not the fault of the districts most schools continue to teach within in a content siloed one-size-fits-all model that is neither relevant nor prepares students for the world they will inherit. For some examples of what schools, both traditional public alternatives and public charter schools can look like I recommend you read School Transformation by Dr. Wayne Jennings. Nancy, I have worked as a teacher and administrator in traditional and non-traditional public schools and an independent charter school for nearly 30 years, I have served on the school boards for both a traditional public school and a public charter school. I support public education, but more importantly I support student learning. I support all of what you have listed to help improve traditional public schools (I would add several others), but there is still room within that discussion to support non-traditional options for parents that are not voucher schools or for profit corporate charter schools.
Nancy Bailey says
I wrote this post to address parent needs, and I tell parents all the time to do what they need to do NOW to get their child the best schooling. But one problem is that most parents don’t have good options. If you were to read the comments on my post on FB, most parents have really struggled finding any school that served them well.
But maybe you didn’t read the rest of the post. I suggest solutions. Tell me, why haven’t those solutions been addressed? Why have communities defunded there public schools in order to rely on wealthy philanthropists who see $$$? There’s a concerted effort to end public education. There’s also an agenda to end special education. Have you read about how Texas denied children services?
When people say that it is “one-size-fits-all” and that “schools haven’t changed for 150 years” they are promoting exactly what Betsy DeVos and other corporate shills say about public education. You sound like you’re a champion for XQ Super Schools!
Who forced schools to do standardized testing? Who pushed schools to quiz first graders on Mesopotamia (Common Core State Standards)? Who shut down almost all of the schools in New Orleans after Katrina in order to push charter schools into the communities? Why is it that corporate shills repeatedly deny the importance of lowered class sizes and the solutions I note?
Of course schools must always change and grow. Certainly technology can have a positive impact on how children learn. But do you understand the danger in Betsy DeVos’s message? Have you read about today’s school reform? It isn’t about improving public schools.
By the way, what are the choices you mention? Most parents just want great schools! You say there needs to be a level playing field. Who makes private, parochial, and charter schools accountable?
I suggest you read my books listed on my site. They were written with great care.
But if you don’t, and even if you do read my books, PLEASE read Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, by Diane Ravitch. And The Death and Life of the Great American School System. Diane well describes what has been done to schools throughout the years to destroy them.
I would also suggest you learn about Clayton Christiansen’s tech “disruption.” It isn’t a pretty picture. There’s much money to be made on our children in the name of reform, and one of these days the only option children will have is being on a digital device for all of their learning. You seem to ignore that fact or be unaware of it. There’s no proof today that sitting students in front of computers all day will prepare them well for their futures.
Our public schools have served this country well for many years. What has been done to them in the name of school reform has put a “free public education for all children” in jeopardy.
Talking “school transformation” does no one any good when there are no schools to transform.
I care for student learning as well. I taught for many years in the area of special education. I value the differences in children. And I have a PhD in Educational Administration, an area of great interest to me.
Liz C says
Charters are still under the public umbrella. They didn’t fit our needs, either.
We’ve homeschooled from the start because of horrific experiences from multiple members of the family, in multiple states, in multiple decades of public school.
There’s zero enticement to put my kids into that entire system.
I still want a better system for other people’s kids.
Nancy Bailey says
You can still find good public schools, but corporate reforms have hurt them.
The teachers my family has encountered have been mostly good at public and private schools so teachers are not the problem. I live in a well funded school district.
1. A week ago I left a message with my local public school, which had people working during the summer, no one has bothered to call me back, and the person I spoke with made me feel like I as bothering them. In an era of choice, the front line staff need better customer service.
2. Restorative justice doesn’t seem to be helping the kids who don’t have constant behavior issues.. I see more good teachers retiring or leaving their jobs as behavior gets worse.
3. Academic expectations are low and too many kids aren’t learning enough in some grades. Too many administrators haven’t taught long enough to understand what teachers do in the classroom or how low expectations harm students. Public school administrators need to better support their teachers so the teachers can do their jobs.
4. One of my children was repeatedly called names by another child in the public school classroom and asked why the teacher didn’t notice (probably because the administration wouldn’t stand behind the teacher–that’s the real problem!).
5. My school district also needs to train everyone about sexual harassment and put a stop to it in our local schools.
6. There are a lot of physical fights, especially among girls, in some of our public schools.
7. Some of the newer curriculum the public school administration picked out is failing the kids and the kids are doing too much on the computer. The public school system spends a lot of money on bad curriculum and digital stuff and consultants that could be better spent on teachers.
8. People don’t or won’t talk about public school problems so they never get fixed.
9. My school system more time on athletics and building and trying to close schools than on what goes on inside the classroom.
10.School board elections are big business in a lot of areas of the country, including mine and. It’s not good for the kids.
Not all of the homeschooling families are doing it for religious reasons. Maybe the public school heads should talk to these families and ask why.
Nancy Bailey says
You make some good points, Charlie. I don’t agree with all of them, but I especially like 1. Schools need to hire office staff and train them to be friendly and helpful. There’s nothing that can bring a school down quicker, or lift parents spirits than a bad or good office welcome.
Sheila Resseger says
I am a retired teacher from the RI School for the Deaf, which is a state school and also a public school. Since retiring in 2011 I have been a voice for public education that is truly authentic and meaningful. So it might be a surprise to know that when my daughter was in the 9th grade, we decided to take her out of the public school and enroll her in a private school. This particular private school was quite innovative in its curriculum, class size, and individual attention. The innovation back then had nothing to do with computers or digital modules. My daughter was literally in agony with a stultifying curriculum year after year in public school that she felt did not allow her to pursue the truth about American history and the struggles of minority groups. The private school gave her a place to explore these issues in a deep way, and she was able to thrive. However, after about two years we became dissatisfied with the offerings there, particularly the lack of a science lab, so we transferred her back to the public high school. It was a tough transition for her, but ultimately provided her with the background she needed to succeed in college. It’s tragic that the push toward standardization and suppression of student voice with the education reforms, despite the mantra of “personalization,” is depriving students of the clear-eyed education that they and our society need.
Nancy Bailey says
Sheila, I always appreciate your posts because they are so authentic and heartfelt. I am happy everything worked out well with your daughter.
Please don’t forget the creepy SEL that is taking over in the classrooms! That is probably the #1 reason we are leaving public school for child #2. Add in Common Chore and it’s evil twin over testing, test prep curriculum (CC), too much reliance on gimmicky ed-tech, data collection, large class sizes, AP for all. I’m tired of teachers going along with the whole charade. I’m tired of the useless busy work that is sent home to make it look like everything is “normal”. The private schools are catering to the fleeing public school parents. My gosh, I walked into this private HS and it looked and felt, and even smelled like the public HS of my youth…I graduated in 1982 before all the fun “rephormy” stuff started during the Reagan years.
Nancy Bailey says
Yes. I’ve written a lot about creepy SEL. I was thinking about that when I mentioned data collection. But thanks, Lisa!
I also have been in school auditoriums that look like they haven’t changed since the ’50s when the school was built!
Rick Bobrick says
For parents of general education students, leaving the public system boils down to just a few issues that they believe will better serve their child in a private, charter or home school::
1) Student behaviors/discipline
3) Elite sports programs
4) Tribalism (for the uber-wealthy)
Student behaviors (chronic disruptions) that negatively impact learning is the one issue that public schools have failed to deal with effectively; albeit they are somewhat constrained by law. However, the failure to establish alternate tracks for school success contributes to the ongoing problem of kids acting out due to the frustration of academic lock-step they are forced to follow. Reformers and politicians had no idea that this negative consequence of their test-and-punish policies would manifest itself in such a harmful way.
Rick Bobrick says
5) Religious beliefs
Nancy Bailey says
We did establish some alternative routes with special education in the past, and alternative schools were also started in some places for students who did not qualify for special education but needed a different way of learning.
“Reformers and politicians had no idea that this negative consequence of their test-and-punish policies would manifest itself in such a harmful way.”
I disagree with this statement. I think since A Nation at Risk they knew exactly what they were doing.
But thanks, Rick. I always appreciate your fine points.
K Brown says
There’s no gifted ed in our town. So public school was like torture for my young son, with his asynchronous development and executive function difficulty that are characteristic of the gifted. There was literally no structure to meet his learning needs.
I am a public school teacher, and for three years before homeschooling, my son attended the school in which I teach. I advocate consistently for public schools. If public schools, namely the teachers themselves, were given adequate support and resources, and if the incessant focus on standardized testing was reduced or eliminated, my son could have thrived in school. He needed teachers who had autonomy to lead their classooms according to the students in front of them, not a top-down determination that dictates no first-grader may read beyond a specified level -my first grader had bypassed that level before entering kindergarten.
This is not an example of the public school failing, but of the public school being failed by its legislators and decision-makers.
Nancy Bailey says
I agree with you.
Gifted education in this country is sketchy. Instead of services that really assist children, the term “gifted” raises controversy and often turns into an elitist push for programs that are superficial. This country has never been committed to children with high intellect. You can’t kill public education with the failure agenda and have bright students skewing the test results.
Unfortunately, children who truly are out there on the intelligence scale often have a variety of difficulties, as you suggest so well, and they need much more support than they are currently getting anywhere.
Thank you so much for commenting and I hope you can get the assistance your son deserves.
Joy Kastanias says
As someone who spent the first three years of my child’s education trying to fight the system (opposing the test-and-punish system in FL, opposing mandatory competency-based software for K – 2 in our district, and supporting mandatory recess in FL because we shouldn’t have to beg for daily recess in elementary), here is why I now homeschool:
1. Our daughter’s needs were not being met, primarily because teachers are too bogged down with what the district (really it’s the state) requires to truly allow them to flourish in their jobs as professionals;
2. By the end of kindergarten, our daughter lost her love of learning. (Yes, she had a love of learning in pre-school that disappeared rather abruptly upon entering the public school system. I have now seen it return after one year of homeschooling.);
3. The anxiety our daughter exhibited throughout second grade from the toxic environment in elementary school was disturbing. Teachers were clearly under duress. My daughter is no longer anxious.;
4. I was sick of looking at the methods that were being used to teach the youngest of children how to prepare to take the tests that were coming. Rather than reading for fun, The classes were required to turn in logs of minutes read (so reading became a chore) and our daughter continually brought home Time for Kids with the entire thing covered in circles and underlines showing that she was being taught to dissect non-fiction paragraphs for future testing rather than simply being allowed to enjoy great works of childrens’ literature for the pure joy of it. Our daughter stopped reading for fun during this time. She now loves to read again.;
5. The poor quality of the materials being used to “teach” our chidren. (Ridiculous typos, unintelligible math questions, sloppy writing and editing, etc.). We rarely see typos in the materials we use for homeschooling.;
6. The math. Enough said; and
7. The lack of recess/daily, unstructured outdoor time.
I could go on, but those are the main reasons. I told our school board at the end of last year that I want to bring my child back to public school, but I won’t as long as the test-and-punish system remains in place. I realize (and feel guilty about this) that I am abandoning the fight for public education because opting out of testing would make a pointed statement, but my child only has one chance to be educated in a way that lights her spark and love for learning. I am not willing to sacrifice her education to make a point that not many others in my area are also willing to make. In other words, it was clear nothing was going to change in the near future.
So, sadly, the plan to crush public education worked on me. But, I love homeschooling, and so does my daughter. It is what is right for her. I just hope someone turns this ship around in time to save future generations of children who are drowning in this horrific sysytem.
A young adult who was brought up under the test-and-punish system told me (before she knew I was trying to fight the system at the time) that she hated the focus on testing, that she felt all she learned was how to take a test, and that she is angry she didn’t learn more because she feels she is not prepared for her career. She truly felt cheated.
Wasn’t making kids “college and career ready” the stated point of all of the reforms? What a waste of time and money.
We have to vote these people out at the local, state, and federal level. This is not a party- specific statement. I actually don’t believe in either party at this point. But, it’s important to know who has personal financial interests in killing Public Ed and who is funding who.
Nancy Bailey says
You right so well, and I don’t disagree with anything you said. Thank you, Joy!
Peter Wieczorek says
Nancy, I want to sincerely apologize, it was not my intent to get into a big disagreement with you. I have been reading your blog and website for several years. I appreciate all that you do and generally agree with most of what you write. Unfortunately in forums such as this there are often misunderstandings and it is difficult to communicate on the same level we would face to face. My initial intent in responding was simply to say that in an era of abundant choice parents are looking at all options for their children, and to share my experience with parents “shopping” for the right fit for their child. We may disagree on some aspects of choice, but I am in your camp when it comes to corporate “reforms” of education and attempts at privatization. I think if we sat down for a cup of coffee and talked face to face we would have much more in common than we would have differences. I have read Reign of Error and Misguided Education Reform, and agree that there is an effort to privatize education. Although I would argue that even in the era of Trump and Devos privatization doesn’t have nearly the traction some people give it. I respectfully ask that you pick up Dr. Jennings’ book. In my opinion it gives a lot of perspective to addressing students as unique learners and helping them find school options that best serves them. You said that parent are looking for what options are available and Dr. Jennings provides some good alternatives. Nancy, keep up the important work that you do, and a truly hope our paths cross someday and we can have that cup of coffee.
Nancy Bailey says
No apology needed. I appreciate debate. And since you say you read my book I will treat you to that coffee! Good luck with your school. I’ll put Dr. Jennings book on my list.
I wanted my children treated like children and that doesn’t seem to happen at our local public schools much, at least beyond a few individual teachers who squeeze in a bit of humanity where they can between the cracks. There was not a single toy in the kindergarten room. They bragged about their test scores and how devoted they are to the tests. They bragged about how much homework they give students, even kindergartners. Lunch and recess combined are 30 minutes, minus the transition time. Kids are required to wear uniforms and they get detentions for being out of uniform, including things like not having the right color socks or having the tongue of their shoe outside their pantleg. In fact, kids get detentions for pretty much everything short of breathing. Absolute conformity is a must.
And, no, this is not a “no excuses” charter school. This is what our local public school is like because we live in a low-income, mostly minority community, and “strict discipline” is what “these kids” need. So my kids are in a private progressive school that we can’t afford, but I can’t afford for my kids to grow up abused either.
A former VP and I have had this discussion many times. He told me that when a parent came to him and told him that they were taking their child to a charter school because of bullying issues, that he was unable to explain to them why, in many cases because of existing laws, we were unable to successfully deal with the situation.
Every child has the right to a free public education. But, she/he does NOT have the right to take that away from another, and that is what happens when a child disrupts the classroom environment.
I will do everything in my power to calm the waters, but their comes a time when a child must be removed. Sometimes permanently. Current law and often administrations make that difficult.
If parents knew what sometimes goes on in their child’s classrooms, they would be marching on my school with pitchforks and torches.
I’m tired of being told that I’m the one who isn’t dealing with the situation correctly. And that with just a little more love and understanding, all will work out. I sound like a conservative, but I’m not. I just want to teach. Is that so terrible?
-Going on 15 years in title 1 schools
Nancy Bailey says
I understand your frustration William, but that is what special ed. is for. To help students get back on track. Thanks for commenting.