The purpose of the study was to profile the Alaska home student and family. It focused on Centralized Clorrespondence Study (CC/S) enrollees whose names were available in the CC/S directory. Adult and student questionnaires designed to elicit profile data were mailed to the stratified random sample of 189 students and the adults whose names accompanied theirs in the directory. A 47% response rate was achieved. Data were tallied and presented in tabular and narrative forms or compiled verbatim and presented in the appendix to the study’s text.
Results showed that the students are from both the rural, isolated regions and the larger, more urban areas of Alaska, and that they enroll both of necessity and as a voluntary option. Most of them are taught by the mother, who customarily manages the experience with a flexible schedule but somewhat traditional methods of reciting and questioning. Inferences from the study offer details to generally describe the typical CC/S student and family, as well as their home study experience.
The Typical CC/S Student. Lynn is most probably age 5, 15, or 10+ and enrolled in grades K, 8, or 5 (if mean age 10+ is used). The residence is more likely to be in an area which the parents would not consider it a community, but almost as likely to live in one of the Alaska towns of over 15,000 population.
There is only a 33% likelihood that Lynn is not located near a school and not served by bus transportation to school. Even if Lynn has transportation to school, there are reasons beyond necessity that the family chooses correspondence study, most likely because they feel home study allows the teaching of spiritual and moral values and the integration of daily life skills along with academic subjects. Lynn’s education (unless age 5) is likely to have included some school attendance, most probably in Alaska. At home Lynn has some siblings, with at least one of them being of the opposite sex. Among the siblings there is likely to be a 14- or 15-year-old, or possibly a 10-, 7-, or 13-year-old in that order of probability.
Lynn’s family plans to continue CC/S enrollment, but they are not completely certain about that decision. Among the considerations that are most likely to lead them to withdraw Lynn from CC/S are reaching upper academic levels and needing more teacher expertise or the home teacher, Lynn’s mother, needing relief from the teaching responsibilities. Sometimes the parents feel Lynn would benefit from more peer group association and classroom activity; these are the major disadvantages they see to home study. However, the advantages of schedule flexibility and individualized learning probably account for their tentative goal of keeping Lynn in the CC/S program through Grade 12.
Lynn’s mother, the home teacher, probably has had some college courses in her educational background and she may work some of the time in another occupation in addition to homemaker and home teacher. The daily schedule is set by Lynn’s mother, who establishes the work pace and the assignments to be done. Both she and Lynn read the textbooks; she also uses guidebooks provided. They probably work on each subject a little bit each day, and there is considerable emphasis on the ‘‘lessons’’ of daily life skills in the home setting.
Lynn is likely to have some access to group activities with peers, but the amount or frequency of the association might be limited. Though Lynn likes the flexibility of the schedule and the ability-paced study procedures of correspondence study, there is almost an equal likelihood that Lynn misses association with peers and the social activities of school.
CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS
It is clear from the survey results that correspondence study has become both a service of necessity and a voluntary educational option in Alaska. Judging from the information on community locations and reasons for student enrollment particularly, home study appears to meet both educational and social needs and preferences for enrollees of CC/S and their families. Looking especially at the frequency of responses relating to necessity by location, travel activity, desire for spiritual elements along with academic education, and consistency with lifestyle, it appears that home study is an educational delivery form more in step with these representative families than regular school attendance.
In light of that deduction and considering the cost analysis information from the Department of Education’s Intervention Review papers, CC/S might reasonably be considered an educationally and financially viable alternative program for students in school districts where it is not cost effective to develop complete alternative programs on an optional basis, even though they may have pupils needing something other than the mainstream offering.
However, it does not take more than a quick look at the cost data to see the implicit problems. Local district administrators are constantly struggling for an increase in state dollars for their budgets, and loss of a student to CC/S enrollment not only means the district is left without that ADM money but also that the state actually saves money in that process. The existence of an optional program – particularly one that demonstrates the achievement success shown in the DOE study of CC/S – means that at any given time a student (or family of students) could choose to withdraw from the district program, enroll in CC/S, and diminish both dollars and planning capability in the district. The implication of this dilemma is that leadership needs to be given to resolving the financial problems so that students’ educational needs are not unnecessarily lost in the logistics and politics of the dilemma.
Regarding student movement in the other direction, it appears that pupils are more likely to leave home study and enter regular school as they reach high school level, possibly for the reasons mentioned by several adults and students – needing more subject matter expertise in advanced levels, more participation in social and sports activities, and exposure to classroom discussion experiences. For the students who of necessity remain in home study during the secondary years, some of the services mentioned in other research might be worth investigating. For example, itinerant teachers and/or counselors, regional group “camp” or intensive class experiences, or other methods of increasing two-way communication with advisory teachers and other students. Even observations of videotaped classroom experiences related to subjects the student is studying might be of benefit.
Two concerns arise regarding the home teachers. Several comments from parents expressed feelings of inadequacy, some of which might be alleviated through additional efforts by the administrators and advisory teachers to provide encouragement to the home teachers. In addition to efforts already incorporated, some mechanism such as periodic feedback postcards might bring out the comments on home teacher problems before they grow out of proportion and impact the student’s work more than necessary. Second, the percentage of adults who indicated that they read the CC/S materials (especially the 49er) seems lower than it should be, even allowing for some non-readers and very busy home teachers. Further, since only 52% mentioned that the home teacher reads the guides, some attention to these communication efforts might be desirable. The information from the Parent Advisory Committee survey will add to the understanding of this issue.
An area of concern mentioned in some national publications cited in the introduction is worth commenting on in relation to the survey results. That some local school districts are apparently welcoming involvement with families on home study, as reflected in 18% of the adult responses about using local district facilities or materials, is commendable. For the benefit of home study children, whether they are on correspondence by necessity or choice, it seems imperative that educators establish cooperative partnerships. This is particularyly important because evidence indicates that several of the CC/S students do enroll in school at some time during their educational experiences.
Editor’s Note: The complete study done by Sue Greene is available from her for $8.50 (copying and postage): Sue Greene
1603 Alpenhorn Ave.
Anchorage AK 99507(907) 563—7176
Or, you can go to Resources in Education, August 1985, p.142,143 and find it listed under ED 255 494.