ARKANSAS -- The number of home-schooled students in Northwest Arkansas grew at three times the rate of the rest of the state in 2016.
The Arkansas Department of Education's Home School Annual Report for the 2016-17 school year, the latest available set of statistics, shows 19,520 students were home-schooled in the state, up 221 from 2015-16.
Northwest Arkansas' 3,842 home-schooled students were up from 2,778 in the 2006-07 school year, a 38 percent increase in 10 years. There was an increase of 166 students, a 4.5 percent increase, from 2015 to 2016, while the state's growth rate was 1.5 percent.
The Bentonville School District had 1,010, the most of all the 235 school districts in the state that year. This does not include charter schools. The figure represents an 8.4 percent increase from 2015 and nearly double the number from 10 years ago.
Despite the surge in home-schooling, the district has grown about 40 percent in the past decade, requiring the construction of several new schools.
"We are definitely supportive of school choice and we certainly want parents making great decisions for their families," said Jennifer Morrow, Bentonville's director of secondary education.
Pulaski County's four school districts had 1,904 home-schooled students, representing about 9.8 percent of the statewide total.
The Pulaski County Special School District led the county with 944 home-schooled students. That total represents the second highest of all districts in the state in the 2016-17 school year, according to state statistics.
The Little Rock School District followed with 589 students. The North Little Rock School District had 195 and Jacksonville/North Pulaski reported 176.
The Pulaski County numbers showed changes between 2015-16 and 2016-17 in part because of the detachment of the Jacksonville/North Pulaski district from the Pulaski County Special system.
Pulaski County Special's home-schoolers fell from 1,217 to 944. Jacksonville's 2016-17 number was the first recorded for the new system. Little Rock's number of home-schooled students dropped 55, from 644 to 589. North Little Rock also saw a decline, from 211 in 2015-16 to 195 this past year.
Elsewhere in central Arkansas, Conway reported 530 home-schooled students within its boundaries; Cabot had 488; Bryant had 285; and Sheridan, 218.
Around the state, Blytheville had 32; Beebe had 192; Jonesboro had 205; Paragould, 155; Hot Springs, 175; Jasper, 115; Mena, 145; Searcy, 333; Marion, 138 and West Memphis, 77.
Statewide, home-schooled students equal almost 4.1 percent of the state's 477,268 total public school students. Home-schooled students are not considered public school students.
Act 173 of last year's legislative session permitted school districts to allow home-schooled and private-school students to attend academic courses at a public school in the district where they live.
The Gravette School District had the highest percentage of home-schooled students compared with enrollment. Gravette had 196, equal to 10.6 percent of the district's enrollment in 2016. The average across the region was 4.7 percent.
Siloam Springs showed a decrease from 330 to 292, an 11.5 percent drop. The district reported a modest enrollment increase of 73 students, or 1.8 percent, from 2015.
Ken Ramey, Siloam Springs' superintendent, said he wasn't aware of anything that could explain the drop. The number of home-schooled students in his district this year is back up to 320, he said. That's equal to about 7.5 percent of the district's enrollment.
"There's a strong home-school network here," Ramey said. "I've met some home-schooled kids we would love to be serving on a regular basis."
The district always has tried to accommodate families that wish to engage in district arts and athletic programs, he said.
Information for this article was contributed by Cynthia Howell of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.General News on 02/28/2018
Print Headline: Home-schooling booms in NW region