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Jan 12, 2012 12:05 PM by Brittany Wooley- KTVQ News

Parents choose to home-school kids due to gifted program cuts, No Child Left Behind

BILLINGS- About 600 students in Yellowstone County are home-schooled--a number that has held steady over the past decade.

But, in light of budget constraints and federal guidelines for schools, some parents who had never before considered home-schooling their children are now choosing that option.

Jill Charter, a mother of two boys previously enrolled in the Shepherd School District, said the No Child Left Behind law has forced the district to put more focus on children who are struggling than advanced students.

She explained that recent budget cuts have slashed programs for the gifted, making it difficult for schools to help her kids reach their full potential.

"Schools in the state and entire country are being crippled by funding. They are doing the best they can, but No Child Left Behind really is leaving my children behind," Charter said.

Gavin and Taylor Charter are both about a year ahead of their grade levels in their studies.

When cuts were made to the gifted and talented education program at Shepherd Elementary, teachers tried placing them in more advanced classes in upper grades.

"That kind of poses a whole different set of issues. When you put a second grader in with third and fourth graders, it's hard because socially and academically, they just don't match. They realize they don't belong in that group. Academically, they may, but those students talk differently and they interact differently than what a second grader does," Charter said.

Due to budget constraints, Shepherd Elementary has had to cut its gifted and talented education program down to one part-time teacher.

"We've ended up losing 40 percent of our gifted and talented program. We still have a gifted and talented program, but it's forced us to really focus on the enrichment end of things in the regular classroom. We've gotten really good at helping our lower kids, the struggling kids, but we also need to make sure we are hitting the higher level kids and every kid in between," Shepherd Elementary School Principal John Farley said.

For the Charters, home-schooling was the best option.

"We're able to let them set the pace, if they get a concept, they can master that concept and move on. They are not being held prisoner by time, waiting for their entire class to catch up," Charter said.

Administrators and teachers at schools, like Shepherd Elementary, are working out ways to help all students reach their highest potential. They're utilizing technology in the classroom and what's left of gifted and talented programs.

"We could point fingers and blame people, blame legislators for not giving us the money, so we can hire more staff. The staff makes the biggest difference. But, we've taken the philosophy of no excuses. We are going to roll up our sleeves and do everything we can to get our kids where they need to be, either at a higher level, a lower level, or anywhere in between," Farley said.

Charter said her biggest concern when she first considered home-schooling her kids was that it would negatively impact them socially, but she said they have been able to get that social interaction through community and church programs as well as through sports teams.

"We have taken extra care to make sure that wasn't a problem, and my boys are actually more socialized than some kids in a regular classroom setting," she said.

President Obama has advised the states on ways to get around provisions in the No Child Left Behind law. Click Here for the CBS News Report. CBS News also reported on changes to the law some of the nation's lawmakers are proposing.


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