A loophole in state law could be masking high dropout rates at schools across Indiana.

More than 3,700 Indiana students who were expected to graduate last year instead left without diplomas. And most of them were clustered in just 61 of the state’s 507 high schools.

Those young adults were officially counted as leaving to home-school and were removed from the graduation calculations altogether. But Indiana officials don’t know which of those students are genuinely continuing their education at home and which are essentially dropping out. As a result, some schools continue to post top graduation rates even when dozens of students leave without earning diplomas — diminishing their future opportunities.

A Chalkbeat investigation into how schools can write off struggling students as home-schoolers featured an Indiana mom who said her son intended to drop out of Manual High School in Indianapolis, but was instead categorized as a home-schooler. And in Muncie, where officials say they are aiming to reduce the number of students leaving to home-school, the high school principal said students who intended to pursue options such as online or adult education had previously been labeled as leaving to home-school.

Many of the schools with large numbers of students leaving to home-school relative to graduates are alternative schools designed to serve struggling students and virtual schools in which classes take place online. But others are comprehensive high schools in communities across Indiana. For example, Northview High School, outside Terre Haute, reported that its class of 2018 numbered 181 graduates, one dropout, and 65 students who left at some point during their high school years to be home-schooled, according to data from the Indiana Department of Education.

In other words, for every 50 Northview students who graduated, 18 left to home-school — one of the highest rates in Indiana.

Our searchable database shows how many students from the class of 2018 left to-home school, dropped out, and graduated.

Source: Indiana Department of Education

*The department of education did not provide data for some schools to protect student privacy.