Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Myth 6. Home schooled children are better educated than those who attend regular public schools.

Myth 6. Home schooled children are better educated than those who attend regular public schools.

Sorry. No evidence to support this myth whatsoever.

Home schooling grew in popularity over the past 3 decades. Ten years ago, Michael Apple named it the fastest growing alternative to public education. At first glance, the superiority of home schooling appeared to be verified by Larry Rudner (1999) in a research study published in the journal Education Policy Analysis Archives – I know this study well because I was the editor of the journal at that time. His survey was a comprehensive report of the standardized test scores of home schooled students and compared them with the scores of more traditionally schooled peers. The home schoolers’ scores were often in the 70th and 80th percentiles, and 25% of the home schoolers tested one or more grades above grade level. This was great news for parents who want to create schools at home for their children, and for critics seeking more ammunition to attack professional teachers and the public schools. But Rudner's study does not support the myth that homeschooling is a superior form of education.

Right in the abstract of Rudner's article, the author warns: “This study does not demonstrate that home schooling is superior to public or private schools and the results must be interpreted with caution.” In fact, Rudner did not include the achievement test data to answer the question "How successful is homeschooling?" He used it to describe what kinds of children were being homeschooled.

Rudner went on and described homeschoolers in his survey in other ways. Parents who participated in the survey were only about half of the potential population, probably those most confident of their children’s scores. And those parents participating in the survey had more formal education than parents in the general population. Brian Ray, who has published research in support of home schooling since the 1980s, acknowledges that “home school parents apparently average two or three years more of formal education” than traditional public school parents.

Rudner pointed out that participating parents had a significantly higher median income than those of all U.S. families with children. Rudner also found that participating parents in his survey were most often home schooling in two-parent households, another finding confirmed by other researchers. It has long been known that the home schooling population shrinks dramatically after the elementary and middle school grades, when parents send their children back into the public school system to be educated by professionals. The vast majority of parents are ill-equipped to teach their children analytic geometry or to turn the kitchen into a chemistry lab. Rudner concluded that home schooled children "do quite well in [their] educational environment." But favored as they are by being raised in households with more educated, wealthier parents, they likely will do quite well any where.

And the most astounding fact of all that Rudner discovered: "A very large percentage of home school parents are certified to teach. Some 19.7% of the home school mothers are certified teachers; 7.1% of fathers. Almost one out of every four home school students (23.6%) has at least one parent who is a certified teacher"!

The use of Rudner's study by the homeschooling lobby is one of the great instances of disingenuous misuse of policy research in recent memory. No matter what the author intended, the homeschooling lobby has trumpeted Rudner's study from the rooftops as "proof" that homeschooling is the best. But today the homeschooling movement has a worried look on its face as it has become the target of the corporate cybercharters.

Rudner, Lawrence M. (1999). Scholastic achievement and demographic characteristics of home school students in 1998. Educational Policy Analysis Archives, 7(8), 1–33.

Gene V Glass
Arizona State University
University of Colorado Boulder

No comments:

Post a Comment