On December 7, 1994, Home School Legal Defense Association held a press conference at the National Press Club, presenting the latest test scores achieved by home-taught students during the 1993-94 school year. Inge Cannon of the National Center for Home Education, Dr. Larry Rudner, director of the Educational Resource and Information Center Clearinghouse, and Michael Farris addressed the media to explain how the test results demonstrate the effectiveness of educational choice without government funds or programs. Home-schooling families also attended the event and fielded questions from reporters.
The group summary scores include the standardized achievement tests scores of more than 16,000 children, from all fifty states, in grades kindergarten through twelve. These children were tested with the Iowa Test of Basic Skills during the spring of 1994. The results are outstanding.
Based on these group summary scores, the nationwide average for home-schooled students is at the 77th percentile on the Basic Battery of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. In reading, home schoolers' nationwide grand mean is at the 79th percentile. This means home-schooled students perform better in reading than 79% of the sample population on whom the test was normed. In language and mathematics, home schoolers' nationwide mean is at the 73rd percentile. "To put it more simply," said Farris, "the average home schooler is above average."
Standing next, Inge Cannon presented the quartile breakouts of the scores which revealed the dramatic number of home schoolers scoring in the top quarter. "In the home school population, what we find," she said, "is that over half of our home-schooled students—54.7% of them—are scoring in the top quartile. That's more than double what you have in the general population." Furthermore, Cannon pointed out that 79.6% of home schoolers score in the top half and well above the national average. "We are also very excited to see that this holds … from grade to grade," Cannon said, using charts to demonstrate the impressive results. "This expression of parental choice is achieving real academic viability."
Dr. Larry Rudner discussed the background of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and explained how norming groups are developed. Stressing that test scores are not the sole judge of a program's effectiveness, Dr. Rudner nonetheless gave home schoolers credit for superior academic work. He also revealed a statistic unfamiliar to almost everyone present: "If the home schoolers, as a population, were a school district, each of these scorers would be in the 80th to 95th percentile. That is, as a school district, the average scores of home schoolers are above the 80th to 90th percentiles."
Farris took the podium again to wrap up the conference. "Our basic point here today," he stated, "is that home schoolers are doing well enough to be left alone by the bureaucracies that try to control public education. We have no beef with public school teachers; our beef is simply with bureaucracies that try to load down all forms of education with too much paperwork, too much detail, too much centralized control." When asked about the possibility of government-set curriculum standards, Farris addressed the problems inherent in such a system. "The whole idea that one size fits all in education is the basic floating disease that's harming public … and private schools. I think we need to have variety, and there need to be choices."
After introducing the home-taught students in the room, Farris opened up the floor for questions. When the members of the media realized there were home schoolers present, reporters quickly jumped in with questions about socialization and extracurricular activities. Home-schooling father George Fossett described his family's experiences, offering the press an "inside look" at home education. Several young people stepped up to the podium to answer, including home school graduate Erin Smith who succinctly summed up the socialization issue for everyone: "Home schoolers [are] always encouraged to meet friends other places," she said. "I've noticed that people at school have only friends at school. I don't know how well-rounded a socialization that is, when you only go out and meet friends in one spot. And I'm not worried at all about going out into the real world, because I've always been in the real world. I don't feel sheltered at all." After home-schooler Jonathan Rockett's comments on his experiences as a professional clown, one member of the press quickly responded, "They call us professional clowns, too!" The home schoolers were the hit of the day, adding the human element to the impressive test results and winning the media with their poise and spontaneity. The press conference gave home schoolers a splendid opportunity to present the excellent results of a blossoming educational choice.