EEE Validity Attacked in South Carolina Suit
In 1988 South Carolina enacted a new home education law. It required home schooling parents to either possess a college degree or pass a test called the Educational Entrance Exam. The EEE was intended to screen college juniors who are continuing a major in education.
The legislature postponed enforcement of the EEE requirement, however, until it was validated for use with home schoolers. Accordingly, the South Carolina Department of Education hired a firm to study the EEE’s use with home schoolers. After the study, the Department of Education declared the test to be valid, and the EEE requirement became effective for the 1989–90 school year.
The validation and administration of the EEE were so fraught with irregularities that HSLDA’s President, Michael Farris, filed suit to challenge the EEE’s use with home schoolers. In April, 1989, Farris initiated legal action to suspend the EEE requirement because the State Board of Education has not fulfilled the legislature’s mandate to 7ldquo;validate…the test for use with home schooling parents” before placing the hurdle of the EEE on the path to home schooling. S. C. Case Ann. §59-65-40 (Supp. 1988).
Strategy For Attack
Farris believes that licensing parents to teach their children is unconstitutional. Teaching parents are not just engaging in a business or practicing a profession, but are fulfilling a duty before God as well as exercising a fundamental right in the eyes of the federal and many state constitutions. For purposes of this suit, HSLDA determined the most effective course was to prove that the EEE has not satisfied the statute which imposed it. The test’s validity is not only its weakest point, but it is fatal to the testing requirement.
As scores from the Educational Entrance Exam come in, they are proving Farris’ contention that valid inferences about either the parents’ ability or the children’s performance cannot be drawn from parents’ performance on the EEE. Already, failing scores on the EEE are being received by parents whose children have scored high on the state’s BSAP and CTBS tests.
In order to validate the EEE for use with home schoolers, the Department of Education hired IOX Assessment Associates to do a validation study. IOX assembled a panel of public school educators, home schoolers, and university faculty. The primary charge to the panelists was to judge whether each EEE question tested knowledge that was a “necessary prerequisite for satisfactory performance as a home-schooling instructor.” This was called the Task-Relatedness question, and was the most important part of the study because the test was originally designed and validated to be related to the task of the college study training to be a public school classroom teacher. The EEE is still primarily used for that purpose.
The panelists also gave their opinions as to whether a question was biased. IOX’s study did not have the panelists vote as a jury on whether each question was biased or was related to the task of home schooling and then throw out each biased or unrelated question. IOX did not compute the percentage of test questions which were biased or unrelated. Instead, IOX computed the percentage of panelists in favor of each question, averaged the percentages for an entire section, and rated the Reading, Math, and Writing Sections as “positive,” “acceptable,” “suitable,” and “near the borderline.”
Validation Without Representation
The lawsuit, brought on behalf of the class of non-degreed, South Carolina members of HSLDA, points out that only 33 persons were on the EEE panel, though IOX has assembled panels as large as 624 when performing studies on similar tests for other states. Since 16 of the 33 panelists were not home schoolers nearly half the panel lacked the background to answer the Task-Relatedness question. The task of a home instructor was not described for those panelists who had no experience with home schooling.
The home schoolers that were on the panel were selected by IOX from names nominated by public school superintendents, not by local home school associations such as South Carolina Home Education Network, or HSLDA. The superintendent nominated only home schoolers who were known to the school district and, per IOX’s request, who possessed college degrees.
IOX failed to follow its own standards. The president of IOX has recommended that panels judging a test for bias against blacks be composed entirely of blacks Yet, for the EEE bias study, IOX chose not to assemble a panel composed entirely of parents who, because of philosophical and moral persuasions, educates at home.
Study Has Faulty Design
Several aspects of a proper study would have required trial administrations of the EEE to home schoolers. IOX needed score results in order to set a valid pass/fail score, and needed sample responses to the essay writing section in order for the panelists to judge the writing questions. The test was not piloted even once before the first actual administration in June.
IOX asked the panelists if the knowledge needed to answer the test questions was necessary for the task of teaching at home, but failed to distinguish the task of teaching elementary grades from the task of teaching at high school level. Moreover, IOX did not allow the panelists to make the distinction between what knowledge was necessary to teach elementary children and what was necessary to teach high school.
An even more fundamental error lies behind the concept of testing parents before they are permitted to have their high schoolers study at home. It ignores the fact that students can learn by studying on their own and can far surpass their teachers’ knowledge of a subject. The character and attitudes most essential for the self-taught child are more likely to be developed in the stimulation, discipline, and love of the home school environment than in the stifling, ridiculing, devil-may-care atmosphere of the public schools.
The irony of the EEE requirement and the outrage of the home schoolers who fail it is that the parents so acutely feel the loss of the good education they never got from the public schools that they want to give their kids something better; but they are not allowed to home school because the impediment of the public education hinders them from passing the EEE. Parents who are giving their children an education at home because their own education was miserably deficient are thwarted by the EEE because of the very handicap they hope their children will escape.
Michael Farris and George Whitten recently traveled to Los Angeles to conduct depositions of the principal actors in the company that performed the validation study. At this stage, the parties to the suit are answering interrogatories and deposing each other’s expert witnesses. The trial is expected to be set for a date this fall in Columbia, South Carolina.
A final note: Scores from the June administration of the EEE are beginning to arrive. The HSLDA office would like to be notified of score results.