Evaluation and discussion by Michael Farris, HSLDA President
Why are home schoolers succeeding?
Many times over the past two decades, important legislative, legal, and policy decisions have been made, in part, based on the perceived or actual academic performance of home educated students. It should not be necessary, nor is it really possible, to prove that home education is better than institutional schools. It is clear that the average home school child performs significantly higher than the average public school child. Given the demographic distinctions between the groups under comparison, it is only safe and fair to conclude that home education works well for those who are choosing this form of education. Without needing to criticize other forms of education, we can confidently assure policy makers that this system delivers solid academic results.
With this in view, it would be contrary to the evidence to suggest that public school regulatory measures are justifiably imposed on home schoolers. Specifically, this study found no valid correlation between teacher certification and student achievement. It would be a misuse of this study to suggest that teacher certification is not valid in public schools. By the same token, it would be a lapse in common sense to believe that imposing certification on home school families is necessary for good academic results.
Another noteworthy fact uncovered by this study is that home school achievement tends to improve the longer a child has been taught at home. This distinction is especially great in the higher grades. Clearly, home education is not just a quick fix for problem cases, nor is it only for young children. It is a valid educational option, creating students who love learning and young adults who are well prepared for a bright future.
The only theoretical way to perform a perfect experiment to determine if home schooling is better or worse than public or private schools is to use a randomized control design. A large number of children would be randomly selected and required to attend home school. Another group of children would be randomly selected and required to attend public or private school. Clearly that is not possible. But even that pure design would have a major flaw. It fails to consider one factor that clearly contributes to home educations successparental motivation. Because home schooling, by its very nature, is practiced only in families where parents are strongly motivated, it is undetermined what would happen if unmotivated parents were randomly assigned to home educate their children.
This study does not enter the theoretical domain. It simply measures the families who are motivated to home school and concludes that they are doing very well. The most telling demonstration of home educations success, however, will be the individual lives of young people who grow up and go out to impact the nation and the world. We look forward in great anticipation to the Patrick Henrys, John Quincy Adamses, and Thomas Edisons of the modern home schooling movement.
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