February 22, 2012

Public School at Home Program Recruits Homeschoolers, Leaves Questions Unanswered

It has been reported to us that Iowa Connections Academy, which offers a public school at home program, is vigorously recruiting homeschool families.

“Tuition-free Public Virtual School From Home” is how they advertise it. But what you need to know is: (1) you are required to use books and materials that they have pre-approved; (2) their books and materials are limited and may not suit your student; (3) like books and materials used in every other public school in America, they cannot tell the truth about God; (4) like all other public school teachers, online public school teachers cannot tell your student the truth about God.

And major questions remain about whether public school at home programs produce good academic results.

In a recent survey of California public school at home programs, only 48% of students scored at the “proficient” level in English-Language Arts. Elementary math proficiency was about 22%. The Algebra 1 proficiency was only 12%.

The scores were so bad that a commentator asked, “Why does the emperor have no clothes?”

An article in the New York Times described a public school at home program where 60% of its students were behind in math and nearly 50% were behind in reading. While profitable for its corporate owner, the author believed there were “serious questions” about whether full-time online public schools actually benefit children.

The Times wrote: “a portrait emerges of a company that tries to squeeze profits from public school dollars by raising enrollment, increasing teacher workload, and lowering standards.”

The national publication Education Week noted that students in public full-time online programs in Colorado “typically lagged behind their peers on virtually every academic indicator.” Worse, scores actually dropped when students transferred from brick and mortar to online schools. The double-digit gap was persistent, and worse among the children of affluent parents.

Compare this with the well-known success of homeschool students. Dr. Lawrence Rudner of the University of Maryland, in his landmark 1999 study published in the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation, noted that homeschooled 2nd graders scored one grade level ahead of others; 5th graders scored two grades ahead; and 8th graders scored an astonishing four grade levels ahead!
See Figure 2 >>

Parent-directed, parent-controlled, homeschooling working hand-in-hand with the liberty to incorporate the truth about God unashamedly into every subject—and operated entirely without government “help”—is simply the gold standard of education and personal discipleship. If you know anyone considering “free” public school online, consider gently encouraging them to count the cost.