Learning outside the lines: Home schooling in Kansas

Experts debate research findings

Some data shows home-schoolers score higher than students in public education settings

May 13, 2007


See more in our home schooling series
Learning outside the lines

While many home-schoolers say, anecdotally, they can see the positive results of their practice, it's difficult to come by scientific research proving its effectiveness.

According to the College Board, home-schoolers taking the ACT did score higher on the test in 2005 than those who weren't home-schooled. Home-schoolers scored an average of 22.5, compared with a 20.9 average overall.

But a spokesman for the College Board says the organization is "cautious" about reporting those numbers, in part, because home-schoolers make up a small proportion of test-takers.

Many who home school point to research done by Brian Ray, who founded the National Home Education Research Institute, based in Salem, Ore. His research has found, among other things, that home-educated students' scores on standardized achievement tests are at or above the 80th percentile.

But Robert Reich, a Stanford University professor of political science who has written about the need to regulate home schooling, calls into question the value of data generated by organizations whose mission is to further home education. There's no reason to dismiss the research out of hand, he says.

"I would suggest, however, that we treat the findings : in the same way that people treat the research on nicotine addiction funded by tobacco companies: with a very large dose of skepticism," he writes in an essay for the book "Home Schooling in Full View."

Ray didn't return a message from the Journal-World seeking comment for this series.

Mickey Imber, a Kansas University education professor, says home schooling success is determined on such a case-by-case basis that it's difficult to research.

"It's foolish to say it's impossible for a home school student to do as well or better than a public school student," Imber says. "On the other hand, the rhetoric of the home school movement suggests any parent with any plan, who home schools for any reason, can do just as good a job as the public schools. I think that's just as foolish."


HomeschoolDad 11 years, 1 month ago

I think one of the purposes of Dr. Ray's research is to encourage parents that they can provide a quality education to their children. Parents can see that others who have preceded them have children who can read, write and do math as a result of their efforts at home. This provides a child the fundamental skills to progress educationally.

One of the things to consider about standardized testing and the home educated is that they don't often face this type of testing and therefore may not be good test takers. We've home schooled over 20 years and our oldest daughter was not a good test taker. Her ACT score was a few points lower than one of her siblings. Yet she graduated from college Summa Cum Laude while he is getting just over a 3.0 at KU.

I don't think test scores are necessarily the only measure to evaluate. And I can't prove home schooling is going to work better for every family. I do know though that other attributes developed in our educational process lead to independent study habits, self initiative, discipline, and sacrifice. My daughter worked over 30 hours per week while attending college as she paid her way through. So was her academic success a result of her homeschooling or her character?

Standardized tests scores can fluctuate from day to day so I don't see them as an accurate measure of educational effectiveness. Unfortunately we don't test for character and work ethic which I believe provides more accurate predictors for success.

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