- Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Considering homeschooling? Been homeschooling for a while and wondering about the effectiveness of homeschooling, or just curious? Now that the current homeschooling movement is more than several decades old, you may be wondering what kind of results homeschooling is producing. What kind of scientific evidence now exists that can be used to determine the quality of the efforts being made by parents across the country? Just what research is being done and what is that research saying? With the homeschooling movement continuing to grow and becoming increasingly diverse (McDowell, S.A. & Ray, B.D. (2000) "The Home Education Movement in Context, Practice and Theory: Editor's Introduction." Peabody Journal of Education. Vol. 75, Num. 1&2, 1-7. and Crowson, R. (2000) "The Home Schooling Movement: A Few Concluding Observations." Peabody Journal of Education. Vol. 75, Num. 1&2, 294-300) there is continued interest in the quality of the educational experience of homeschool students. Because of the length of time that families have been homeschooling, there has been opportunity to study how well homeschoolers do, particularly in comparison with public school students. Two areas in particular are of interest in these studies: the academic performance of homeschool students and their socialization. What is the research saying about these two topics?
Looking into the research on the issue of academic performance of homeschoolers, it quickly becomes apparent that an abundance of material is not readily available. (Reavis, R. & Zakriski (2005) "Experts Speak Out: Are Home Schooled Children Socially at Risk or Socially Protected?" The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter. Vol. 21, Num. 9. Hill, P.T. (2000) "Home Schooling and the Future of Public Education." Peabody Journal of Education, Vol. 75, Num. 1&2, 20-31) But if you are willing to dig and do a little reading of academic journals, you can find treasure. What you begin to see right away is an overwhelming amount of evidence that homeschool students do very well when compared to public and even private school students.(Rudner, L. M. (1999) "Scholastic Achievement and Demographic Characteristics of Home School Students in 1998." Education Policy Analysis Archives. Vol. 7, Num. 8 Click Here) Two major studies in particular rise to the top in terms of size and their general recognition in the literature. The first study, "Strengths of Their Own: Homeschooling Across America" was published in 1997 by Brian Ray, long associated with the National Home Education Research Institute and familiar to many homeschool families. The second study, also highly publicized, is the work of Lawrence Rudner, who works out of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation at the University of Maryland. The title of his paper is "Scholastic Achievement and Demographic Characteristics of Home School Students in 1998." These two studies receive so much attention because of their size and quality. However, several dozen other studies are also available, and the results strike a remarkable harmony in terms of how well homeschool students do. So, just how well do they do?
To understand how well they actually are doing, we need to understand the measurements that researchers are using to draw their conclusions. In the case of academic performance, the measurement is almost always a standardized achievement test. A standardized achievement test is nothing more than a test that has been constructed to evaluate an individual's level of achievement in academic subjects. It does this by comparing that individual's scores on the test with a normative group--individuals who take the test before it is released for general use. On these tests an average score is expressed as being at the 50th percentile, with half of those taking the test scoring below the 50th percentile and half scoring above the 50th percentile. Also, the higher (and lower) you go in terms of percentiles, the fewer people will have those types of scores. When you begin to see that homeschool students score anywhere from the 80th to 87th percentile in all subjects in Brian Ray's study or from the 75th to 85th percentile in most subjects in Rudner's study, you begin to appreciate that homeschool students score significantly higher than public school students on tests of achievement. And these two research papers are not the only ones showing these drastic differences.
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