- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 14, 2000

Colleges and universities are becoming increasingly receptive to accepting students who are home-schooled, a research report has found.

A newly published survey of 513 colleges and universities by the National Center for Home Education (NCHE) in Purcellville, Va., found that a majority of those schools 68 percent had admissions policies similar to those recommended by home-school advocates, with many others developing more flexible policies on accepting students educated by parents.

"This study is particularly heartening to us, because it shows that the colleges want the home-school students," said NCHE Executive Director Chris Klicka, who prepared the report. "No longer are we fighting that assertion that home-schoolers aren't going to be able to make it in college. The study shows us that the colleges are listening to us."

The survey, conducted by mail in late 1998 and early 1999, was designed to determine what criteria were used by colleges and universities to admit home-schoolers and to encourage those schools to loosen what the NCHE calls "unnecessarily restrictive" admission requirements.

An estimated 200,000 students nationwide are home-schooled. With the widespread growth of the home-schooling movement over the last decade, a number of those students have completed high school course work and are headed for college.

Nearly 70 percent of home-schooled students pursue a college degree, research shows, forcing more schools to define their criteria for acceptance. An estimated 1 million home-schooled students are expected to apply to colleges over the next decade.

The benefits of home education like a tailored curriculum and individualized instruction are advantages for the high school students, says Mr. Klicka, but the great variety of home-schooling methods creates a challenge for colleges in making decisions on admissions.

Colleges that welcome home-schoolers typically have admissions policies that require submission of a parent's transcript, general standardized achievement testing and the review of a student portfolio in place of an accredited diploma, the survey found.

Many schools, however, require SAT II tests, as well as General Educational Development (GED) certificates to determine if home-schooled students have the necessary academic skills to succeed in college.

The SAT II, a more in-depth test of specific subjects, discriminates against home-schoolers, says the NCHE, because most schools do not require their traditionally educated students to take it as a condition of admission. Use of the GED required by one-third of the schools surveyed also makes some home-school advocates bristle.

"Home-schoolers aren't dropouts," says Tim Lambert, a home-schooling parent from Texas and a staff member of the NCHE. "They are intelligent, gifted kids who have already completed a high school education."

Home-schooled students post a strong track record of academic achievement.

A March 1999 study found that home-schooled students scored on average 25 percent to 35 percent higher than their peers in traditional public schools on standardized achievement tests. That study also found that the longer a student was home-schooled, the higher the student scored; students who were home-schooled their entire lives posted the highest marks.

Research has determined that home-schooled students who attend college are defying critics who have suggested that those students have missed out on socialization skills by being taught outside a traditional classroom. Home-school graduates were more likely than public school or private Christian school graduates to hold positions of campus leadership, a 1997 study found.

Some schools, recognizing that home-schoolers make strong students, have begun actively recruiting home-educated pupils, with several colleges offering home-schooler scholarships.

"Home-schoolers' strong work ethic and high moral values contribute to their success in college," Mr. Klicka said. "It is clear from our survey that more and more colleges and universities are recognizing their unique capabilities and circumstances."

The NCHE is recommending colleges and universities adopt specific written home-school admissions policies, which say:

• Home-school students should not be required to submit an accredited diploma or GED. Accreditation, says Mr. Klicka, does not measure student knowledge or what the student was taught, only where he or she was taught.

• If transcripts are required, schools should be flexible on guidelines for records or documentation of basic high school credit hours.

• Colleges must recognize parents are capable of fairly evaluating student skills in letters of recommendation. Schools, Mr. Klicka says, frequently ask for letters from someone outside the home.

• SAT/ACT scores, portfolios and performance-based assessments provide schools with a solid basis for admissions.

• Mandatory SAT II tests are an "unnecessary roadblock," and hold home-schoolers to a higher standard than their traditionally educated peers.

• A bibliography of high school literature and an essay are solid criteria a school can use to evaluate a student's life experience and thinking skills.

• Interviews and a review of extracurricular activities can help to determine student proficiency and leadership skills.

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