From the beginning of the re-emergence of home-schooling in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the strongest criticism of home-schooling was that untrained, noncredentialed parents could not provide the quality of instruction needed to match the education provided in public and private schools. To address this criticism, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) commissioned several studies to compare how home-schoolers score on standardized achievement tests compared to their public and private school counterparts.
The results of those tests demonstrated that on average, home-schooled children regularly outperformed their peers. These test results had a significant impact on the growth of home-schooling. First, state legislators were convinced that home-schooling parents could provide a high level of education, and they passed laws that recognized the right to home-school. Additionally, many parents who were contemplating home-schooling were encouraged to take the leap of faith to educate their children at home.
What the test results demonstrate is that a home-school program tailored to the individual needs of the student is the best method of educating a child. This reality was further supported by test results on the SAT and ACT that demonstrated that the average home-schooled graduate tested higher than the average graduate from public schools.
Now we have additional test results that demonstrate home-school graduates compare favorably with students at such prestigious schools as Harvard, Yale and Princeton universities and the University of Virginia.
The Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) administers the American Civic Literacy Test (ACLT) to college students to measure their factual knowledge about American history, the Constitution and more. The results reveal that students nationwide lack even the basics. When ISI administered the ACLT in 2006 to a sample of students attending Ivy League schools, Harvard seniors answered 69.56 percent of the questions correctly, Yale seniors answered 65.85 percent correctly and Princeton seniors answered 61.90 percent.
Compare this with students at Patrick Henry College (PHC), a Christian classical college located 50 miles Northwest of the District, where 80 percent of the students come from home-schooling backgrounds. The ACLT was given to PHC freshmen this fall. These freshmen scored at 71.6 percent, two points higher than Harvard’s seniors and 17.4 percent higher than the average senior mean score at 50 of the country’s top institutions of higher education.
I also have seen the scores of PHC freshmen on a standardized test by Educational Testing Service known as MAPP (Measure of Academic Proficiency and Progress). The MAPP tests proficiency in critical thinking, reading, writing and mathematics, and the results permit us to compare incoming PHC freshmen with college seniors at 253 participating institutions. The PHC freshmen tested higher than seniors at every other participating institution, including Baylor University, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the universities of Colorado, Georgia and Mississippi.
The ACLT and MAPP results have their limits, and it must be remembered that PHC only admits high-achieving applicants.
The test results do show clearly what happens when you compare the best with the best: The best home-schooled students systematically outperform the best non-home-schooled students. This success did not happen automatically. It happened because tens of thousands of dedicated parents made tremendous sacrifices to educate their children.
I believe we can safely say the type of parental involvement children receive in a home-school environment and the learning environment created by the home are significant factors in the success of the home-school movement in academics. These results are a testament to the dedication of parents as well as the home-school method of teaching. It is a proven combination for success in education.
• Michael Smith is the president of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He may be contacted at 540/338-5600; or send e-mail to email@example.com.