"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Perhaps Homeschooling Parents Should be Heading Up the Department of Education. They Spend Less Money for Better Test Results.

We are highlighting two articles tonight regarding educational expenses and test scores with the expenses noted. One article, from Homeschooling United gives statistics from homeschooling expenses and test scoring, and the other is written by Andrew Coulson from Cato, tracking Department of Education spending and resultant test scores.

Homeschooling United states the following:

In 2009, Dr. Brian Ray released a study on the progress of homeschooled students compared to their publicly schooled counterparts.

Drawing from 15 independent testing services, the Progress Report 2009: Homeschool Academic Achievement and Demographics included 11,739 homeschooled student from all 50 states who took three well-know testsCalifornia Achievement Test, Iowa Basic Skill, and Stanford Achievement Test for the 2007-08 academic year. The progress Report is the most comprehensive homeschool academic study ever completed.

National Average Percentile Scores
Subtest Homeschool Public School
Reading 89 50
Language 84 50
Math 84 50
Science 86 50
Social Studies 84 50
Core-a 88 50
Core-b 86 50
Core-a is a combination of Reading, Language, and Math
Core-b is a combination of all subjects that the students took on the test.

There was little difference between the results of homeschooled boys and girls on core scores.

Now we'll focus on some information published by The Cato Institute entitled "The Impact of Federal Involvement in America's Classrooms:"

For over half a century, a succession of Congresses and presidents has sought to do two things for American elementary and secondary education: raise overall achievement, and narrow the gaps between high- and low-income students as well as between minority and white students. The federal government has spent roughly $2 trillion on these efforts since 1965, adjusting for inflation.1

Math and Reading scores at the end of high school are unchanged over the past forty years, while Science scores suffered a slight decline through the year 1999, the last time that test was administered. Data from another nationally representative test series show a continuing decline in 12th grade Science between 1996 and 2005, the last year for which we have trend data.

We spent over $151,000 per student sending the graduating class of 2009 through public schools. That is nearly three times as much as we spent on the graduating class of 1970, adjusting for inflation. Despite that massive real spending increase, overall achievement has stagnated or declined, depending on the subject.

Why is the difference in test scores so marked between homeschooled students and public educated students? How is it that even families who spent less than $600.00 annually on homeschooling performed at an 86% level while public educated students at almost $10,000.00 per year only scored at a 50% level?

One could make the assumption that homeschooling parents have higher level of education and income than parents of public educated students and that's the reason they outperform publicly educated students . Here's more information from Homeschooling United:

Household income had little impact on the results of homeschooled students.

$34,000 or less – 85th percentile
$35,000 – $49,999 – 86th percentile
$50,000 – $69,999 – 86 percentile
$70,000 or more – 89 percentile

Educational level of parents:

Neither parent has a college degree – 83rd percentile
One parent has a college degree – 86th percentile
Both parents have a college degree – 90th percentile

Whether either parent was a certified teacher did not matter.

Certified (i.e. either parent ever certified)-87th percentile
Not certified (i.e., neither parent ever certified)-88th percentile

Andrew Coulson of Cato reports on the importance of the level of parental education for public education student testing results:

But what of the federal government's other educational goal: narrowing the achievement gaps by income and minority status? Test score breakdowns by family income are not available, but we do have something close: a breakdown by parents' level of education. This allows us to compare the children of high school dropouts to those of college graduates. In Reading and Science, the gap between these students has not narrowed in 40 years. In Math it has narrowed by barely one percent of the test score scale.3 So, here again, federal appropriations and the programs they have funded have failed to achieve their goals.

So what are we to make of this? It's obvious that parents having a higher degree impacts homeschoolers' test results. It seems obvious this fact impacts public school students as well. But the 33%-36% difference in test scores between homeschooled students and public school students is staggering. What causes such a huge difference between homeschooled scores and public educated student scores?

If you follow the last four decades of educational thought and spending, you might believe if the government just throws more money at the problem, the problem will be resolved. Coulson writes:

To sum up, we have little to show for the $2 trillion in federal education spending of the past half century. In the face of concerted and unflagging efforts by Congress and the states, public schooling has suffered a massive productivity collapse — it now costs three times as much to provide essentially the same education as we provided in 1970.

So throwing money at the problem isn't the answer. Federalized standards aren't the answer. Homeschoolers test better than publicly educated students....how do we provide better education to public school students, then? What is it that homeschooling students receive from their education that apparently is missing from public education? Coulson gives us an idea on what has worked with a small section of public education students:

But amidst this bleak overall record, there is one federal education program that has been proven to both improve educational outcomes and dramatically lower costs. That is the Washington, DC Opportunity Scholarships Program. Research conducted by the Department of Education finds that students attending private schools thanks to this program have equal or better academic performance than their peers in the local public schools, and have significantly higher graduation rates. This, and very high levels of parental satisfaction, come at an average per pupil cost of around $7,000. By contrast, per pupil spending on k-12 public education in the nation's capital was roughly $28,000 during the 2008-09 school year.6

The OSP program is thus producing better results at a quarter the cost.

What do the homeschooling community and the private school industry have in common? Little to no governmental interference, no common core standards, innovative curriculum and autonomy in teaching to each child. Now those are radical educational practices; but really, they are not all that radical, are they? Those educational practices have been proven to work for students vs the school "choice" currently being pushed by million dollar lobbyists. Those programs such as trigger options and charter schools are not "choice": they are still controlled by common core mandates and assessments present in traditional public schools. What exactly do you call a choice that is not a choice? An educational version of musical chairs?

Why isn't the DOE studying the successes of homeschooling and private schools and adapting and adopting what they are doing right to truly reform public educational systems? Why aren't local communities allowed to use their tax dollars to provide educational opportunities that work for their district children instead of having standards and assessments dictated to them? How much more money and control will be wrested from taxpayers and states to refine federal programs that haven't worked for at least the last forty years?

1 comment:

  1. I am a home school teacher/parent. I suspected public school test cheating for some time. Every single time my son had to take a national standardized test (AP, SAT) at the public school, the school would change my home school accountability group code to their high school code. The public school would get credit for how well my son did. I always had to get an extra copy sent to my accountability group. This happened each and every time. The accountability group would just sigh and say it happens all the time. Public schools know that home school students do well of these tests. My son wasn't hurt by this practice, but those poor students at the public school are the ones who suffer. I wonder how they explained that fact that my son took an AP test for courses they don't even offer. I had to special order them, and he was the only one in the school district that took two of the AP tests. So sad.


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