Home-Schooled Pupils Fare Well On Tests, Survey of Parents Finds

By Mark Walsh — February 13, 1991 2 min read

According to results reported by their parents, students taught at home scored well above national norms on standardized achievement tests in eight areas, a new national study shows.

The survey of about 1,500 home-schooling families throughout the United States showed that students scored above the 80th percentile on standardized achievement tests in reading, listening, language, mathematics, science, and social studies, as well as on a “basic battery” and a “complete battery” of tests.

The National Home Education Research Institute of Seattle, which conducted the survey, sent questionnaires to about 2,100 randomly selected members of the Home School Legal Defense Association. About 70 percent responded. More than 18,000 families are members of the national home-education support group.

Home-schooling advocates say their ranks are growing as more parents become dissatisfied with public and private schools.

Some education organizations and public-education officials oppose the concept as not educationally sound, but formal research on home schooling has been scant.

The survey cites reports that suggest that more than 300,000 children are educated at home in the United States. Other estimates suggest that as many as 500,000 or more may be taught at home.

On average, the survey found, mothers in home-schooling families do 88 percent of the teaching, while fathers do only 10 percent; less than 2 percent is done by outsiders.

One-quarter of the fathers in the sample identified their religious preference as fundamentalist or evangelical Christian, while 18 percent said they were Baptist, and4nearly 14 percent said they were charismatic Christians. No other denomination or religion accounted for more than 10 percent of the sample.

About 58 percent of the families reported that they met their state’s statutory requirements for home education, while 15 percent reported that they were “underground,” or failed to meet all the requirements.

Survey conclusions about the students’ academic achievement were based on the results of standardized tests as reported by their parents.

Only about half of the pupils in the survey had taken a standardized test, such as the California Achievement Test or the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

The researchers asked parents to include photocopies of test results as provided by the testing service, which most did, they reported.

The researchers converted the scores from the different tests to a common “z-score” for comparisons.

The national average score for the home-schooled students in all subjects ranged from the 80th percentile in language to the 85th percentile in listening. Percentile-rank scores reflect how a student performed in comparison with a “norm group,” which may have taken the test years before.

“It could be argued that these students would have done well in any educational setting, considering the family backgrounds, motivational levels of parents, and so forth from which they come,” writes Brian D. Ray, the report’s author.

But, he adds, certain factors in the home-schooling environment, such as low student-teacher ratios and the individualized curriculum, “would naturally cause higher achievement.”

Copies of the study are available for $10 each from the National Home Education Research Institute, 25 West Cremona St., Seattle, Wash. 98119.

A version of this article appeared in the February 13, 1991 edition of Education Week as Home-Schooled Pupils Fare Well On Tests, Survey of Parents Finds