Home-Schooled Pupils Outscore Counterparts

By Debra Viadero — March 19, 1997 1 min read

Students who are schooled at home fare better than public school pupils on most standardized tests, according to a national report.

The study by the National Home Education Research Institute, a Salem, Ore.-based advocacy group, is the largest survey to date on the nation’s growing home-schooled population, a group that is often difficult to track.

Brian D. Ray, the study’s author and the director of the institute, collected written questionnaire responses from the parents of 5,402 of the nation’s estimated 1.23 million home-schooled children. Parents were also asked to send copies of their children’s test scores to verify their responses.

On average, Mr. Ray found, home-schooled pupils who took the Iowa Test of Basic Skills outscored public school students by 37 percentile points. On the Stanford Achievement Test, home-schooled pupils had a 30-percentile-point advantage.

Outside Activities Tracked

Children taught at home also outperformed public school students on the California Test of Basic Skills and the California Achievement Test.

The longer children had been educated at home, Mr. Ray found, the better they did on the tests.

Though the study provides more comprehensive data than earlier research did, its findings weren’t particularly surprising, said Bruce S. Cooper, a professor of administration, policy, and urban education at Fordham University in New York City, who tracks private schools.

“If you think about it, you’re getting one-on-one instruction, and from the research we know that’s the best way to learn something,” he said. “It’s just not practical for a whole society.”

Mr. Ray said his study also found that children’s high test scores had little to do with whether their parents had been certified as teachers. Students whose parents had teaching certificates scored only slightly higher than the children of nonteachers.

The report also rebuts the criticism that home-schooled children live socially isolated lives. According to the study, they regularly participate in an average of 5.2 activities outside their homes, ranging from Sunday school to sports teams.

Copies of the report, “Strengths of Their Own,” are available for $19.95 plus $2 shipping and handling from the National Home Education Research Institute, P.O. Box 13939, Salem, Ore. 97309.