Friday, September 28, 2007

The Anti-Homeschooling NEA


The National Education Association (NEA) is THE big organization when it comes to public schooling, made up of more than 3.2 million professional employees that work in and for public schools. Just to illustrate their lobbying power (at least with one party), the following presidential candidates addressed their national meeting in July: Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Christopher Dodd, Dennis Kucinich, Bill Richardson, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Mike Huckabee. One of the functions of the NEA's annual meeting is to approve their policy platform.

Before displaying the NEA's official stance on homeschooling, let's briefly review the data.

Homeschoolers well outpace public-schooled children in standardized tests across all subjects (click to enlarge):

There's no difference in homeschooler achievement based on whether the parent is a certified teacher or not (click to enlarge):

Level of state regulation of homeschooling has no impact on homeschooler achievement (click to enlarge):
There is no difference in homeschooler achievement based on race or gender (the same cannot be said of public schools, click to enlarge):

Okay, now that we know the data, here's what the NEA just ratified (again) as an official policy statement regarding homeschooling:

B-75. Home Schooling

The National Education Association believes that home schooling programs based on parental choice cannot provide the student with a comprehensive education experience. When home schooling occurs, students enrolled must meet all state curricular requirements, including the taking and passing of assessments to ensure adequate academic progress. Home schooling should be limited to the children of the immediate family, with all expenses being borne by the parents/guardians. Instruction should be by persons who are licensed by the appropriate state education licensure agency, and a curriculum approved by the state department of education should be used. The Association also believes that home-schooled students should not participate in any extracurricular activities in the public schools. The Association further believes that local public school systems should have the authority to determine grade placement and/or credits earned toward graduation for students entering or re-entering the public school setting from a home school setting. (1988, 2006)
The bold is my emphasis. Here's the link to their whole policy statement.

This policy statement can only be described as extremely uneducated (note the irony), and even vitriolic. I think what we have here is an organization that doesn't like the fact that homeschoolers (educated by people who aren't certified teachers) fare better than those they educate, and they don't like the fact that they lose per-pupil funding for each homeschooler that would otherwise be in public school, and so they want to curtail homeschooling. Thank God that states mostly don't listen to the NEA, and those that have are slowly deregulating. Homeschooling is a growing mode of education, much to the NEA's chagrin.


Anonymous said...

Is there data on economic status? Though I have no quantifiable data to support it, my guess is that most home-school families live well above the poverty level and that this may contribute to students' success.

Brendan Koop said...

You've hit on something important here, which is that one must always think very, very critically when considering data, especially from studies. Here's my objective (as much as possible) look at some of the issues and questions that any critical observer should bring up in regard to the homeschool study I cited.

First, the study was conducted or sponsored by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which is a fantastic organization that defends homeschoolers rights across the country. Still, one should consider bias from the source of the study. Given that the data is well cited, the study methods are fully reported and transparent, that the author of the study is fully qualified to do the research (see all of this at the end of the PDF that I cite), this significantly mitigates this concern in my mind. Data is data, and thousands of students were included in the study.

Second, what factors are not being controlled? Clearly, as you note, one of them is financial status, and another is parental involvement, and I'm sure there are others that may be important. In the end, there's no way to really compare homeschooling ALONE as a factor, because to do so you would have to conduct a study where somehow you find kids with identical or similar intelligence levels, with parents that are identically or similarly involved in their kids' education, and leave half of those students in public school and home school the other half, and then track yearly progress (ideally single blinded). I'm sure this hasn't been done, and I think it may be impossible.

So, given all this, what is the point of citing this study? The point is that the NEA specifically says that "home schooling cannot provide a comprehensive educational experience," a ridiculous statement even without defining "comprehensive" in this case. Their position should be supported by data that says that home schoolers perform WORSE than public school students AND turn out to be worse citizens (i.e. less involved, socialized, etc.), both of which are untrue based on the two papers I cite in the sidebar. The fact is, of the students that ARE home schooled (whatever their economic status, and whatever their familial status) outperform the average public school student, and so what is the rational basis for restricting homeschooling? There is none.

Incidentally, one point that might interest you, in the same paper look at the plot regarding educational status of the parents and homeschooling achievement. Parents who only have a high school education and home school their kids produce kids who perform almost equally to home schooled kids whose parents have a graduate school education. I think it's a pretty good assumption that parents who only have a high school education are fairly low on the economic status pole, giving further evidence that home schooling just works, in and of itself, as a vehicle of education for any kids.

Isaac Schwoch said...

I think that level of parental involvement in their children's education is likely the most critical factor here. Any parent who home schools probably values education very highly and is likely to be very involved in their child's education. The same would also be true (albeit to a lesser extent) for parents who send their children to private schools. Public schools deal with the full spectrum of parents, from the very involved to the apathetic. Extremely motivated and involved parents could probably achieve a good outcome by sending their child to a good public school (i.e. one in a high-income district with conservative enough leanings to be somewhat independent from the NEA). That being said, I think that given the trend toward extremely liberal ideology being pushed at younger and younger grades at public schools, we're almost to the point where a serious Christian cannot send their child to a public school in good conscience regardless of the school's academic quality. This is especially true of inner-city schools, where lack of parental involvement and corrupt Democrat-controlled bureaucracies have completely destroyed many poor children's chances at becoming moral, productive members of society.