Did you hear

what Bill Clinton said about home schooling?

Toward the end of his “school reform tour” last week, he asserted that home-schooled children should “have to prove that they’re learning on a regular basis” — or be forced to go to school.

“I think that states should explicitly acknowledge the option of home schooling, because it’s going to be done anyway,” Clinton said. “It is done in every state of the country and therefore the best thing to do is to get the home schoolers organized.”

He added that while he would not choose it for his own child, home schooling can work well when students and parents are made to answer for the students’ learning.

“We should say, ‘Look, there’s a good way to do this and a not-so-good way to do this,”‘ and require that home-schooled students meet academic benchmarks, he said. “But if you’re going to do this,” he added, “your children have to prove that they’re learning on a regular basis, and if they don’t prove that they’re learning then they have to go into a school — either into a parochial or private school or a public school.”

Let me suggest to Clinton and others who think the government is better suited to educating children than parents that the shoe really ought to be on the other foot.

The onus is truly on the government to demonstrate that it is capable of educating students — to prove that they are learning. That’s where the dramatic failures have been.

On the other hand, there is a growing body of evidence to demonstrate conclusively that home-school students far and away achieve better results than both government and private school students.

According to a 1998 study conducted by Dr. Lawrence M. Rudner, a quantitative analysis expert, students who are educated at home have consistently scored far above the national average in standardized tests. Rudner’s qualifications and credentials in establishment education circles make him an unlikely champion of home schooling. He has served as a university professor, a branch chief in the U.S. Department of Education and a classroom teacher. For the past 12 years, he has been the director of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation. ERIC is an information service sponsored by the National Library of Education — a branch of the Education Department. His two children attend public school.

His study included a total of 20,760 students in 11,930 families — seven times as many home-schooling families as any previous study of its kind — which provided demographic questionnaires and achievement tests. And, unlike earlier studies, families chose to participate before they knew their children’s test scores.

In other words, this was a scientific study. And what were the results?

“In every subject and at every grade level of the ITBS and TAP batteries, home school students scored significantly higher than their public and private school counterparts,” the study found.

Home-schooled children score in the 82 to 92 percentile ranking for reading and up to the 85th percentile in math. About 25 percent of all home school students are enrolled one or more grades above their age level, with the achievement gap widening as students progress. By the 8th grade, the average home school student performs four grade levels above the national average, the study shows.

Meanwhile, need I recite the dismal performance record of government schools over the last 30 years: declining test scores, rampant violence, high school graduates who can’t read.

Have you been in any urban public schools lately? They are not education facilities, they are detention camps. They are not places of learning, they are militarized daycare centers. They are not schools at all, but social conditioning facilities designed to produce slaves to the state. Whatever learning does take place takes place by accident or in spite of the obstacles.

No, Mr. Clinton, it is your education bureaucracy that needs to prove itself, not the self-reliant parents of America who rightly take matters into their own hands. They are proving themselves. Your way is a demonstrable failure.

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