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Concluding his two-day “school reform tour,” President Clinton
yesterday said 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 said.
Clinton said 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.”
In recent years, the growth of the home-schooling movement has
exploded in the U.S. due to the ever-worsening crisis of the nation’s
public schools — plummeting test scores, controversial curricula,
negative peer pressure and school violence.
Clinton said home schooling was not really a widely available option
when his 20-year-old daughter Chelsea was younger.
“But if it had been, I wouldn’t have done it,” Clinton said, because
he preferred that Chelsea be exposed to a wide range of students and
experiences in school.
Michael Farris, president and founder of the
Home School Legal
Defense Association, responded to Clinton’s remarks, saying, “There’s no one right way to home school your child. The one size fits all approach to education is the reason public schools are struggling. The strength of home schooling is our ability to individualize the education of each child.”
|Michael Farris, president and founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association|
“I think we are pretty organized,” he said in reference to Clinton’s statement that home schoolers should “get organized.”
“It would seem to me that the last person we would want to be organized by is the government,” added Farris.
According to a 1998 study conducted by Dr. Lawrence M. Rudner, a veteran in quantitative analysis, students who are educated at home have consistently scored above the national average in standardized tests, making the whole concept of requiring home-schooled children to meet public school standards a bit odd to many home-schooling parents.
Rudner, from the
University of Maryland in College Park, 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.
Students in grades K-8 took the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, and high school students took the Tests of Achievement and Proficiency. Both tests were published by Riverside Publishing Company and were developed after reviewing national and state curricula and standards.
“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 finds.
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. Incredibly, by the 8th grade, the average home school student performs four grade levels above the national average, the study shows.
Parents were asked to complete a questionnaire entitled “Voluntary Home School Demographic Survey,” which provides information about families who choose to home school.
The background questionnaires reveal that, on average, home school parents have more formal education than parents in the general population, with 88 percent having continued their education beyond high school compared to 50 percent for the nation as a whole.
Rudner’s study makes additional comparisons between home schooling families and the general public, including income, hours of television viewing and marital status.
In Farris’ analysis of Rudner’s study, he writes, “Without a doubt, the Rudner study demonstrates that home schooled students are doing exceptionally well. The question, ‘Why?’ however, is one that this study cannot sufficiently answer.”
“Home school students typically come from families where income is relatively high, marriages are intact, and dedication to education is strong,” he continues. “We do not know how these children would have performed had they been placed in public or private school, nor can we say that this study proves the superiority of home schooling over other educational choices. The answer to these questions lies not in statistics, but rather in individual stories.”
Regarding attempts to regulate home schools, Farris told WND, “There’s a constant pushing against the excesses of the regulations [of home schools]. The courts have been friendly to us when the regulations are overly burdensome. Slowly but surely, home schooling is marching toward freedom. We want to continue that march, both politically and legally.”