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Post Home Schooling and Academic Achievement
Created by John Eipper on 08/12/15 4:07 AM

Previous posts in this discussion:


Home Schooling and Academic Achievement (Randy Black, USA, 08/12/15 4:07 am)

On the matter of homeschooling, while I do not have a horse in this race, I've run across a few "converted" home -schooled students at the high school where I teach high-level classes by appointment about 95-100 days each year. Each home-schooled student converted to this large public school, I concluded, due to the parent opting to a "real, paying" job or personal needs. In each case, these high school students were AP/IB-level students.

On the issue of whether or not home schooling is good or not seems to be the realm of folks such as Henry Levin, who is of the opinion that home schooling is not good for students. Correct me if I missed the mark.

As is Henry, I am a skeptic. Thus, I must ask if the critics of homeschooling among us have taught in a public school elementary or secondary classroom in the recent past? Where does this anti-homeschooling bias originate? And why?

In his response to this homeschooling question, Henry wrote, "There is no experimental or quasi-experimental study that shows that home schooling children, on average, outperform public school or private school children academically. ...When one asks what is the name of the peer-reviewed journal or other source where the study is published, (their response is that) almost all of the references...are from home schooling promotional organizations.

"I would like Enrique [Torner] to send a reference from reputable academic sources that support his claim that home schoolers, on average, show better academic results than schooled children. I know the literature very well and am surprised that I missed this important 'finding.'"

(RB): Perhaps I might interject that I quickly found such US and Canadian peer-reviewed results that might or might not help Henry fill in a couple of gaps.

I asked Google, "peer-reviewed studies on home schooling."

Among the 34,000 results produced in 0.26 seconds, I ran across a paper by graduate student at Northern Michigan University dated 2012. Kathi Moreau spelled out the pluses and minuses of these matters and backed her writing up with multiple sources from quite a few "reputable academic sources" (as Henry requested).

In a portion of her initial statement, Ms. Moreau wrote, "Through numerous research studies, this paper will address other commonly referred to topics regarding homeschooling, such as socialization and parental educational levels. Each of these topics are often arguments against homeschooling, but research indicates that homeschooling is a very viable form of education."

What follows are some highlights of Ms. Moreau's support and conclusion that homeschooling may produce students who are, in fact, working at a higher level than those from public schools. I've also cut and pasted her sources and included a link to her paper and references at the end.

She writes: (As early as 1986): "Stanford Achievement Test of homeschooled students were compared to those of public school students. The test scores were from Washington State for the years of 1986, 1987, and 1988. Homeschooled students scored comparably or above the median in the tested areas of math, science, and verbal skills. The purpose was to identify how home-schooled students rate amongst public school students academically and socially (Romanowski)."

Romanoswski, M. H. (2006). Revisiting the common myths about homeschooling. Center for Teacher Education, 79(3), 125-129.

(She continues): "The main question of interest in this study of 5,402 homeschool students and 1,657 families was to find out the effectiveness of homeschooling. It was found that "homeschoolers, on average, achieved higher scores than their public school counterparts by 30-37% in all subject areas" (Davis, n.d., p. 32). This was a significant finding to the effectiveness of homeschooling. It is interesting to note that data on test scores showed that it did not matter the race or background of the homeschool student."

Davis, A. (n.d.). Evolution of homeschooling. Distance Learning, 8(2), 29-35.

Regarding younger children, Ms. Moreau found a study that concluded: "The study was conducted with 35 homeschooled children who were four and five years old. These students were tested using a standardized test called the Performance Indicators in Primary Schools. Just as in the case of older homeschooled students, the four and five year-old students scored higher than the public school children the same age (Rothermel, 2004).

Rothermel, P. (2004). Home-Education: Comparison of home-and- school educated children on PIPS baseline assessments. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 2, 273-299.

Finally, on page 24 of her paper, I found the following:

"A study by Cogan (2010) was conducted at a private university. It included 27 students who were homeschooled. These students were compared to their public schooled counterparts.

"The study looked at first-year GPA, fall-to-fall retention, and four-year graduation rates (Cogan, 2010). Although many students start college, this does not mean they finish and are successful. Due to changes within education and the growing number of students who are homeschooled, there is more assistance now than there used to be by test providers and colleges for students to be able to process the necessary paperwork to attend college and complete testing.

"Homeschoolers can take tests at public schools for the purpose of reporting the information to colleges. This is how it is determined that homeschooled kids typically score higher on these tests when compared to public schooled students (Aasen, 2010). With evidence that homeschooled students score higher on standardized tests, it is interesting to note that students' socioeconomic status is not a factor. This is in direct contrast to students who are in public schools. There are only about 50 percent of the homeschooled student's parents who have attended college. However, approximately 75 percent of homeschooled students attend college.

"A staggering 50 percent of the public schooled counterparts drop out of school (Chang et al., 2011). In addition, this study showed that homeschooled college students tested did better academically than public schooled students. Their test scores, namely ACT, GPA and graduation rates were equal or higher than public school students (Cogan, 2010).

Cogan, M. F. (2010). Exploring academic outcomes of homeschooled students. Journal of College Admission, 19-25.

Chang, S., Gould, O. N., & Meuse, R. E. (2011). The Impact of Schooling on Academic Achievement: Evidence from Homeschooled and Traditionally Schooled Students. Canadian Journal of Behavioral Science, 43, 195-202.

Aasen, S. H. (2010). New followers of an old path--homeschoolers. The Journal for Quality and Participation, 32(4), 12-14.


JE comments:  A Master's thesis is not a peer-reviewed study, although this is not a judgment on the quality of Ms Moreau's paper.

As for educational results and achievements, one factor we haven't yet addressed is parental motivation.  Parents who are uninterested in their children's education are not going to take the time and trouble to homeschool.  This cultural difference would likely have an impact on comparative achievement data.

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  • Home Schooling, Academic Achievement, and Peer-Reviewed Studies (Henry Levin, USA 08/12/15 9:29 AM)
    I appreciate Randy Black's efforts (12 August) to find research on the academic superiority of home schooling. However, the appropriate place to begin is Google Scholar, not Google. As we all know, Google does not referee its entries.

    Further, as John Eipper pointed out, MA theses and even doctoral theses must be examined for their research methods. To be credible, a study comparing the results for different types of schools must follow acceptable research methods meaning that the students in the comparison schools or school types must be similar because it is well known in the literature that family background, socioeconomic status, and race account for much or most of the differences in academic achievement. Therefore, the credible research is either that of random assignment (difficult to get because home schooling requires selection rather than assignment), or a strong quasi-experimental design such as propensity score matching or a valid use of instrumental variables that tends to statistically-simulate random assignment. There are a number of other acceptable methods. Simply comparing the test scores or completion rates of all students in public scores with home schoolers in the same region is not viewed by any scholar as an acceptable "research method."

    Further, the name and abstract of a study are not adequate to judge scholarship without examining the method of analysis. Further, peer review in a referred journal is limited only to the top journals in any field. There are many journals that have been established by advocacy organizations that do not adhere to the requirements of blind peer review or acceptable methods which basically publish articles that support their advocacy. There are many others that publish almost anything. If Google Scholar identifies an article of interest, you can go to most university libraries and larger urban libraries which have subscriptions to JStor which will enable you to review the article by computer or print it out.

    I should also note that Google Scholar (free and easily accessible) not only identifies articles on particular topics with short summaries, but also lists the number of times that the article has been cited in the literature. This is one measure of its importance, its acceptability for citation by other scholars.

    There are plenty of sources arguing that one type of school (e.g. charter schools vs traditional public schools) is superior academically to another type. Whether these are credible or are simply advocacy pieces for the non-research audience depends on how these conclusions were reached. One of the challenges is the diversity of schools and students. Some home schooling students show outstanding academic achievement, usually in a situation where the parents are highly educated and devoted to academic learning. But, on average, this is not the case, and in most states a much larger number avoid standardized testing so that they are not in the data base. Religious home schoolers often choose to go to higher education institutions (e.g. Bible Colleges or Community Colleges) that do not require the SAT or ACT or high school test results.

    JE comments: A valuable lesson from Henry Levin on what "peer review" means in practice.

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    • Peer Review (Randy Black, USA 08/13/15 6:28 AM)
      In his 12 August response to my post on homeschooling (I am neither for or against it), Henry Levin pointed out that I had not used the proper academic sources for some of my information on homeschooling. "Now we're on to something," I thought. Using Henry's suggested source, I started with Google Scholar, which led to other sources. I began looking for information that indicated "peer reviewed." Most of what I discovered seemed to indicate that homeschooling has validity as it pertains to success beyond high school.

      By the way, Henry and John both apparently jumped to a false conclusion I was offering Kathi Moreau's paper as a Master's thesis. They took me to task for such an error. Pardon me, but I never wrote that that Ms. Moreau's paper was a Master's thesis, nor did I claim it was a peer-reviewed publication.

      What I failed to spell out more clearly was that the references cited by the author of that paper appeared to be in some cases, peer-reviewed. But I did not write it, so they assumed I had implied so.

      Notwithstanding, I went to Google Scholar as Henry suggested and typed in the search question: "peer-reviewed studies on homeschooling."

      Google Scholar sent me 5,900 results in 0.15 sec. Which in turn took me to something called ERIC. There I typed in "home schooling and SAT scores" and clicked the box for peer-reviewed only.

      All I could think was I wish I'd known of Google Scholar and ERIC years ago. Many thanks to Henry for setting me on the right path.

      I was directed to a plethora of peer-reviewed publications that seems to indicate in some way that homeschooling has validity. I even found peer-reviewed books supporting homeschooling published by Henry's University, Teachers College, Columbia (UP).

      Under the "what are the chances category"? The exact article cited by the author (Kathi Moreau) noted in my previous post by Isaiah Cohen, but which Henry and John discounted as not peer-reviewed, turns out to be a peer-reviewed piece after all: The impact of homeschooling on the adjustment of college students.

      What are the chances, Part II: In my earlier post, Ms. Moreau cited an article by M. F. Cogan that stated, "A study by Cogan (2010) was conducted at a private university. It included 27 students who were homeschooled. These students were compared to their public schooled counterparts.

      "The study looked at first-year GPA, fall-to-fall retention, and four-year graduation rates (Cogan, 2010). Although many students start college, this does not mean they finish and are successful. Due to changes within education and the growing number of students who are homeschooled, there is more assistance now than there used to be by test providers and colleges for students to be able to process the necessary paperwork to attend college and complete testing.

      "...With evidence that homeschooled students score higher on standardized tests, it is interesting to note that students' socioeconomic status is not a factor. This is in direct contrast to students who are in public schools. There are only about 50 percent of the homeschooled student's parents who have attended college. However, approximately 75 percent of homeschooled students attend college.

      "A staggering 50 percent of the public schooled counterparts drop out of school (Chang et al., 2011). In addition, this study showed that homeschooled college students tested did better academically than public schooled students. Their test scores, namely ACT, GPA and graduation rates were equal or higher than public school students (Cogan, 2010).

      --Cogan, M. F. (2010). Exploring academic outcomes of homeschooled students. Journal of College Admission, 19-25.

      Guess what? Peer-reviewed too. http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ893891

      The next peer-reviewed book/abstract that I examined briefly stated, "An online survey resulted in a sample of 185 students from a variety of colleges and universities, both public and private. The results show that as compared to traditionally educated students, college students who were homeschooled do not exhibit any significant differences in self-esteem, and they experience significantly lower levels of depression than those with no homeschooling in their educational background. This research also reveals that homeschooled students report that they achieve higher academic success in college and view their entire college experience more positively than traditionally educated students."

      I might be wrong and I probably am, but the entire abstract above seems to follow the methodology-process-review and so forth that Henry outlined in his post.


      And finally, "Are Homeschoolers Prepared for College Calculus," an abstract by several authors, published this year and sponsored by the National Science Foundation, is a 19-page abstract from ERIC that states, "Are Homeschoolers Prepared for College Calculus?

      Wilkens, Christian P.; Wade, Carol H.; Sonnert, Gerhard; Sadler, Philip M.  Journal of School Choice, v9 n1 p30-48 2015.

      Homeschooling in the United States has grown considerably over the past several decades. This article presents findings from the Factors Influencing College Success in Mathematics (FICSMath) survey, a national study of 10,492 students enrolled in tertiary calculus, including 190 students who reported homeschooling for a majority of their high school years. The authors found that, compared with students who received other types of secondary schooling, students who homeschooled: (a) were demographically similar to their peers, (b) earned similar SAT Math scores, and (c) earned higher tertiary calculus grades.

      Peer-reviewed too.

      JE comments:  The Moreau paper is a Master's thesis, but as I said earlier, I am making no judgment on the quality of the findings.

      A curiosity:  how many home-schooling parents are qualified to teach calculus?

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      • Peer Review (Henry Levin, USA 08/13/15 10:41 AM)
        I don't want to belabor this discussion because it doesn't seem to be getting anywhere. In my post on comparing the impact of home schooling and institutional forms of schooling, I set out two criteria:

        1. The evaluations should be based upon experimental or quasi-experimental methods to ensure that similar populations are being compared with modern statistical designs that meet internal validity standards.

        2. The publications should be peer reviewed by methodological experts to ensure that the methods were applied appropriately.

        Randy Black (13 August) seems to focus on peer review without addressing the first of these. Since several WAISers have written me independently to ask about quasi-experimental methods, I offer readings on three of the most prominent quasi-experimental designs: propensity score matching; instrumental variables; and regression discontinuity. I apologize if some of this appears more technical to WAIS readers than they would prefer. But, that is the point. Not only must appropriate methods be used, but they must be evaluated by competent experts in peer reviews. I should point out that some journals are better able to seek and obtain such competent expertise than others.

        Readers can apply these two criteria to the study of 27 college students who were home schooled versus schooled in more conventional ways. Simply comparing 27 students of one type with an average for another type is not an acceptable method of evaluating outcomes. Even the most basic undergraduate statistics course makes this clear. Without knowing if there are socioeconomic and other differences between these 27 students and the so-called comparison group (e.g. how are the selected public school students matched by gender, race, and socioeconomic status, academic backgrounds, and test scores?), it is not possible to provide a valid comparison. Perhaps Randy could provide more detail on what methods were used and how the comparison groups were made comparable using one of the experimental or quasi-experimental methods that are accepted in the social sciences for this kind of analysis.

        The articles on three different quasi-experimental methods are listed by their urls below.




        An overall source with great explanations and examples is: Richard J. Murnane and John B. Willett, Methods Matter: Improving Causal Inference in Educational and Social Science Research (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

        JE comments:  Methods do matter--and they can be confusing!  I hope someone will be able to explain the three quasi-experimental models in user-friendly terms.

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        • Quasi-Experimental Methods Explained (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 08/14/15 5:48 AM)
          It is not my intention to explain properly the statistical methods mentioned by Henry Levin (13 August) on how to compare home and institutional schooling. Rather, I'll try to illustrate by a simple example the difficulty of assessing results for such complex problems.

          Suppose we have two students, same age, same gender, same "intellectual individual capacities" (IQ or whatever you call it), same race. Their academic outcome might not be fully comparable because some other factors or variables are not considered in the evaluation. For instance, cultural environment, family, socioeconomic conditions, etc., which are very important in the student's academic performance. In statistics for the sake of comparison the basic premise for comparison purposes must be to have groups, or populations, as homogeneous as possible in order to be able to compare them properly.

          This "homogeneity" is very unlikely in the real world, and I understand there are statistical methods providing techniques to reduce the error of measuring and computing of data, statistics used, to control effects of hidden, confounding factors or "covariates," and the effect of variation. They try to produce results that are more reliable by reducing the bias of statistics indicators used in the evaluation and the comparison.

          My somewhat naïve interpretation of the quasi-experimental models is that they are a variation of experimental design models in the sense that, the group (students) upon which the experiment (schooling method) is conducted and the treatment effect (performance) is measured are not fully randomly selected and the homogeneity is not assured. To reduce the selection implicit bias, propensity scores matching is used. This technique attempts to estimate the treatment effect by accounting of covariates, or confounding variables. I guess the rest is technicality.

          The second method of "instrumental variables" (which are basically hidden or confounding variables) is pretty much focused on the causal effect of the so-called instrumental variables in the experiment result, measuring the effect in the group where the experiment took place, and the effect in the "same" group without the experiment. The third, Regression Discontinuity, is more difficult to explain, but again, oversimplifying the concept, it is also focused on instrumental variables to evaluate causal effects. Both assumes the "same" unity, group similarities or homogeneity of the populations.

          I suspect these kinds of comparison assessment problems should arise as well in most of the social sciences problems or in field research.

          JE comments: I think I'm getting this better.  What strikes me as a non-statistical humanist is that statistics are readily available to support one's predetermined conclusion.  If you're pro-homeschooling, there are studies to prove its superiority.  If you're against, likewise.  As John Heelan reminds us, there are lies, damned lies, statistics...

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          • More on Statistical Methods: Selection Bias (Francisco Ramirez, USA 08/15/15 4:59 AM)
            Imagine that you go to the doctor and she prescribes medication to lower your bad cholesterol. You have the audacity to ask how she knows this medicine causes the bad cholesterol to get lower. She responds that there are studies that show that people who take this medication show decreases in their bad cholesterol more so than those who do not. You, a budding scientist, then ask but how do we know that the medicine takers did not also change their diets and increase their exercise. Furthermore, how do we know that the medicine takers did not differ from the others in other important respects to start with, e.g. better educated. That is, how do we know that the medicine is really the cause of the reduction? The doctor smiling responds that subjects were randomly assigned to the experimental condition where they got the medication or the control condition where they did not (maybe they got an alternative treatment). And you can read all about this in the New England Journal of Medicine! Your confidence increases and with good reason.

            The problem with many studies that simply compare homeschoolers with non-homeschoolers on a number of outcomes is that there is no way of knowing whether the difference is due to the homeschooling experience or to other factors that may have given homeschoolers a selection advantage. So, if in the studies the parents of the home schoolers were better educated and had access to more resources than the parents of the schooled, these differences may be what truly results in better outcomes. It is the diet and the exercise and not the medication that lowered the cholesterol.

            In more personal terms, I have no way of seriously knowing whether it is my mentoring that leads my advisees to educational and occupational success. These advisees were not randomly assigned to me. They were selected with less than 7 percent of the applicants offered entry. And, they were given more generous fellowships than in most other universities. So, how can I assert that my mentoring causes the favorable outcomes. I can point you to testimonials and to my mentoring awards. I can believe in myself and my judgments. But I know the problems with assuming that my mentoring is like the medication in an experimental study. I understand selection bias.

            Therein lies one of the problems with all the studies that have been cited in favor of the thesis that homeschooling is on average better than other schooling. It may indeed work for the daughters of Enrique Torner. But our skepticism regarding the claim that on average homeschooling works better is based on our understanding of the uses and misuses of statistical analysis in social science research. Selection bias is a problem in a lot of research. On the other hand, selection bias is my best friend at Stanford!

            JE comments:  This is an excellent explanation of selection bias.  Since they can benefit from his wisdom, Francisco Ramírez's students are truly the Select!

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  • Home Schooling and Peer-Reviewed Studies (Enrique Torner, USA 08/13/15 9:37 AM)
    I appreciate Randy Black's attempt at providing peer-reviewed articles on homeschooling, and for taking the effort to summarize his findings. I find it amazing that some WAISers are so skeptical regarding homeschooling's success. Wherever I click, I see homeschoolers performing better than public and private school students, through high school and college. More important than that, for me, is keeping my daughters safe from drugs, alcohol, rape, and violence. This is rampant all over the country, in big cities and small towns. In Mankato (Minnesota), our town of 50,000 people, we have all of the above. Fortunately, no mass shootings have occurred; however, we have had several bomb threats, with the Minneapolis-Saint Paul bomb squat having to come with their dogs and equipment several times. I also wouldn't like my daughters having to share their restrooms with boys/men who happened to actually belong to the opposite sex, or anything of the sort. I don't want teachers imposing their own secular beliefs either.

    Here are some links to what I thought were impartial studies. I am also attaching a couple of peer-reviewed articles.






    JE comments:  I am still reflecting on Francisco Ramírez's question from yesterday:  what would society be like if all parents chose to homeschool?

    For an additional comment on peer review, see Henry Levin (next).

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    • Home Schooling (Clyde McMorrow, USA 08/13/15 2:50 PM)
      I have been following the discussion on home schooling and have found it very informative. I didn't know anything about Google Scholar and now I do. I also know almost nothing about the history of public schools but it sounds like a very interesting topic. But with regard to Francisco Ramírez's question about the state of society where all schooling was in the home, I can think of a couple of recent examples. The Voortrekkers (Boers of South Africa) believed that a home-schooled education in the Old Testament was sufficient. The English introduced mandatory public schooling as an attempt at cultural hegemony. It didn't work too well. In many farm communities, children are taught at home so that they can participate in agricultural work during the day. My anecdotal observation is that neither the parent nor the child has the energy to do any teaching or learning at the end of a work day and frequently the parent does not have the education required to be a teacher of any kind.

      I am guessing that there was a time when education was only regarded as necessary for the gentry and that popular or public education began about the time of the industrial revolution when workers needed to read and write to do the new manual labor in factories. Is it possible that we are about to enter a period of universal literacy because of the introduction of the smart phone?

      JE comments:  Or has the smart phone introduced universal illiteracy?

      So glad to hear from you, Clyde.

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      • Logistics of Home Schooling (Enrique Torner, USA 08/15/15 1:32 PM)
        After all these exchanges about homeschooling, I wonder if anybody in WAIS homeschools. Anybody? I can't believe my wife and I are the only ones homeschooling in this big Forum!

        Well, maybe the problem lies in people not being acquainted of how families do it. People tend to think that parents homeschool in isolation and in a vacuum, but that's not the case. Most American towns have at least one local homeschool co-op, or group of homeschoolers who get together on a regular basis to do group schooling and fellowship among them to share their successes, shortcomings, impressions, etc. During these meetings, some parents will teach the kids a subject with which they are especially familiar (in many cases, a subject in which they majored or minored in college); also, children tend to do crafts and group sports together. Besides the local group, there are state, regional, and national yearly homeschool conferences, in which you can listen to expert educators in all kinds of fields, and also shop for textbooks and all kinds of educational products from publisher booths, who are more than ready and eager to show you all they have to offer you.

        Talking about curriculum, nowadays you have access to all kinds of textbooks which come with digital materials: CDs, DVDs, CDRoms, online curriculum supplements, etc. Besides, there is also an abundance of elementary, middle, and high schools which offer online courses; there are even specialized online schools which only do online education. Last, but not least, the Internet has lots of free educational websites that teach all kinds of subjects at different grade levels. For a small fee, they offer upgrades with even more benefits, including grading, record keeping, online tutoring, and many other things. So, as you can see, homeschoolers have all kinds of choices to help them in their education. Plus, students are right at home, and are privileged to have a teacher-student ratio of 1:1 to 1:12, if a couple happens to have 12 kids, like the Willis clan, who have their own television show. Good, efficient homeschoolers also tend to have more free time and flexibility, which allows them to be more active in extracurricular activities, like gymnastics, swimming, visits to museums or other educational sites, or plain socialization with kids of all kinds of ages and adults from their local community and beyond. With all of these advantages, it should not surprise us to find homeschoolers in national spelling or geography bees, and receiving all kinds of awards and scholarships.

        JE comments: The time flexibility of homeschooling can be a big advantage, if the families maintain a strong work ethic. Procrastinators need not apply!

        To answer Enrique's first question, I know of at least one other WAISer who homeschools, although I'd prefer to let him tell us about this himself.

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