One knew it would happen sooner or latter.
With over 10 percent of the American population homeschooling because of the COVID-19 pandemic, home education crossed the “tipping point.” No longer the realm of the fringe, homeschooling became a viable alternative to public education, and those in leadership appear to be taking note. Evidence of this comes in the Minnesota legislature where lawmakers are seeking to update the state’s education policy.
Because my family was one of the pioneering homeschoolers in the state of Minnesota, I am quite familiar with the requirement that homeschoolers take an annual standardized test. Every year we would take our tests, get the results, and then report to the district that the children in our homeschool received a score higher than the required 30th percentile.
But now the state of Minnesota wants more information. One line of the education bill currently making its way through the state legislature specifies that in addition to the previous requirement of annually testing, homeschoolers will now be required to report “a copy of the actual test scores sent from the testing provider of the annual nationally normed achievement test from the previous school year.” [Emphasis added.]
I’m here to tell lawmakers that they may want to strike that line from the bill, because including it may cause them and their allies in the public schools no end of embarrassment.
Why? Because there’s an open secret in homeschool circles, namely, that homeschool students test far above their counterparts in public schools. Anecdotal evidence abounded on this front for years, with many parents wishing that they could brag on their homeschool students just a teensy bit and let their districts know their children’s true achievement scores. But no, better to leave the government with as little information as possible.
But no longer are these superior test scores merely anecdotal. Data shows that homeschool students score 15 to 30 percentile points higher than students in public schools (see chart below). And recent research on the CLT—a college entrance exam comparable to the ACT and SAT—shows that homeschoolers score up to 12 points higher on their total score compared to their counterparts from other educational backgrounds.
Let’s take those numbers and consider what a homeschooled student from Minneapolis, Minnesota’s largest school district, might be doing. According to the Minnesota Department of Education Report Card, 33.1 percent of Minneapolis Public Schools students are proficient in math, 42.4 percent are proficient in reading, and 33.4 percent are proficient in science.
Let’s leave aside how horrendous these numbers are for a moment and just consider how many more proficient students Minneapolis would have if they were all given the 15-30 percentile point advantage that appears to come with homeschooling!
The fact is, if Minnesota’s legislature passes this new law, they will have more data on homeschoolers, but as research shows, such data is more likely to put egg on the faces of the teachers and administrators in our public schools—especially considering how much Minneapolis spends per child, which was a whopping $26,000 per student in 2020. Were the test scores of homeschooling students made public, many would be lining up to learn how homeschool parents can educate their children so well for so little money.
One of the secrets, of course, is the fact that homeschoolers are not forced into the soul-killing box of institutional schooling. As former New York public school teacher John Taylor Gatto once said:
The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions. Although teachers do care and do work very, very hard, the institution is psychopathic—it has no conscience. It rings a bell and the young man in the middle of writing a poem must close his notebook and move to a different cell where he must memorize that man and monkeys derive from a common ancestor.
This seems to suggest that Minnesota legislators are barking up the wrong tree. If they truly want to improve education, then the key is not more oversight of homeschoolers. Instead, it is getting kids out of schooling institutions and back to their homes and families where they can breathe free and develop a love for creativity and learning once again.
This article is republished from Annie’s Attic.