When families consider home education for their children, they are often curious about academic outcomes and achievement.
National Home Education Achievement
There are three recent national studies about homeschoolers’ academic achievement.
The National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) published a study in 2018 with these findings:
“In 11 of the 14 peer-reviewed studies on academic achievement, there was a definite positive effect on or correlation with achievement for the homeschooled students. That is, 78% of peer-reviewed studies in existence at the time of the article’s writing showed a statistically significant positive connection with home education.”
NHERI published more information on home education in fall 2021.
- There are approximately 3.7 million home educated students as of the 2020-2021 school year in grades Kindergarten through 12, roughly double from previous years.
- Home educated students come from a wide variety of demographic groups and 41% of homeschoolers are non-white.
- Because most homeschoolers do not receive tax-payer supported education, they are a savings of over $68 million for taxpayers.
This article includes homeschoolers’ academic performance trends.
- Homeschoolers score 15 to 30 points above their public-school peers on standardized achievement tests.
- 78% of peer-reviewed studies on academic achievement indicate homeschoolers perform significantly better than those in “institutional” schools.
- Homeschoolers score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ academic attainment and family income.
- State regulation or control of home education is not related to academic outcomes.
- Homeschooled students score above average on college admission tests and are increasingly sought-after by college admissions.
In a separate study written by Lindsey M. Burke in 2019, “Bringing Achievement Home: A Review of the Academic Outcomes of Homeschooling Students in the United States,” she expressly comments on the selection bias of studying home education, but also says, “it is clear the homeschooling population experiences positive academic outcomes.”
This report analyzed 38 studies of homeschooled students’ academic achievement.
"Taken together, 24 out of 38 (approximately two-thirds) of studies examining the academic performance of homeschooled students in kindergarten through postsecondary education find positive outcomes; 12 out of 38 (nearly one-third) find mixed or neutral outcomes for homeschoolers; and two out of 38 (roughly five percent) of studies find negative or worse outcomes for homeschooled students relative to their non-homeschooled peers. One of those two is now nearly two decades old."
Specifically for those children with special education concerns, this research found,
“Although sample sizes were small, the researchers conducting these studies found that homeschooling provided at least as good of an educational environment for children with special needs as public schools did. The authors found that students with special needs in homeschooling environments “were engaged in their learning more often than students in traditional public schools and realized greater gains in math and reading achievement.”
In conclusion, she said,
“Although methodological limitations prevent scholars from drawing a causal connection between homeschooling and these largely positive outcomes, the research on the outcomes of those who homeschool, whether the result of homeschooling itself or other unobservable characteristics of families who homeschool such as greater parental involvement, shows positive academic outcomes for participants.”
A study published in the Journal of School Choice (2015) shows that home-educated students of color score 23 to 42 percent higher on standardized tests as compared to their public-school peers.
One study of a private university in the southwest examined college success of homeschooled students vs their public-school counterparts and it found that homeschoolers earned a statistically higher GPA. A similar study of a Midwest university indicated that college freshmen who were formerly home educated earned a 3.37 average GPA compared to a 3.08 average of other students.
New Hampshire Homeschool Achievement
Although New Hampshire home educated students do not report their annual assessment results, they are required to demonstrate “progress commensurate with age and ability” through a teacher evaluation, achieve a minimum of a 40th percentile composite score on a standardized test, or show progress using an agreed-upon method with their Participating Agency, per RSA 193-A.
Home educated students are accountable for academic achievement any time they apply for competitive programs, whether they pursue Career and Technical Education programs through their local regional center, take dual-enrollment courses at a community college, transfer to public or private schools and programs, or seek admission to post-secondary education institutions. They must demonstrate proficiency and academic rigor to these third-party education providers.
Homeschoolers are the only education pathway in New Hampshire that has a minimum annual academic achievement written into state law even though they do not receive state or federal financial support for education expenses.
New Hampshire state and local education institutions are not accountable for homeschooled students’ academic outcomes, progress, advancement, or graduation. They do not approve, authorize, or supervise home education programs and are not held liable for these students’ outcomes or achievements.
By comparison, Prenda pods, which are offered through the Recovering Bright Futures program, may opt out of the statewide assessment as may public-school students. This program is funded by a $6 million federal CARES grant.
Students in NH’s newest pathway to satisfy education attendance, the Education Freedom Account program, must submit annual assessment results to the managing organization, but have no achievement minimum even though they receive an average of $4,500 of state adequacy funds. Per the state Department of Education, more than 1,600 children were approved for the EFA program as of early November 2021. To cover their participation, the grant is over $8 million.
Although town-tuitioning by small districts has limited use, participating students do not have any academic performance thresholds and do not share assessment results. Town-tuitioning allows districts that do not offer all grade levels K through 12 to “tuition out” those not offered in-district to neighboring districts or private schools with local funding dollars following the child.
Home education is New Hampshire’s only educational pathway that does not receive taxpayer funded money, yet has academic achievement requirements.
National Public Education Achievement
The pandemic hit public education hard for the past couple academic years and there is significant learning loss noted across the country, particularly for marginalized students.
While recent assessment scores are poor and attributable to the pandemic challenges and remote learning, the trend indicates public schools have struggled for several years. According to National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), the “nation’s report card,” the 2020 long-term trends in reading and math are higher than the original scores in 1973, but declined since 2012.
New Hampshire Public Education Achievement
In New Hampshire, an “adequate education” is defined in RSA 193-E and specifies the criteria and substantive educational content. Per statute, an adequate education does not refer to quality or achievement levels; it is a list of educational goals and data collection. Delivering an adequate education, found in RSA 193-E:3, is a list of data elements, such as attendance and drop-out rates, number and percentage of students graduating and their post-secondary pursuits, teacher turnover rates, and NH DOE compiled state averages and reports. In other words, an adequate education is data collection and testing.
Just like other states, New Hampshire’s public schools struggled with learning loss in 2020 due to the pandemic. However, the scores indicate generally low proficiency across all three subject areas before Covid was a factor. According to state statute RSA 193-H:2, public school districts were to have "all pupils at the proficient level or above on the statewide assessment by the 2018-2019 school year."
2021 NH Statewide Assessment Proficiency
The cost per pupil in NH’s public schools, preschool through grade 12, is $18,434.21 for the 2020-2021 academic year. The cost for the 2019-2020 year was $16,823.88, and slightly lower at $16,346.45 for the 2018-2019 school year. It was $15,865.26 for the 2017-2018 academic year.
New Hampshire public-school students may decline participation in the annual statewide assessments and there is no minimum performance requirement in state law.
New Hampshire home educated students do not receive taxpayer funding, but are the only educational pathway in the state with academic achievement requirements.
By comparison, public education, the most expensive pathway, does not have academic achievement requirements and accountability is fundamentally data collection.
Education is not one-size-fits-all so it is critical for children to have options to best meet their needs. For some families, particularly those who are in disadvantaged and marginalized communities, access to educational opportunities can make all the difference for their children’s lifetime and educational outcomes.
When those options are funded with taxpayer money, it is reasonable for some sort of academic accountability mechanisms to be in place. However, when federal or state money is not funding an educational pathway, academic achievement requirements are inequitable.
Home education is provided and funded by families for their own children and as such should not have academic requirements that go beyond achievement mandates of other educational pathways.
By Michelle Levell