This morning a homeschool mom in Hopkinton told us that at a recent local school board meeting, they made statements that the district is inflating enrollment by including homeschoolers and complaining that there is “no way to track homeschoolers” and don’t know “what these students are learning.”
This is not a new bogus complaint, and likely exasperated by large enrollment declines. There are several recent news stories about enrollment that show gains in charter schools and the new EFA program, now in its second year, which continues to be conflated with traditional home education. This long-term trend may also be contributed to declining birth rates.
Homeschoolers are an easy scapegoat and distraction from the true causes of enrollment declines. Instead of addressing why families seek alternatives – low academic performance, unaddressed bullying and safety concerns, mental health difficulties, and more – public-school advocates often go after homeschoolers who are not even their responsibility.
Public-School Entities are Poorly Informed
Many public-school entities are uninformed and leery of home education because we are the furthest removed from their oversight and intrusion. We are fully independent – we receive no government funding, have autonomy to create unique learning plans for our children, and public schools have no liability for our children’s learning per the home ed statute, RSA 193-A.
Districts sometimes claim that homeschoolers are “unaccountable.” In fact, counts of new home education notifications are reported to the NH Department of Education every year as of October 1. The latest count is not published yet, but you can find our article based on the 2021-22 data here. We will write a new article when the current data is available.
Homeschoolers are also required to inform their Participating Agencies when they move or terminate their home ed programs.
All homeschooled students are also required to perform some kind of annual assessment and show progress “commensurate for age, ability, and/or disability.”
While individual home-educated students must do an assessment, public school students may opt-out of the annual statewide assessment per RSA 193-C:6, and are not held to any achievement standard on an individual basis.
Public-School Academic Performance
Given how poorly public schools perform on statewide assessments, perhaps districts and school boards should concentrate on the children under their care.
To find out how your district performs, go to the NH Department of Education’s iReport platform; it is current through the 2021 test. The state data is available here, look under the “achievement tab,” but is only current through 2021. Both portals are likely to be updated with the 2022 testing results in the coming weeks.
GSHE used the NH DOE data to look at the most recent statewide assessment results available.
2021 NH Statewide Assessment Proficiency
Just like other states, New Hampshire’s public schools struggled with learning loss in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. However, the scores indicate generally low proficiency across all three subject areas before Covid was a factor. Even before the pandemic, they failed to meet academic achievement standards set in law. 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." Clearly they have not met this standard.
In accordance with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the NH Department of Education also recently released the list of 23 public schools with the greatest academic difficulties, called Comprehensive Support and Improvement Schools (CSI). CSI schools are defined as the lowest-performing 5% of all schools in the state receiving federal Title 1 funds, as well as high schools in the state with a four-year graduation rate less than 67% regardless of Title 1 status.
These difficulties are not unique to New Hampshire. However, if school officials were honest, this is not a new trend or solely due to the disruption and learning loss caused by the pandemic.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the “nation’s report card,” shows historic low scores in math and reading.
“Results for students who took the test in spring 2022—the first main National Assessment of Educational Progress administration for these grades since the pandemic began—show the biggest drop in math performance in 4th and 8th grades since the testing program began in 1990. In reading, 4th and 8th graders likewise are performing on par with students in the 1990s, and about a third of students in both grades can’t read at even the “basic” achievement level—the lowest level on the test.”
Similar comments are in this Chalkbeat article.
“In eighth grade math, scores fell by 8 points, bringing student performance to a level not seen since 2000. The share of students deemed proficient dropped from 34% to 26%. Fourth grade math scores, meanwhile, fell by 5 points, similar to 2003 levels.“
Homeschool Academic Performance
Most public-school families and advocates may be surprised to know that home-educated children have greater academic success than their public-schooled peers.
There are several 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.”
- 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.
These bogus accusations and uninformed judgements about homeschoolers must stop.
Public school districts and boards should focus on the students under their care first and leave homeschoolers alone.
By Michelle Levell