Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lucia Today's excitement over charter schools - let's compare with home-schooling

National has made a deal with ACT whereby the door has been opened for "charter schools". I presume the reason given is that schools run by any one other than the State might be able to do better with the educational outcomes of the children that go to them. But it seems that the evidence for this is a bit thin on the ground.

So, it must really come down to the desire to give parents a choice in education - rather than having to send their child to the local public school, or the Catholic one if they have that choice - they'll be able to go to an alternative without having to pay private tuition fees. I don't think that is a bad idea as a general principle, however I find myself yet again bemused by this whole conversation.

Studies have been done in the US comparing home-schoolers to to publicly educated children and it's been found that in general, home-schoolers will consistently out-perform those who are educated en masse.

The study included almost 12,000 home-school students from all 50 states who took three well-known standardized achievements tests — the California Achievement Test, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and the Stanford Achievement Test — for the 2007-08 academic year. The students were drawn from 15 independent testing services, making it the most comprehensive home-school academic study to date.

The results reinforced previous home-school studies conducted over a period of 25 years.

Five areas of academic pursuit were measured. In reading, the average home-schooler scored at the 89th percentile; language, 84th percentile; math, 84th percentile; science, 86th percentile; and social studies, 84th percentile. In the core studies (reading, language and math), the average home-schooler scored at the 88th percentile.

There's a lot of talk as well about income of the parents determining the educational outcomes of children, yet with home-schoolers income makes only a minor difference, as does the level of education achieved by the parents. But there's no difference between children taught by a parents who are teachers and those who are not.

Beyond academics, there were significant results regarding achievement gaps. It is common knowledge that gender, as well as parents’ income and education levels will greatly affect a public school student’s academic results. Public schools have invested greatly to try to close these achievement gaps. The study, however, shows the achievement gaps found in public school were greatly diminished for the home educated.

For example, home-schooled boys scored at the 87th percentile and girls at the 88th. Household income had little impact on the results of home-school students: Children of parents with an income between $35,000 and $49,000 scored at the 86th percentile, whereas children of parents with an income over $70,000 scored at the 89th percentile.

As one would expect, the education level of parents did affect the results. For example, home-school students of parents without college degrees scored, on average, at the 83rd percentile for the core subjects. When one parent had a college degree, those students scored at the 86th percentile, and when both parents had a college degree, those students scored at the 90th percentile. There was virtually no difference, however, between the scores of students whose parents were certified teachers and those who were not.
If all of this charter school business was about outcomes, then the Government should really be encouraging home-schooling rather than just tinkering around the edges with the existing model of schooling.

My experiences with home-schooling

I'm just finishing up home-schooling now.  I had no idea how my oldest would go when he went back to school this year after nearly four years of being at home, especially since he had some significant learning issues around reading and writing and even focusing on being able to work.  I found myself doing far more remedial work with him than I expected to have to do, so it was with some trepidation that I saw him off to school this year.  Well, now that the year has ended, he has exceeded both our expectations of how he would do.  So much so that he's been chosen to be in a class of 20 high-achievers for next year out of approximately 260 children.

My youngest boy, aged 10, goes to school next year.  He's been home-schooling for nearly 5 years now.  We've certainly not done everything I wanted to this year, I think because teaching boys by themselves is like pushing rocks up hill.  Mine have never enjoyed using a pencil (or pen) so getting them to do anything that involves writing stuff down is just full on struggle.

So you'd think that with all my knowledge of home-schooling that I'd definitely keep going rather than having my children in school.  Ideally I would, but the major downside of home-schooling is lack of daily contact with other children.  For that reason, my oldest wanted to go to school and my youngest, now that he's been at home does as well.  I've tried to compensate by keeping both of them involved with multiple after school activities that for me as a parent can be quite frankly, exhausting with all daily driving around before dinner-time after a full day of teaching at home.  The home-school community has also worked hard to keep in regular contact by having weekly get-togethers at various parks and venues.

However, for some children, even all this is not enough.  There is no option to be able to enrol home-schooled child in a public school for just a lesson once or twice a week on a particular subject, because it's all or nothing.  You either opt out completely, or you're in the system.

Given the results that home-schoolers give, surely it might be in the Government's interest to at least allow some sort of part-time participation for children that need or want it. It seems that with all this talk on charter schools, the type of schooling that truly delivers outstanding results is still just completely below the radar of most people.

Related links: Charter Schools ~ Kiwiblog

HOME-SCHOOLING: Outstanding results on national tests ~ Washington Times, 2009

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