I’ll never forget 7th grade science when we learned the difference between correlation and causation. Correction: I’ll never forget 7th grade science, in my public school, when we learned the difference between correlation and causation. We learned that correlation does not always mean causation. Such is the case with the following disheartening, but slightly skewed, statistics.
With the recent defamation of public schools in the United States, it comes as no surprise that there has been a “surge” in home schooling. Personally, I completely respect parents’ decisions to homeschool their children. After all, they are the children that these parents brought into the world. Why shouldn’t they have the choice to school at home?
The correct answer is: they should have the choice. They should not, however, feel the need to bash public schooling.
The inspiration for this post comes from an article I just read on Education News. Naturally, it refers to this rise in the number of children home-schooled, and the statistics behind them: (1) Students who are home schooled tend to test in the 65th-89th percentile, on average on standardized tests; (2) Home schooled students “matriculate in colleges and attain a four-year degree at much higher rates than their counterparts from public and even private schools,” according to Education News; and (3) because of this probability, college recruiters more actively seek out home-schooled students.
In my opinion, and note that this is just an opinion, home schooling is no better than public schooling, and depending on the child, public schooling is no better than home schooling. As is the case with all policies, strategies, and tools in education, there is no one answer. Instead, it depends on the child. I’m sure that home schooling has been very successful for the students who have been home schooled. If not, I highly doubt that any self-respecting, responsible parent would continue to do so if it wasn’t working.
Here is my primary issue, however, with the aforementioned statistics, which is, yet, another reason to not believe everything you read. This source states that this population of students places in the 65th to 89th percentile, on average. Conversely, public school students, on average, place at the 50th percentile. Of course, it comes without surprise, that the average public school student places at the 50th percentile. 50th percentile is considered average. As teachers, we compare our students to each other using the average, and the small portion of children who are home schooled are also being compared against that average–the 50th percentile.
In 2007, an estimated 97% of students were receiving their education from public schools. The home school population, the population at which the statistics are directed, is referring to a vast minority of children in the United States. Statistically, it is highly plausible and expected for the 97% of children in public schools to have scores that average the 50th percentile. Likewise, it is likely plausible for a specific and relatively small sample of the population to be performing above average. This does not, however, mean that parents who home school are doing a worse job than public schools. It simply means that parents who home school are doing a good job.
However, these statistics do not account for historically at-risk populations. The majority of home schooled students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, are white, have two parents, one of which is able to stay at home, with a household income greater than $50,000. Children who come from these households are historically more likely to succeed because of the educational opportunities associated with these demographics.
Once again, it is very evident that those who home school are doing the right thing for their children, and I think that it is completely within a parent’s right to home school. In fact, I commend parents that are willing to take on that responsibility. However, I find it a bit absurd to display inflated data to, once again, try to prove that current public school teachers are not doing their jobs. Any good teacher knows, correlation does not mean causation, and that is the case for home schooling, too.