The Facts on Homeschoolers In College
Homeschooled in College With Higher SAT Scores
By Dr. Brian D. Ray
Are you comparing apples to apples or apples to mangoes? Are only the children of handsome, beautiful, genetically endowed, hardworking, and highly motivated parents involved in research on homeschooling? So ask some serious critics of researchers who continually find positive things related to home-based education.
Researchers keep trying to find ways to control the variables. They want to know: Controlling for this variable and that, do the home-educated do worse, the same, or better academically than students in institutional schooling? They want to make sure they are comparing oranges to oranges—and not to pineapples.
Dr. Dale Clemente added her piece to the mosaic while studying students in college. The purpose of her study was to determine whether there was a difference in academic achievement and college aptitude of home-educated high school seniors attending Christian colleges and universities, when compared to their conventionally schooled counterparts.1 Her measure of achievement and aptitude was the SAT (formerly called the Scholastic Aptitude Test).
The Facts on Homeschoolers In College: Findings
All the students in the researcher’s study—whether homeschooled, public schooled, or private institutional schooled—were attending Christian colleges. This “similarity” guaranteed, in a sense, that they were more like one another than if she had drawn them from state (public) universities. When a researcher cannot randomly assign people (e.g., K–12 students) to “treatments”—such as homeschooling, public schooling, and private schooling—she needs to find ways to make them similar on various traits (e.g., family income, religious beliefs, parental education level) if meaningful contrasts are going to be made regarding a key variable like type of schooling. Sampling from Christian colleges and universities meant it was more likely Dr. Clemente was comparing college students from a homeschooling background to other college students with similar backgrounds except for their type of grades K–12 schooling experience (e.g., from state/public and private institutional schools).
The researcher analyzed the SAT scores of 1,792 public, 945 private, and 222 homeschooled college students (N = 2,959). These were comprised of 1,441 males and 1,518 females, yielding a total of 2,959 test scores.
Careful statistical analyses revealed that the mean rank of homeschooled students was higher than their public-schooled or private-schooled counterparts. Although the private-schooled students placed second of the three groups, the difference between public-schooled and private-schooled students was not statistically significant.
The Facts on Homeschoolers In College: Conclusions
To her credit, Dr. Clemente pointed out certain limitations of her study. For example, she considered only SAT scores but thought it would be helpful to also consider other indicators of achievement or aptitude such as grade point average. Second, she was not able to ascertain for how many years of his or her grades K to 12 each college student had been in public school, private school, or homeschooling. Also, the researcher pointed out that her causal-comparative design only suggests that there might be a cause-and-effect relationship between homeschooling and higher scores, and that her design does not allow for a conclusive statement about causation.
The following is one of Dr. Clemente’s significant conclusions:
This study does not and cannot prove that homeschooling causes students to perform better academically or be better prepared for college. However, it does suggest that homeschool parents have proven themselves up to the task. . . .A plethora of evidence paints a vivid picture of children and adults who have greatly benefited from this scorned method of delivering academics to young people. (p. 46)
Dr. Clemente’s research findings are consistent with the bulk of studies done and data sets available to date on adults who were home educated. For example, the publishers of the SAT and of the ACT (formerly called American College Testing) reported for several years, in the early 2000s, that the home educated were scoring well above public-school students who took these two different tests that are widely used by college admissions offices in determining who will be allowed to enroll.
The researcher ultimately challenged academics and educators to ask some more deeply philosophical and pedagogical questions regarding parent-led, home-based education. Her own study and her review of other research lead Dr. Clemente to see positive things associated with homeschooling. Along these lines, she posed the following questions and comments:
To continue to mitigate these findings [e.g., a strong academic education for the home educated] with myriad questions surrounding socialization issues (and doing so by the way, unsuccessfully), begs the question: have homeschool educators latched onto something we should be paying attention to, and, if so, what? Continuing to pour resources into antagonizing this group of individuals, as well as attempting to discredit their methods and/or motives will in all likelihood, continue to prove futile. (47)
Dr. Clemente is likely on to something important. It might behoove more academics and policymakers in the field of education to pay attention to this researcher’s work and other research on homeschooling.2
More research on “How do the home educated perform in the ‘real world’ of adulthood?” will likely tell us more about this over the next few years.
1. Clemente, Dale. (2006). Academic Achievement and College Aptitude in Homeschooled High School Students Compared to Their Private-schooled and Public-schooled Counterparts. Doctoral dissertation, Regent University, Virginia Beach, Virginia.
2. For examples: Ray, Brian D. (2010, February 3). “Academic Achievement and Demographic Traits of Homeschool Students: A Nationwide Study.” Academic Leadership Journal, 8(1). Retrieved February 10, 2010 from www.academicleadership.org/392/academic_achievement_and_demographic_traits_of_homeschool_students_a_nationwide_study). (Accessed June, 2012)
Brian D. Ray, Ph.D., is president of the National Home Education Research Institute, a nonprofit research and education organization. Dr. Ray often serves as an expert witness in courts, testifies to legislatures, and is interviewed by the media. Brian is married to Betsy and they have eight children and four grandchildren.
Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.