Will Homeschooling's Success Be Impacted By Common Core?

Will Homeschooling's Success Be Impacted By Common Core?

Parents and educators in New York were shocked last week when student test scores plummeted following the state’s adoption of the Common Core national standards. Even prior to the adoption of the new standards, however, test results were, to many, still unacceptable, suggesting that despite billions of dollars of taxpayer funding, American students have little to show for it.

Perhaps not unexpectedly, as the American public school system has slid into decline over the last several decades, the number of homeschoolers has exploded, and the ways in which homeschooled students have succeeded has become the subject of analysis.

New research in the Journal of Educational Alternatives, by Robert Kunzman of Indiana University and Milton Gaither of Messiah College, reviewed 10 independent studies that found homeschoolers outrank their traditionally schooled counterparts in collegiate grade point average, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and strength of religious and political views.

College@home has put together a graphic depicting data that suggest homeschoolers often surpass their peers who attend public schools in many areas.

Homeschool Domination
Created by: CollegeAtHome.com

One of the sources of the graphic is CBS News which, in 2010, cited research by Michael Cogan who studied homeschooled students who attended a midwestern university. Some of Cogan’s findings:

  1. Homeschool students earned a higher ACT score (26.5) versus 25.0 for other incoming freshmen.
  2. Homeschool students earned more college credits (14.7) prior to their freshmen year than other students (6.0).
  3. Homeschooled freshmen were less likely to live on campus (72.4%) than the rest of the freshmen class (92.7%).
  4. Homeschoolers were more likely to identify themselves as Roman Catholic (68.4%).
  5. Homeschool freshmen earned a higher grade point average (3.37) their first semester in college compared with the other freshmen (3.08).
  6. Homeschool students finished their freshmen year with a better GPA (3.41) than the rest of their class (3.12).
  7. The GPA advantage was still present when homeschoolers were college seniors. Their average GPA was 3.46 versus 3.16 for other seniors.
  8. Homeschool students graduated from college at a higher rate (66.7%) than their peers (57.5%).

Cogan also noted that homeschool graduates have been shown to be more likely to vote and participate in community service than other adults.

It would seem that homeschooling has been a highly successful alternative to traditional schooling. Will the Common Core standards impact this individualized educational approach?

A report published by the Heritage Foundation in June suggested that, when SAT, ACT, and GED exams are “aligned” with Common Core, homeschooled students- as well as students educated in private schools – may not be able to “opt out” of the federally incentivized standards if they want to apply for college. These students could be pressured into adopting Common Core for curriculum at home so that they are familiar with the presentation of material on the newly aligned college entrance exams.

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has assessed the potential impact of the new standards on homeschoolers.

Michael Farris, HSLDA founder and chairman, wrote that, when he recently spoke with David Coleman, president of the College Board and leader of the Common Core, he expressed his concern that centralized educational planning would create mandates for homeschoolers. In addition, Farris said he told Coleman he believed competing standards among states, rather than a national set of standards, would be the best way to create innovations in education.

Farris also wrote that when Coleman asked him why he thought Common Core was worse than other standards, he responded that one of his main concerns was the creation of the database that would track students through their educational careers.

But Coleman’s response to this concern surprised Farris. Coleman told him he, too, did not like the database and that it was originally not part of the Common Core. Coleman indicated to him that other people have seized the opportunity to make a centralized data collection effort through the implementation of Common Core (emphasis added).

For those concerned about a top-down centralized government education system, HSLDA examines the philosophical bias of Common Core:

Three philosophical threads weave through the Common Core–statism, moral relativism, and progressivism. The statist goals of the Common Core are implicit in the lockstep uniformity that is the central thesis of the program. Relativism’s influence on the Common Core is evident in the open-ended and research-based assessment questions and the expansive new student tracking systems, ideas which have been strongly promoted by relativist Howard Gardner. Progressive educator John Dewey argued for standardized curriculum to prevent one student from becoming superior to others and envisioned a workforce filled with people of “politically and socially correct attitudes” who would respond to orders without question.3 Workforce readiness is one of the Common Core’s main goals.

The HSLDA website also analyzes the impact of Common Core on homeschooled and private students:

The Common Core will impact homeschools and private schools in at least three ways. First, designers of the expanded statewide longitudinal databases fully intend to collect data about homeschool and private school students. Second, college admissions standards will be affected: Common Core standards for college readiness will be used by institutions of higher learning to determine whether a student is ready to enroll in a postsecondary course.10 Third, curriculum and standardized tests are being rewritten to conform to the Common Core.

As Brittany Corona of the Heritage Foundation wrote, if college entrance exams are aligned with Common Core standards, there will be “new questions about the extent to which states, private schools, and homeschooled students will be compelled to accept national standards and tests.”

Similarly, Jason Bedrick, writing at the Cato Institute, argues that Common Core will indeed hurt school choice. He likens Common Core and its aligned tests to a situation in which “Apple told app-designers they could make any kind of app they want so long as all the apps perform the same basic function, operate at the same speed, and cost the same amount. Of course, they’re welcome to vary the color scheme.”

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