Scholastic Achievement and Demographic Characteristics
of Home School Students in 1998

Lawrence M. Rudner
ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation
College of Library and Information Services
University of Maryland, College Park

Abstract

          This report presents the results of the largest survey and testing program for students in home schools to date. In Spring 1998, 20,760 K-12 home school students in 11,930 families were administered either the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS) or the Tests of Achievement and Proficiency (TAP), depending on their current grade. The parents responded to a questionnaire requesting background and demographic information. Major findings include: the achievement test scores of this group of home school students are exceptionally high--the median scores were typically in the 70th to 80th percentile; 25% of home school students are enrolled one or more grades above their age-level public and private school peers; this group of home school parents has more formal education than parents in the general population; the median income for home school families is significantly higher than that of all families with children in the United States; and almost all home school students are in married couple families. Because this was not a controlled experiment, the study does not demonstrate that home schooling is superior to public or private schools and the results must be interpreted with caution. The report clearly suggests, however, that home school students do quite well in that educational environment.

          By current estimates, there are between 700,000 and 1,200,000 students enrolled in home schools in the United States. Further, by all accounts, the movement has been growing steadily over the past few years (Lines, 1998). Yet, there is very little scientific literature concerning the population of home school students or even large samples of home school students.
          This study describes the academic achievement levels and some basic demographic characteristics of a large sample of students and their families. While the academic levels of home school students are described in terms of public and private school norms, this study is not a comparison of home schools with public or private schools. Such comparisons would be fraught with problems. Home schooling is typically one-on-one. Public schools typically have classes with 25 to 30 students and an extremely wide range of abilities and backgrounds. Home school parents are, by definition, heavily involved in their children's education; the same, unfortunately, is not true of all public or private school parents. Home schools can easily pace and adapt their curriculum; public and private schools typically have a mandated scope and sequence. The list of differences could continue.
          This study seeks to answer a much more modest set of questions: Does home schooling tend to work for those who chose to make such a commitment? That is, are the achievement levels of home school students comparable to those of public school students? Who is engaged in home schooling? That is, how does the home school population differ from the general United States population?

Methods

          Bob Jones University Press Testing and Evaluation Service provides assessment services to home school students and private schools on a fee-for-service basis. In Spring 1998, 39,607 home school students were contracted to take the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS; grades K-8) or the Tests of Achievement and Proficiency (TAP; grades 9-12). Students were given an achievement test and their parents were asked to complete a questionnaire entitled "Voluntary Home School Demographic Survey." A total of 20,760 students in 11,930 families provided useable questionnaires with corresponding achievement tests. The achievement test and questionnaire results were combined to form the dataset used in this analysis.
          This section provides descriptions of the achievement measures, the questionnaires, the Bob Jones University Press Testing and Evaluation Service, and the procedures used to develop the dataset.

Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS)


          Home schooled students in Grades K-8 took the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS) Form L, published by Riverside Publishing Company, a subsidiary of Houghton Mifflin. Developed by University of Iowa professors, the tests were designed and developed to measure skills and standards important to growth across the curriculum in the nation's public and private schools.
          The ITBS reflects more than 50 years of test development experience and research on measuring achievement and critical thinking skills in Reading, Language Arts, Mathematics, Social Studies, Science, and Information Sources. The scope and sequence of the content measured by the ITBS were developed after careful review of national and state curricula and standards, current textbook series and instructional materials, and research (Riverside, 1993).
          All items were tried out and tested for ethnic, cultural, and gender bias and fairness prior to the development of the final form of the tests. Data on a nationally representative sample of public and private schools were collected in 1992 and used to form the initial national norms. The norms were updated in 1995 by Riverside. This study used these 1995 spring norms.

Tests of Achievement and Proficiency (TAP)

          Home schooled students in Grades 9-12 took the Tests of Achievement and Proficiency (TAP), Form L, also published by Riverside Publishing Company. The TAP was designed and developed to measure skills and standards important to growth across the high school curriculum. Like the ITBS, the TAP scope and sequence were developed after careful review of national and state curricula and standards, and current textbook series and instructional materials. Developed as an upward extension of the ITBS, the specifications, format, and design of the TAP tests are similar to that of the ITBS. TAP is fully articulated with the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS) Form L (Riverside, 1993).

Background Questionnaires

          Background questionnaires were designed by the staff of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). Questions were determined by reviewing the questions in previous surveys, prioritizing them, and selecting only those that were most germane to the objectives of the study. Where possible, questions and responses were made to match those used by the U.S. Census, U.S. Department of Labor and the National Assessment of Educational Progress to facilitate comparisons of home school students with students nationwide.
          HSLDA designed the survey to be much shorter than previous survey instruments. They also sought to pose all questions in an objective format, rather than a constructed response format. In keeping with this approach, HSLDA worked with National Computer Systems to design forms to be computer scanable, thereby removing the need for manual data processing.

Bob Jones University Press Testing and Evaluation Service

          The Bob Jones University (BJU) Press Testing and Evaluation Service is the largest and oldest of four organizations providing home school families access to standardized achievement tests. The Testing Service began offering the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills and Tests of Achievement and Proficiency in 1984. In subsequent years they added other helpful tools including practice materials, a personality inventory, and diagnostic tests. In 1993, the Stanford Achievement Test series was added as BJU Press assumed the testing that the Home School Legal Defense Association had been providing for its members. Since that time, a full range of writing evaluations (grades 3-12) and a career assessment have been added to the growing number of evaluation tools offered by the Testing Service.
          Just as home school families were the impetus behind the start of the Testing Service, home school families continue to be the largest sector utilizing the service. However, there are also a number of private schools that have chosen to use the services provided. Testing is provided for students throughout the United States and Canada, as well as many foreign countries.
          The BJU Press Testing and Evaluation Service sends testing materials to qualified testers who administer the tests and return them to the Testing Service for scoring. The results are then returned to the parent. Many parents test primarily for their own information to verify that their home schooled students are progressing academically at a normal pace. Other parents use the results to meet a state testing requirement or to provide documentation when they choose to return their students to a public or private school setting.

Data Generation Procedures

          The following steps were followed to produce the data set:
  1. Parents contracted with Bob Jones University to be administered the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills or the Tests of Achievement Proficiency (39,607 students in probably 22,000 families).
  2. Bob Jones certified test administrators, many of whom were the students' parents.
  3. BJU sent questionnaires and answer forms to the test administrators.
  4. Tests and questionnaires were returned to BJU. BJU bundled the tests and sent them to Riverside Publishers for machine scoring. BJU bundled the questionnaires and sent them to National Computer Systems for scanning. Unlike in previous studies, the parents did not know their scores ahead of time.
  5. Electronic copy of the 23,415 test results and 23,311 questionnaire results were sent to the author of this report. These sets were merged to provide 20,900 cases with matching identification numbers. In order to weight by state public school enrollment, 140 cases with missing state data were dropped. A total of 20,760 students formed the initial dataset used in the study. After we formed the dataset with 20,760 students, we asked for the remainder of the 39,607 achievement test scores. We were informed that it would not be possible to disaggregate the remaining home school students from students in private schools also contracting testing services.

Characteristics of Home School Students and Families

          This section provides a description of home school students and their families based on the 20,790 respondents to our questionnaire. The distribution of students by state, gender, age, race, parent marital status, family size, mother's religion, parent education, family income, television viewing, money spent on educational materials, and other demographic characteristics are identified and, where possible, compared to national figures.

State

          As shown in Table 2.1, respondents came from each of the fifty states. Several states, including Ohio, Georgia, and Virginia, have exceptionally high representation given their size. This is probably due to the fact that these states require testing of home school students. To reduce the effects of these and other overrepresented states, the data were weighted in all subsequent analyses by the number of public school students in each state. While we would have preferred to weight by the number of home schooled students in each state, such data are not available for all 50 states (Lines, 1998).

Table 2.1
Participating Home
School Students Classified by State

State Freq.   Percent
of sample
AK 61 .3%
AL 181 .9
AR 42 .2
AZ 201 1.0
CA 815 3.9
CO 810 3.9
CT 54 .3
DC 17 .1
DE 28 .1
FL 860 4.1
GA 1547 7.4
GU 10 .0
HI 112 .5
IA 234 1.1
ID 28 .1
IL 451 2.2
IN 533 2.6
KS 319 1.5
KY 163 .8
LA 551 2.7
MA 343 1.6
MD 196 .9
ME 109 .5
MI 523 2.5
MN 794 3.8
MO 361 1.7
MS 25 .1
State Freq.   Percent
of sample
MT 112 .5
NC 972 4.7
ND 100 .5
NE 126 .6
NH 176 .8
NJ 324 1.6
NM 189 .9
NV 53 .3
NY 942 4.5
OH 2484 11.9
OK 382 1.8
OR 67 .3
PA 532 2.6
PR 8 .0
RI 32 .2
SC 579 2.8
SD 27 .1
TN 322 1.5
TX 1126 5.4
UT 35 .2
VA 1608 7.7
VI 2 .0
VT 59 .3
WA 787 3.8
WI 246 1.2
WV 92 .4
WY 40 .2

Student Age and Gender

          Table 2.2 shows the distribution of the respondents by gender and age. About 50.4% or 10,471 of the respondents were females; 49.6% (10,319) were males. These figures are comparable to that of the population of 3 to 34 years old enrolled in school (see U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1998, Table A-2). Some 51.4% of school enrollees nationally are male. The percentages are comparable at all age levels.

Table 2.2
Participating Home School Students
Classified by Gender and Age

 
Age at time of testing (in years)
  6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
Females 507 879 1148 1318 1301 1248 1049 936 774 516 264 119
  56.1% 51.7% 50.2% 49.2% 52.4% 50.6% 47.2% 50.5% 50.7% 51.0% 49.3% 57.5%
Males 397 820 1141 1360 1181 1216 1174 918 754 495 271 88
  43.9% 48.3% 49.8% 50.8% 47.6% 49.4% 52.8% 49.5% 49.3% 49.0% 50.7% 42.5%
Total 904 1699 2289 2678 2482 2464 2223 1854 1528 1011 535 207

Student Grade

          Home school student grade placement was identified by their parents, presumably based on the grade level of the instructional materials. That grade was used by BJU to determine the test levels and used in this report as a grouping variable. Tables 2.3 shows the distribution of respondents and the nation by grade. There is a large difference in the proportions of high school (grades 9-12) home school students and the nation. Compared to the national data, a relatively small percentage of home school students are enrolled in high school. Possible reasons for this lower participation for high school students may be the relative newness of the home school movement, early graduation from high school, and possibly a desire on the part of some home school parents to enroll their children in a traditional high school. The distributional differences for students in grades 1 through 8 are minor.

Table 2.3
Home School Students Classified
by Grade with Percents and National School Percents

Grade

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

Home school

7.4%
(1504)

10.6%
(2153)

14.1%
(2876)

12.9%
(2625)

12.6%
(2564)

11.9%
(2420)

10.3%
(2087)

8.8%
(1801)

5.7%
(1164)

3.8%
(775)

1.6%
(317)

0.3%
(66)

Nation

9.1%

8.8%

8.9%

8.7%

8.6%

8.7%

8.7%

8.4%

9.0%

7.9%

7.1%

6.3%

National data: US Census, 1997b, Table 254.

Student Race

          Table 2.4 shows the racial distribution of home school students in 1998 and for the students enrolled in elementary and secondary public and private schools nationally in 1994. The distributions are quite different. The vast majority of home schooled children are non-Hispanic White. The largest minority groups for home school students (not shown in the table) are American Indians and Asian students who comprise some 2.4% and 1.2% of the home school students, respectively.

Table 2.4
Racial Distribution of Home School Students
And the Nation, in Percents

White (not Hispanic)

Black (not Hispanic)

Hispanic

Other

Home school

94.0%

0.8%

0.2%

5.0%

Nationwide

67.2%

16.0%

13.0%

3.8%

(National data: USDE, 1996; Indicator 27)

 

Marital Status

          The great majority of home school students are in married couple families. In contrast, only 72% of the families with at least one child enrolled in school nationwide are in married couple families (Bruno and Curry, 1997, Table 19).

Table 2.5
Home School Students
Classified by Parents' Marital Status

 
Marital Status Frequency Percent
Divorced 80 0.7%
Single (never married) 44 0.4
Married 11,335 97.2
Separated 131 1.1
Widowed 55 0.5
Missing data 16 0.1
 

11,661 100.0%

Children at Home

          Table 2.6 shows the distribution of children in home school families and families with children under 18 nationwide. On average, home school students are in larger families. Nationwide, most families with school-age children (79.6%) have only 1 or 2 children with a mean of about 1.9 children per family. Most home school families (62.1%) have 3 or more children with a mean of about 3.1 children per family.

Table 2.6
Home School Families Classified
by Family Size with National Comparison

Home School Families


Nationwide


Number of Children

Percent

Number of Children

Percent

1

8.3%

1

40.8%

2

29.6

2

38.8

3

28.6

3

14.3

4

18.6

4 or more

6.1

5

8.4

6

3.9

 

7 or more

2.6

 
National Data: US Census, 1997a, Table 77

Mother's Religion

          We asked the home school families to identify the religious preference of each student's mother by selecting from a list of 27 religions. As shown in Table 2.7, the largest percentage of mothers identified themselves as Independent Fundamental, Baptist, Independent Charismatic, Roman Catholic, Assembly of God, or Presbyterian. The religious preference of the father was the same as that of the mother 93.1% of the time.

Table 2.7
Home School Students
Classified by Mother's Religion

  Frequency Percent
Independent Fundamental 5,119 25.1%
Baptist 5,072 24.4
Independent Charismatic 1,681 8.2
Roman Catholic 1,106 5.4
Assembly of God 838 4.1
Presbyterian 772 3.8
Reformed 685 3.4
Other Protestant 500 2.5
Pentecostal 459 2.2
Methodist 420 2.1
Lutheran 353 1.7
Other Christian 2,213 10.9
Other 1,572 6.2
 

Total 20,790 100.0%

Parent Academic Attainment

          As shown in Table 2.8, home school parents have more formal education than the general population. While slightly less than half of the general population attended or graduated from college, almost 88% of home school students have parents who continued their education after high school.

Table 2.8
Distribution of Home School Students and Students Nationally
Classified by Parent Academic Attainment

 

Percent
 

Did not finish
high school

High school
graduate

Some college,
no degree

Associate degree

Bachelors degree

Masters degree

Doctorate

 
  Home school fathers

1.2%    

9.3%    

16.4%   

6.9%    

37.6%   

19.8%   

8.8%    

 
Nation males

 

18.1     

32.0     

19.5     

6.4      

15.6     

5.4      

3.1      

 
  Home school mothers

0.5      

11.3     

21.8     

9.7      

47.2     

8.8      

0.7      

 
Nation females

 

17.2     

34.2     

20.2     

7.7      

14.8     

4.5      

1.3      

 
            National data: U.S. Census (1996; Table 8)  

Family Income

          National data on family income are available for 1995. As shown in Table 2.9, home school families span all income levels. On average, home school families have a higher income level than do families with children nationwide and all families nationwide. The median family income level for home school families in 1997 is about $52,000. The median income for families with children in 1995, nationwide, was about $36,000.

Table 2.9
Distribution of Family Income for Home School Families,
Families with Children Nationwide, and
All Families Nationwide by Income Levels, in Percents.

   

Home school

Families with children

All families

Less than $10,000

0.8%

12.6%

10.5%

$10,000 to $14,999

1.5    

8.0    

8.5    

$15,000 to $19,999

2.2    

6.1    

6.8    

$20,000 to $24,999

3.9    

7.6    

8.4    

$25,000 to $29,999

4.9    

7.5    

7.8    

$30,000 to $34,999

8.5    

7.5    

7.6    

$35,000 to $39,999

8.1    

7.1    

7.0    

$40,000 to $49,999

16.0    

11.3    

11.0    

$50,000 to $74,999

32.5    

18.4    

18.1    

$75,000 and over

21.6    

13.8    

14.3    

National data: Bruno and Curry (1997, Table 19)

Television Viewing

          The National Assessment of Educational Progress collects information on the television viewing habits of fourth-graders. Home school fourth-graders and fourth-graders nationally differ markedly in terms of television viewing. Home school students rarely watch more than 3 hours of television per day; nearly 40% of the students nationwide watch that much television.

Table 2.10
Fourth-grade students Classified
by Hours of Television Viewing

 

Percent of students

6 or more hours
per day

4 to 5 hours
per day

2 to 3 hours
per day

1 hour or less
per day

Home school

0.1%  

1.6     

33.1     

65.3     

Nationwide

19.0%  

19.5      

36.4      

25.1      

National data: NAEP Math 1997

Computer Use

          The Condition of Education provides a tabulation of the percent of students nationwide who report using a computer by frequency of use for 4th, 8th, and 11th graders in 1996. At each grade level, the distribution of computer use in 1998 by home school students is different from that of the nation in 1996. At each of these three grade levels, much larger percentages of home school students never use a computer. At the fourth-grade level, a much larger percent of home school students use a computer every day.

Table 2.11
Computer Use among Home School Students and
Students Nationwide in Grades 4, 8, and 11, in Percent

 

Grade 4


Grade 8


Grade 11


Home school

Nationwide

Home school

Nationwide

Home school

Nationwide

Never

28.2%  

11.4%  

37.1%  

23.3%  

40.5 % 

16.0%  

Less than once a week

29.4    

16.3    

28.9    

29.2    

28.9    

34.2    

Several times a week

21.6    

62.5    

18.0    

30.7    

17.5    

31.8    

Every day

20.8   

9.9    

16.0   

16.7   

13.1   

18.1   

National Data: Snyder and Wirt, 1998, Indicator 3.

Money Spent on Educational Materials

          The amount of money spent in 1997 on home school education for textbooks, lesson materials, tutoring and enrichment services, and testing ranged from less than $200 to more than $2000. As shown in Table 2.12, the median amount of money spent was about $400.

Table 2.12
Home School Students Classified by Money Spent
On Home School Education in 1997

Amount Frequency Percent
<$200 3,718 17.9%
200-399 7,035 33.8    
400-599 4,467 21.5    
600-799 1,962 9.4    
800-999 985 4.7    
1,000-1,599 1,630 7.8    
1,600-1,999 247 1.2    
>2,000 411 2.0    
Missing 336 1.6    


Total 20,790 100.0%

 

Other Demographic Characteristics

          Compared to the nation, a much larger percentage of home school mothers are stay-at-home mothers not participating in the labor force. Some 76.9% of home school mothers do not work for pay. About 86.3% that do work do so part time. Nationwide, in 1996, only 30% of married women with children under 18 did not participate in the labor force (US Dept of Census, 1997a, Table 632).
          A very large percentage of home school parents are certified to teach. Some 19.7% of the home school mothers are certified teachers; 7.1% of fathers. Almost one out of every four home school students (23.6%) has at least one parent who is a certified teacher.
          Only 7.7% of the respondents were enrolled in a full-service curriculum program, i.e., a program that serves students and their parents as a "one-stop" primary source for textbooks, materials, lesson plans, tests, counseling, evaluations, record keeping, and the like for the year's core required subjects such as language, social studies, mathematics, and science.

Academic Achievement

          The complete batteries of The Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS) and the Tests of Achievement and Proficiency (TAP) were used to assess student achievement in basic skills. The ITBS was used for home school students in Grades K-8; the TAP for students in grades 9-12. Almost all students took Form L; a handful took parallel Form K.
          Achievement test batteries like the ITBS and TAP are a collection of tests in several subject areas that have been standardized and normed. Norms for all tests within these test batteries are based on the same group of students at each grade level. Such norms allow students to be compared with other students and groups to be compared with other groups.
          The primary purpose of the ITBS and TAP is to assess the academic achievement of students in public and private schools. Consequently, much of the test development effort is devoted to identifying the content to be covered by these batteries. Riverside Publishers follow a four step process: 1) content specifications, 2) editorial review, 3) pilot testing, and 4) national norms development and updating.
          The first and most critical step is developing content specifications and writing test items. This step involves the experience, research, and expertise of a large number of professionals representing a wide variety of specialties in the education community. Specifications are developed which outline the grade placement and emphasis of skills. These specifications draw heavily on an analysis of textbooks, research studies, nationally developed subject matter standards, and national curriculum committees.
          Once the items have been developed and pilot tested, the final forms of the tests are developed and administered to large standardization samples to gather normative data and to develop scales.
          The spring standardization sample for the 10 levels of the ITBS consisted of approximately 137,000 students from public schools, Catholic schools and private non-Catholic schools. The public school sample was stratified to assure adequate representation based on geographic region, district enrollment, socioeconomic status of the district. The Catholic school sample was stratified on geographic region and diocese enrollment. The non-Catholic private school sample was stratified on region and school type. The spring standardization sample for the four levels of the TAP consisted of approximately 20,000 students stratified on the same variables. National norms were developed based on the combined weighted distributions of all three school types: public, Catholic and non-Catholic private. Catholic/private school norms were developed based on the combined weighted distributions of the latter two groups. For simplicity, the combined public, Catholic and non-Catholic private school norms are referenced in this report as national norms or public/private school norms.
          The data from the standardization sample are used to develop a variety of reporting scales, such as percentiles and grade equivalent scores. The analyses in this report rely primarily on the Developmental Standard Score (DSS) scale developed by Riverside Publishers. The DSS is a number that describes a student's location on an achievement continuum that spans grades K through 12. Table 3.1 shows the median DSS and median age that corresponds to each grade level in the national standardization sample. The DSS scale shows that the average annual growth in DSS units decreases each year.

Table 3.1
Median Developmental Scaled Scores and Median Age for the
ITBS/TAP Spring National Standardization Sample

Grade

K

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

DSS

130

150

168

185

200

214

227

239

250

260

268

275

280

Age

6.1

7.2

8.2

9.3

10.2

11.2

12.2

13.2

14.2

15.2

16.2

17.2

18.1

Source for age medians: Drahozal (1998, personal communication)


          This same DSS scale is used for all tests and levels of the ITBS and TAP. The main advantages of the DSS are that it mirrors reality well, spans all grade levels, and provides a quasi equal interval scale which has a variety of attractive statistical properties. Most importantly, DSS scores can be compared to each other and can be meaningfully averaged.
          The main disadvantage of DSS scores is that they have no built-in meaning. Reference points are needed to interpret DSS scores. "Grade level" is one possible reference point. A DSS score of 170 in reading, for example, is about equal to the typical reading score for second-grade students in public and private schools in the spring of the year. A more refined reference is the percentile score that corresponds to each DSS score. The 170 in reading, for example, corresponds to the 54th percentile of second graders. That is, this score is better than the score received by 54 percent of the second graders using the 1995 spring norms.
          The reader should note that while all tests of the ITBS/TAP have the same median DSS score at each grade level, the distributions within each subject area vary. A DSS score of 310 for a tenth grader in reading, for example, corresponds to the 87th percentile. A DSS score of 170 in mathematics for a tenth grader would place the student at the 79th percentile.
          Percentiles are always defined in terms of a grade level. This can be problematic when analyzing data for home school students. In this study, 24.5% of the home school students were one or more grades above the grade usually associated with that student's age (see Table 3.2). A strong case can be made that rather than using the percentile corresponding to the enrolled grade, as we did in this study, one should use the percentile associated with the student's nominal grade, i.e., the grade usually associated with the student's age. The argument is that a 10-year-old home school student enrolled in 5th grade should be compared to his age peers in 4th grade. The counter argument is that the percentiles already consider the fact that students are not always in their nominal grade since the standardization sample had students above and below grade level. We initially analyzed the data both ways. Rather than expose our analysis to criticism, we chose to take the more conservative route by employing the enrolled grade.
          While very meaningful, percentiles do not provide a complete picture of a student's or group's academic performance. In this study, we used grade equivalent scores as an additional reference point for interpreting DSS scores. A grade equivalent score approximates a child's development in terms of grade and month within grade. A DSS reading score of 170 can be viewed as the typical DSS score earned by students in the ninth month of the second grade or a GES score of 2.9. Just as the percentile associated with a DSS scores varies by subtest, so do the properties of GES scores vary across subjects.
          Grade Equivalent Scores are particularly useful for estimating a student's developmental status in terms of grade. But, these scores must be interpreted carefully. An GES Score of 6.3 in reading for an 9 year old in the 3rd grade, for example, clearly indicates that the third grader is doing well. This does not, however, mean that the third grader belongs in the 6th grade. It only means that the third grader can read as well as a sixth grader.
          The usual interpretation of a Grade Equivalent Score of 6.3 for a third grader is that this third grade student can read third grade material as well as a sixth grader can read third grade material, not that he or she can read sixth grade material. The DSS of the ITBS/TAP, however, is unique. The DSS scales were developed by administering the same special scaling test to students in grades K-3, another common scaling test to students in grades 3 to 9, and another to students in grades 8-12. Thus, in the scaling study, the third graders did take the same test as the sixth graders in each subject area.


  Grade Placement

          Home school students are able to progress through instructional material at the student's rate. Thus, it is easy for home school students to be enrolled one or more grades above their public and private school-age peers. To evaluate the frequency of advanced placement, we compared students' enrolled and nominal grades. The enrolled grade was identified by the parents and used to determine the ITBS/TAP level. The nominal grade is the public school grade in which the student would normally be enrolled in based on the child's month and year of birth.
          As shown in Table 3.2, almost one fourth of the home school students (24.5%) are enrolled one or more grades above their nominal grade. While comparable figures nationally do not exist, one research director in a large school district estimated that less than 5% of their students are enrolled above grade level.

Table 3.2
Home School Students Classified
by Discrepancy Between Enrolled and Nominal Grade

Enrolled minus
Nominal Grade
Frequency Percent

-2

58

0.3%

-1

1,019

5.1

0

13,931

69.8

+1

4,637

23.2

+2

199

1.0

+3

58

0.3

Percentages do not sum to 100% due to a small percentage of students outside this range.

Overall Achievement

          Table 3.3 shows the median scaled score (DSS score) for home school students on the Composite with Computation, Reading Total, Language, Mathematics Total with Computation, Social Studies, and Science subtest scores by grade. The corresponding percentiles shown in the table are the within grade percentile scores for the nation that correspond to the given scaled scores. For example, home school students in Grade 3 have a median composite scaled score of 207 which corresponds to the 81st percentile nationwide. The median home school student in third grade out- performs 81% of the third graders nationwide. As an additional comparison, we provide the national median for each grade in the last column. By definition this is the 50th percentile of students nationwide.

Table 3.3
Median Scaled Scores (corresponding national percentile)
by Subtest and Grade for Home School Students

Grade N Composite Reading Language Math Soc. Stud. Science National
Median
1 1504 170 (91) 174 (88) 166 (82) 164 (81) 166 (80) 164 (78) 150 (50)
2 2153 192 (90) 196 (89) 186 (80) 188 (85) 189 (81) 195 (86) 168 (50)
3 2876 207 (81) 210 (83) 195 (62) 204 (78) 205 (76) 214 (83) 185 (50)
4 2625 222 (76) 228 (83) 216 (67) 220 (76) 216 (68) 232 (81) 200 (50)
5 2564 243 (79) 244 (83) 237 (69) 238 (76) 236 (71) 260 (86) 214 (50)
6 2420 261 (81) 258 (82) 256 (73) 254 (76) 265 (81) 273 (84) 227 (50)
7 2087 276 (82) 277 (87) 276 (77) 272 (79) 276 (79) 282 (81) 239 (50)
8 1801 288 (81) 288 (86) 291 (79) 282 (76) 290 (79) 289 (78) 250 (50)
9 1164 292 (77) 294 (82) 297 (77) 281 (68) 297 (76) 292 (73) 260 (50)
10 775 310 (84) 314 (89) 318 (84) 294 (72) 318 (83) 310 (79) 268 (50)
11 317 310 (78) 312 (84) 322 (83) 296 (68) 318 (79) 314 (77) 275 (50)
12 66 326 (86) 328 (92) 332 (85) 300 (66) 334 (84) 331 (82) 280 (50)

          It is readily apparent from Table 3.3 that the median scores for home school students are well above their public/private school counterparts in every subject and in every grade. The corresponding percentiles range from the 62nd to the 91st percentile; most percentiles are between the 75th and the 85th percentile. The lowest percentiles are in Mathematics Total with Computation subtest (labeled Math in the tables); the highest in Reading Total. While the grade-to-grade increase in national medians is 13 DSS points in the lower grades, the annual increase for home school students is about 16 points. These are exceptional scores and exceptional grade-to-grade gains.
          As shown in Table 3.4, the same superiority of median scaled scores holds when comparing home school students to students enrolled in Catholic/Private schools. The Catholic/Private school percentiles corresponding to median scaled scores range from the 53rd percentile to the 89th percentile; most are between the 65th to 75th percentile. In every area and every grade, the median scores for home school students exceed the median scores of students enrolled in Catholic/Private schools.

Table 3.4
Median Scaled Scores of Home School Students
(Corresponding Catholic/Private School Percentile)
by Subtest and Grade

Grade Composite Reading Language Math Soc. Stud. Science
1 170 (89) 174 (86) 166 (80) 164 (80) 166 (73) 164 (75)
2 192 (88) 196 (84) 186 (74) 188 (81) 189 (81) 195 (85)
3 207 (74) 210 (74) 195 (55) 204 (71) 205 (69) 214 (80)
4 222 (72) 228 (72) 216 (58) 220 (69) 216 (56) 232 (76)
5 243 (71) 244 (72) 237 (60) 238 (68) 236 (60) 260 (82)
6 261 (71) 258 (71) 256 (58) 254 (65) 265 (72) 273 (77)
7 276 (72) 277 (77) 276 (63) 272 (70) 276 (68) 282 (73)
8 288 (72) 288 (75) 291 (65) 282 (68) 290 (68) 289 (67)
9 292 (63) 294 (70) 297 (61) 281 (56) 297 (63) 292 (59)
10 310 (71) 314 (81) 318 (71) 294 (57) 318 (72) 310 (66)
11 310 (63) 312 (72) 322 (69) 296 (56) 318 (67) 314 (63)
12 326 (74) 328 (81) 332 (71) 300 (53) 334 (74) 331 (72)

          The relationship between median composite scaled scores for home school students, Catholic/Private school students, and the nation is shown in the Figure 1. At each grade level, the test performance of Catholic/Private school students is above the national performance levels, especially in the higher grade levels. Also at each grade level, the performance of home school students is above the performance levels of students enrolled in Catholic/Private schools. The differences between these groups are considerable. For example, the median score for 7th graders nationwide is 239; for Catholic/Private school students the median is 257; for home school students the median is 276. Another way to look at this chart is to examine the grades corresponding to a given composite score. A composite scale score of 250, for example, is typical of a home school student in Grade 6, a Catholic/Private school student in Grade 7 and students nationwide in the later stages of grade 8.

Figure 1. Academic Achievement of Home School,
Catholic/Private and the Nation's Students


          The Grade Equivalent Scores (GES) corresponding to the median DSS scaled scores for home school students are shown in Table 3.5. These GES scores indicate the performance levels of home school students in terms of student grade placement nationwide. The median composite scaled score for fourth-grade home school students, for example, is 217. This is comparable to the median score expected of students nationwide in the ninth month of fifth grade. Compared to students nationwide, the median fourth-grade home school student test performance is 1.1 grade equivalents above his public/private school peers. By 8th grade, the median performance of home school students on the ITBS/TAP is almost four grade equivalents above that of students nationwide. Similar trends hold for all subject areas.
          The reader should recognize that the grade equivalent scale tends to magnify differences at the high school level and that the percentile scale is more meaningful in these higher grades. While 50% of eighth grade home school students have scores that are 4 grade equivalents above the public school median, so do some 20% of eighth grade students in public schools. The revealing statistics are the percentiles which are consistently high across grade levels and subject areas.

Table 3.5
Median Scaled Scores (corresponding Grade Equivalent Scores)
by Subtest and Nominal Grade
for Home School Students

Grade Composite Reading Language Math Soc. Stud. Science National
Median
1 170 ( 2.9) 174 ( 3.1) 166 ( 2.6) 164 ( 2.6) 166 ( 2.7) 164 ( 2.6) 150 ( 1.8)
2 192 ( 4.1) 196 ( 4.5) 186 ( 3.8) 188 ( 4.0) 189 ( 4.0) 195 ( 4.5) 168 ( 2.8)
3 207 ( 5.1) 210 ( 5.5) 195 ( 4.4) 204 ( 5.2) 205 ( 5.1) 214 ( 5.8) 185 ( 3.8)
4 222 ( 6.2) 228 ( 6.9) 216 ( 5.9) 220 ( 6.4) 216 ( 5.9) 232 ( 7.3) 200 ( 4.8)
5 243 ( 8.3) 244 ( 8.3) 237 ( 7.6) 238 ( 7.7) 236 ( 7.6) 260 ( 9.8) 214 ( 5.8)
6 261 (10.1) 258 ( 9.6) 256 ( 9.4) 254 ( 9.1) 265 (10.4) 273 (11.6) 227 ( 6.8)
7 276 (11.9) 277 (12.0) 276 (11.9) 272 (11.3) 276 (11.9) 282 (12.5) 239 ( 7.8)
8 288 (12.9) 288 (12.9) 291 ( - ) 282 (12.5) 290 ( - ) 289 ( - ) 250 ( 8.8)
9 292 ( - ) 294 ( - ) 297 ( - ) 281 (12.4) 297 ( - ) 292 ( - ) 260 ( 9.8)
10 310 ( - ) 314 ( - ) 318 ( - ) 294 ( - ) 318 ( - ) 310 ( - ) 268 (10.8)
11 310 ( - ) 312 ( - ) 322 ( - ) 296 ( - ) 318 ( - ) 314 ( - ) 275 (11.8)
12 326 ( - ) 328 ( - ) 332 ( - ) 300 ( - ) 334 ( - ) 331 ( - ) 280 (12.8)
      (The - sign indicates the scaled scores are beyond the effective range for GES conversion.)


 
          The grade equivalent score comparisons for home school students and the nation are shown in Figure 2. In grades one through four, the median ITBS/TAP composite scaled scores for home school students are a full grade above that of their public/private school peers. The gap starts to widen in grade five. By the time home school students reach grade 8, their median scores are almost 4 grade equivalents above their public/private school peers.

Figure 2. Home School Students Compared to the National Norm Group in Grade Equivalent Units


 

Years of Home Schooling

          Almost half of the respondents (47%) indicated that they have been home schooled for each grade prior to their current grade, i.e., their entire academic life. Table 3.6 shows that students who are home schooled for their entire academic life do better than students who have been home schooled for only a few years (F academic life =108.2; df=1,9750; p<.01). There is also a significant interaction between grade and years home schooled (F=7.4; df=9,9750, p< .01), indicating that the effectiveness of home schooling varies with the student's grade. The differences are most meaningful starting in Grade 6.
          [All F ratios reported here are from a two-way analysis of variance with composite scaled scores as the dependent measure, grade as a blocking variable, and one independent variable. Because the students are within families, the dataset was trimmed by randomly selecting one child from each family. Had the full dataset been used, the variance of the children within a family would have been artificially smaller than the variance of among children in the population of inference. This would have increased the risk of Type I error, showing significance when significance may not be so. To assure adequate cell sizes, the analyses were also restricted to Grades 1 through 10. A statistically significant difference only means that there is evidence of a difference in population values. The difference may be small and not meaningful. "n.s." is used to indicate not significant.]
          One reviewer questioned whether this significant difference was due to life-long home schooling or was life-long home schooling serving as a proxy for parent education or income. The correlation of life-long home schooling and whether either parent has a college degree is .12, indicating there is some, but not a great deal of overlap between these variables. The correlation with income level was .02, indicating no relationship. Thus, whether a student is home schooled his or her entire life appears to be significantly related to achievement.

Table 3.6
Composite Scale Score Mean, Standard Deviation and Corresponding Percentile
by Number of Grades Home Schooled and Grade

Grade 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Home schooled entire academic life
Mean 170 195 208 224 244 265 278 291 300 314
sd 12 16 17 20 23 23 25 26 27 23
N 479 743 863 608 552 444 319 242 159 100
%ile 92 95 85 81 82 85 83 84 83 86
Home schooled some grades
Mean 168 192 206 222 241 256 270 282 288 299
sd 11 15 18 20 24 26 27 30 30 32
N 221 428 616 666 681 688 628 608 436 287
%ile 90 92 82 79 79 78 77 78 73 75
Difference 2 3 2 2 3 9 8 9 12 15

[The percentiles (%ile) shown in this and the following tables are the within-grade percentiles corresponding to the mean composite scale scores, differences and ranges refer to differences in and ranges of mean composite scale scores, sd refers to standard deviation, N is the number of students within each cell.]


  Enrolled in a Full-Service Curriculum

          There is no significant difference in the mean composite scaled scores of home school students enrolled in a full-service curriculum and home school students not so enrolled. As shown in Table 3.7, the means are quite close at all grade levels (F enrollment=.24; df=1,9750; n.s.).

Table 3.7
Composite Scale Score Mean, Standard Deviation and
Corresponding Percentile by Full-service Curriculum Status and Grade

Grade 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Not enrolled in a full-service curriculum
Mean 170 194 207 223 243 260 272 284 291 302
sd 12 15 17 20 23 25 26 29 30 31
N 646 1109 1361 1214 1145 1042 847 771 495 320
%ile 92 94 83 80 81 81 79 79 76 78
Enrolled in a full-service curriculum
Mean 167 199 209 220 241 256 272 286 289 306
sd 13 17 18 21 24 29 31 30 30 28
N 54 63 118 60 89 89 101 79 100 67
%ile 89 97 86 76 79 78 79 80 74 81
Difference 3 -5 -2 3 2 4 0 -2 -2 -4


  Student Gender

          There are no significant differences in the achievement levels of male versus female home school students (F for gender=.01; df=1,9750; n.s.). As shown in Table 3.8, the means are virtually identical at all grade levels.

Table 3.8
Composite Scale Score Mean, Standard Deviation
and Corresponding Percentile by Grade and Gender

Grade 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Males
Mean 170 195 208 223 243 260 271 285 288 303
sd 12 15 18 19 23 25 26 30 33 33
N 355 576 749 639 600 597 479 428 294 181
%ile 92 95 85 80 81 81 78 80 73 78
Females
Mean 169 193 207 223 242 260 274 284 293 303
sd 12 16 17 21 24 25 26 28 26 28
N 345 595 730 634 634 535 469 422 302 206
%ile 91 93 83 80 80 81 80 79 77 78
Difference 1 2 1 0 1 0 -3 1 -5 0


  Money Spent on Educational Materials

          There is a significant difference in the achievement levels of home school students depending on the amount of money spent per child on educational materials including textbooks, lesson materials, tutoring, enrichment services, and testing (see Table 3.9). At almost every grade level, students in families spending $600 or more outperform students in families spending less than $200 (F for money spent=41.1; df=3,9585; p <.01). There is also a significant interaction between grade and money spent (F=2.7; df=27,9585; p <.01) indicating that the amount of money spent on education makes a bigger difference at the higher grade levels. The correlation between money spent on educational materials and income is significant (r=.24, p <.01), indicating that this effect may be due to family characteristics rather than expenditures.

Table 3.9
Composite Scale Score Mean, Standard Deviation and Corresponding Percentile by
Money Spent on Educational Materials per Student and Grade

Grade 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
$600 or more
mean 171 195 208 227 245 264 278 289 298 307
sd 11 16 17 21 23 25 25 30 27 32
N 152 236 408 329 317 306 289 260 226 147
%ile 93 95 85 84 83 84 83 83 81 81
$400-599
mean 169 196 211 222 245 261 271 286 291 306
sd 13 15 17 19 22 25 26 25 31 30
N 160 286 376 263 268 253 261 179 105 69
%ile 91 96 88 79 83 82 78 80 76 81
$200-399
mean 171 194 206 220 241 257 270 280 284 299
sd 12 16 18 20 23 25 26 30 32 29
N 252 438 456 469 410 375 249 281 186 119
%ile 93 94 82 76 79 79 77 76 70 75
$199 or less
mean 166 191 203 222 238 258 265 285 284 299
sd 11 15 17 20 26 24 27 28 25 30
N 130 163 219 204 220 186 137 122 74 45
%ile 87 91 78 79 76 80 73 80 70 75
Range 5 4 8 7 7 7 13 9 14 8


  Family Income

          There is a significant difference in the achievement of home school students based on family income. As shown in Table 3.10, students in higher income families consistently have higher mean composite scaled scores (F for income = 79.1; df=3,9186; p < .01). There is also a significant interaction of income and grade (F =2.6; df=27,9186; p<.01). Achievement differences due to income are more pronounced for students in higher grades.

Table 3.10
Composite Scale Score Mean, Standard Deviation and
Corresponding Percentile by Family Income and Student Grade

Grade 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
$70,000 or more
mean 173 196 211 225 247 264 278 292 301 306
Sd 10 15 16 20 23 24 25 28 27 29
N 188 300 370 350 296 300 226 202 139 80
%ile 95 96 88 82 85 84 83 85 84 81
$50,000 -69,999
mean 169 195 209 224 243 261 274 287 293 306
Sd 11 15 17 18 23 24 23 26 29 34
N 165 285 407 352 316 293 239 214 135 109
%ile 91 95 86 81 81 82 80 81 77 81
$35,000 -49,999
mean 169 193 206 222 241 258 270 281 292 305
sd 12 16 19 21 21 23 26 27 30 30
N 164 266 327 251 269 262 264 212 141 96
%ile 91 93 82 81 79 80 77 81 76 80
$34,999 or less
mean 167 192 204 218 237 255 262 276 278 297
sd 14 17 17 21 24 28 29 32 30 31
N 149 232 304 245 276 228 178 181 148 66
%ile 89 92 79 74 75 77 70 73 65 74
Range 6 4 7 7 10 9 16 16 13 9


  Parent Certification as a Teacher

          To determine whether there is a difference in achievement for students in households where at least one parent holds a state issued teaching certificate, we analyzed the data for the 7,607 students with at least one parent that has a college degree. As shown in Table 3.11, the achievement levels across groups are remarkably similar. Controlling for grade and parent education level, there is no significant difference in the achievement levels of home school students whose parents are certified and those that are not (F for certification=2.9; df=1,7587; n.s.).

Table 3.11
Composite Scale Score Mean, Standard Deviation and Corresponding Percentile
by Parent Teaching Certificate and Student Grade

Grade 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
At least one certified parent
Mean 172 196 212 225 245 268 278 289 299 308
sd 11 16 15 20 21 21 24 24 25 31
N 183 293 342 285 290 245 243 208 137 88
%ile 94 96 89 82 83 87 83 83 82 82
Neither parent certified
Mean 171 195 210 225 246 263 276 291 299 309
sd 12 15 16 19 22 24 25 25 28 27
N 396 688 840 734 661 616 470 412 281 195
%ile 93 95 87 82 84 83 82 84 82 83
Difference 1 1 2 0 -1 5 2 -2 0 -1


  Parent Education Levels

          The National Assessment of Educational Progress has consistently shown marked differences in the performance levels of students nationwide as a function of parent's educational level. Similar differences appear in the performance levels of home school students. As shown in Table 3.12, at every grade level, children of college graduates out perform children whose parents do not have a college degree (F=566.4; df=2,9744; p < .01). There is also a significant interaction between grade and parent education (F=8.7; df=18,9744; p < .01), indicating that the effect of parent education is more pronounced in some grades. It is worthy to note that, at every grade level, the mean performance of home school students whose parents do not have a college degree is much higher than the mean performance of students in public schools. Their percentiles are mostly in the 65th to 69th percentile range.

Table 3.12
Composite Scale Score Mean, Standard Deviation and Corresponding Percentile
by Parent Education and Student Grade

Grade 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Both parents have college degrees
Mean 178 196 212 228 249 268 278 296 306 314
sd 11 15 15 19 21 22 25 22 24 26
N 367 640 706 567 535 501 420 325 206 137
%ile 98 96 89 85 86 87 83 88 87 86
One parent has a college degree
Mean 172 194 208 222 242 260 275 285 293 304
sd 13 15 16 19 22 24 24 25 28 29
N 212 341 477 451 417 361 293 297 212 147
%ile 94 94 85 79 80 81 81 80 77 79
Neither parent has a college degree
Mean 161 187 196 212 231 245 260 268 271 288
sd 10 16 17 19 25 25 28 34 27 33
N 121 191 297 255 285 270 233 231 177 104
%ile 79 87 67 66 68 67 69 66 59 67
Range 17 9 16 14 17 23 18 28 35 26


  Television Watching

          It was pointed out above that home school students spend significantly less time watching television than do the general population of school-age students. Like the nation as a whole, increased amounts of television viewing for home school students is associated with lower achievement test scores. Table 3.13 shows that at every grade level, there is a steady decline in achievement as the amount of television viewing increases (F for televison viewing =142.5; df=3,9685; p <.01). The interaction of grade and amount of television viewing is also significant (F=5.5; df=27,9685; p <.01). The effects of television on achievement are more pronounced with students in higher grades.

Table 3.13
Composite Scale Score Mean, Standard Deviation and Corresponding Percentile
by Amount of Television Viewing Each Week and Grade

Grade 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
No Television
mean 166 199 213 227 251 271 281 294 308 307
sd 13 15 15 19 22 24 26 25 27 27
N 81 164 165 161 172 140 117 107 102 64
%ile 87 97 90 84 88 89 86 86 88 81
1 hour or less
mean 171 196 208 225 245 263 274 288 298 308
sd 12 15 17 20 22 23 25 29 25 29
N 355 554 795 650 586 525 453 369 225 186
%ile 93 96 85 82 83 83 80 82 81 82
2 hours
mean 169 191 205 219 238 253 268 279 278 299
sd 11 15 18 20 23 26 27 27 31 29
N 186 325 380 333 333 309 237 241 182 92
%ile 91 91 81 75 76 75 75 75 65 75
3 hours or more
mean 169 187 203 216 233 252 269 275 281 280
sd 11 17 17 20 26 27 28 31 29 35
N 75 121 136 117 135 155 140 130 86 43
%ile 91 87 78 71 70 74 76 72 67 60
Range 5 12 10 11 18 19 13 19 30 28


 

Summary of Major Findings

Major findings: Demographics

  • Home school parents have more formal education than parents in the general population; 88% continued their education beyond high school compared to 50% for the nation as a whole.
  • The median income for home school families ($52,000) is significantly higher than that of all families with children ($36,000) in the United States.
  • Almost all home school students (98%) are in married couple families. Most home school mothers (77%) do not participate in the labor force; almost all home school fathers (98%) do work.
  • Home school students watch much less television than students nationwide; 65% of home school students watch one hour or less per day compared to 25% nationally.
  • The median amount of money spent annually on educational materials is about $400 per home school student.
  • The distribution of home school students by grade in grades 1-6 is consistent with that of all school children. Proportionally fewer home school students are enrolled at the high school level.

Major findings: Achievement

  • Almost 25% of home school students are enrolled one or more grades above their age-level peers in public and private schools.
  • Home school student achievement test scores are exceptionally high. The median scores for every subtest at every grade (typically in the 70th to 80th percentile) are well above those of public and Catholic/Private school students.
  • On average, home school students in grades 1 to 4 perform one grade level above their age-level public/private school peers on achievement tests.
  • The achievement test score gap between home school students and public/private school students starts to widen in grade 5.
  • Students who have been home schooled their entire academic life have higher scholastic achievement test scores than students who have also attended other educational programs.
  • There are no meaningful differences in achievement by gender, whether the student is enrolled in a full-service curriculum, or whether a parent holds a state issued teaching certificate.
  • There are significant achievement differences among home school students when classified by amount of money spent on education, family income, parent education, and television viewing.

Discussion

          Incorporating the largest sample ever used to study home school students and their families, this study is a rich source of information concerning their demographics and achievement. It clearly shows that home school students and their families are a select population. Family income and education levels are well above national averages. The family structure is traditional with married couples as parents, several children, father as bread winner, and a stay-at-home mother. A large percent of home school students have a parent that has held a state-issued teaching certificate. Home school families do not spend a great deal of money on educational materials and tend not to subscribe to pre-packaged full-service curriculum programs.
          In spite of the large size of this assessment, there are notable limitations to this study. Foremost, home school students and their families are not a cross-section of the United States population. The act of home schooling distinguishes this group in terms of their exceptionally strong commitment to education and children. There are major demographic differences between home school families and the general United States population. Further, it should be noted that it was not possible within the parameters of this study to evaluate whether this sample is truly representative of the entire population of home school students.
          The content of the Riverside tests is another major limitation of this study. While home schools teach the basic skill areas of reading, mathematics, social studies, and science, they do not necessarily follow the same scope, sequence, or emphasis as traditional public and private schools. The primary focus of many home schools is on religious and moral values. Home schools can and do place a greater emphasis on study skills, critical thinking, working independently, and love of learning. Public and private schools usually select the Riverside test due to its close alignment with their curriculum; home schools select the test primarily out of convenience.
          We were conservative in our analysis of achievement test results. Even though some 25% of home school students are enrolled in an advanced grade level, we used current grade placement rather than the age appropriate grade placement when determining percentiles and grade equivalents. When looking at test scores, we chose the composite score with mathematics computation, even though mathematics appears to be a weaker subject for older home school students. As a result, we have probably underestimated home school academic performance levels.
          Even with our conservative approach, the achievement levels of the home school students in this study are exceptional. Within each grade level and each skill area, the median scores for home school students fell between the 70th and 80th percentile of students nationwide and between the 60th and 70th percentile of Catholic/Private school students. For younger students, this is a one year lead. By the time home school students are in 8th grade, they are four years ahead of their public/private school counterparts.
          Our results are consistent with previous studies of the achievement of home school students. A 1990 national home schooling survey of 1,516 families in the United States noted that, on average, home education families have parents with greater formal education, more children, and higher family income (Home School Court Report, 1990). Two-parent families were the norm and they were predominantly Christian. The average age of the children was just over eight years--a majority of the children had never attended public or private schools. There were equal numbers of male and female students. On standardized achievement tests, the home-schooled students performed at or above the 80th percentile on national norms in reading, listening, language, math, science, social studies, basic battery, and complete battery scores.
          Calvery et.al. (1992) compared the achievement of Arkansas home schooled and public schooled students in grades 4, 7, and 10 using 6 subscales of the MAT-6. Home schooled students scored higher than their counterparts in reading, mathematics, language, total basic battery, science, and social studies at grade 4 and grade 7. They also scored significantly above public school means for grade 10 in reading, mathematics, total basic battery, science, and social studies, but scored significantly lower in language.
          Ray (1997) analyzed demographic and achievement data from 5,402 home school students in 1,657 families. While Ray used a different approach to analyze achievement data, he noted exceptionally high average achievement levels and that students with long histories of being home schooled had higher achievement scores.
          Home school students did quite well in 1998 on the ACT college entrance examination. They had an average ACT composite score of 22.8 which is .38 standard deviations above the national ACT average of 21.0 (ACT, 1998). This places the average home school student in the 65th percentile of all ACT test takers.
          These comparisons between home school students and students nationwide must be interpreted with a great deal of caution. This was not a controlled experiment. Students were not randomly assigned public, private or home schools. As a result, the reported achievement differences between groups do not control for background differences in the home school and general United States population and, more importantly, cannot be attributed to the type of school a child attends. This study does not demonstrate that home schooling is superior to public or private schools. It should not be cited as evidence that our public schools are failing. It does not indicate that children will perform better academically if they are home schooled. The design of this study and the data do not warrant such claims. All the comparisons of home school students with the general population and with the private school population in this report fail to consider a myriad of differences between home school and public school students. We have no information as to what the achievement levels of home school students would be had they been enrolled in public or private schools. This study simply shows that those parents choosing to make a commitment to home schooling are able to provide a very successful academic environment.

Note

          This report was supported with a grant from the Home School Legal Defense Association, Purcellville, Virginia. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the Home School Legal Defense Association.

References

ACT, Inc. (1998). The 1998 ACT High School Profile Report--National Data. Iowa City, IA. Available on-line: http://www.act.org/news/98/98data.html

Bruno, Rosaline and Andrea Curry (1997). Current Population Reports. Population Characteristics: School Enrollment--Social and Economic Characteristics of Students: October 1995 (update).Available on-line: http://www.census.gov/prod/2/pop/p20/p20-492u.pdf

Calvery, Robert; and Others (1992). The Difference in Achievement between Home Schooled and Public Schooled Students for Grades Four, Seven, and Ten in Arkansas. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Mid-South Educational Research Association (21st, Knoxville, TN, November 11-13, 1992).

Day, Jennifer and Andrea Curry (1998). Current Population Survey (CPS) for the Nation. United States Census Bureau. Available on-line: http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/school.html

Drahozal, Edward (1997). Validity Information for the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) and Iowa Test of Educational Development (ITED), Forms K, L, M. Riverside Publishing Company, working draft.

Home School Court Report (Dec. 1990). A Nationwide Study of Home. Available from ERIC Document Reproduction Service ED381725.

Hoover, H.D., N. Hieronymous, D.A. Frisbie, S.B. Dunbar (1996). Catholic/Private Norms: ITBS. Itasca: IL: Riverside Publishing Company.

Lines, Patricia (1998). Home schoolers: Estimating Numbers and Growth. Technical paper.

Ray, Brian (1997). Home Education Across the United States. Purcellville, VA: Home School Legal Defense Association. Available on-line: http://www.hslda.org/media/statsandreports/ray1997/index.stm

Riverside Publishing Company (1994). Riverside 2000 Integrated Assessment Program, Technical Summary. Chicago: Riverside Publishing Company.

Scannell, D.P, O.M. Haugh, B.H. Loyd and C.F. Risinger (1996). Catholic/Private Norms: TAP. Itasca: IL: Riverside Publishing Company.

Snyder, Thomas and John Wirt (1998). The Condition of Education, US Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics.

US Census Bureau (1996). Educational Attainment in the United States March 1996 (Update). Available on-line: http://www.census.gov/prod/2/pop/p20/p20-493u.pdf

US Census Bureau (1997a). Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1997. Available on-line: http://www.census.gov/prod/3/97pubs/97statab/labor.pdf

US Census Bureau (1997b). Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1997. Available on-line: http://www.census.gov/prod/3/97pubs/97statab/educ.pdf

US Department of Education (1996). Youth Indicators, Washington, DC: National Center for Educational Statistics.

US Department of Education (1997). National Assessment of Educational Progress, 1996 National Mathematics Results. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

Acknowledgments

This report relied on the creativity and expertise of several individuals. Michael Farris, Esquire, President of the Home School Legal Defense Association conceived the study and secured the cooperation of the author and three contributing organizations - Bob Jones University Testing Service, National Computer Systems, and HSLDA. Earl Hall of HSLDA worked out the numerous logistics and details of working, was the primary architect of the background questionnaire, and provided responses to my thousand questions regarding home schooling. Janet Abbott of BJU provided information about the testing program and the datasets. BJU staff also hand coded the student identification numbers to make corresponding background and achievement information possible. Tom Perry of National Computer Systems handled the logistics of scanning the background questions. Edward Drahozal, Janet Adair and Vesna Plavsic of Riverside Publishing Customer Support were wonderful, knowledgeable resources helping the author understand the ITBS/TAP norming process and data disks. Finally, the author is deeply indebted to H.D. Hoover of the Iowa Testing Program, Gene V Glass of Arizona State University, and Michael Scriven of Claremont Graduate University for their invaluable comments on drafts of this report and for helping to assure appropriate analytical methodology.

About the Author

Lawrence M. Rudner

Email: rudner@ericae.net

Dr. Rudner is with the College of Library and Information Services, University of Maryland, College Park. He has been involved in quantitative analysis for over 30 years, having served as a university professor, a branch chief in the U.S. Department of Education, and a classroom teacher. For the past 12 years, he has been the Director of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation, an information service sponsored by the National Library of Education, U.S. Department of Education which acquires and abstracts articles and manuscripts pertaining to educational assessment, evaluation, and research; builds and maintains on-line databases; publishes articles and books; and provides a wide range of user services. Dr. Rudner holds a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology (1977), an MBA in Finance (1991), and lifetime teaching certificates from two states. His two children attend public school.


Copyright 1999 by the Education Policy Analysis Archives