The most comprehensive survey of homeschoolers in America in more than a decade found a large gap between students educated at home and those educated in public institutions.
In the nationwide study conducted by Dr. Brian D. Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute, homeschoolers were found to have scored 34-39 percentile points higher than the norm on standardized achievement tests. The homeschool national average ranged from the 84th percentile for language, math, and social studies to the 89th percentile for reading, reported the Home School Legal Defense Association, which commissioned Ray to conduct the survey in 2007.
According to HSLDA, anecdotal evidence of homeschooling's success has been backed by multiple research studies. However, it has been at least 10 years since any major nationwide study of homeschooling was done.
During that time, the number of homeschooled children has grown from about 850,000 to approximately 1.5 million, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
"Homeschooling is a rapidly growing, thriving education movement that is challenging the conventional wisdom about the best way to raise and educate the next generation," commented HSLDA president Michael Smith in his group's announcement of the study Monday.
For the new study, touted as "the most comprehensive study of homeschool academic achievement ever completed," Ray surveyed 11,739 homeschooled students from all 50 states, Guam, and Puerto Rico, and drew from 15 independent testing services.
Aside from the academic results, the study found that the achievement gaps common to public schools were not found in the homeschool community.
Homeschooled boys (87th percentile) and girls (88th percentile) scored equally well; the income level of parents did not appreciably affect the results (household income under $35,000: 85th percentile – household income over $70,000: 89th percentile); and while parent education level did have some impact, even children whose parents did not have college degrees scored in the 83rd percentile, which is well above the national average for public school students.
Homeschooled children whose parents both had college degrees scored in the 90th percentile.
"These results validate the dedication of hundreds of thousands of homeschool parents who are giving their children the best education possible," commented Smith.
"Because of the one-on-one instruction homeschoolers receive, we are prepared academically to be productive and contributing members of today's society," he added.
According to the study, 82.4 percent of homeschooling parents identified themselves as Protestant Christian, 12.4 Roman Catholic, 1.1 percent atheist/agnostic, 0.8 percent Mormon, 0.4 percent Jewish, 0.2 percent Eastern Orthodox Christian, and 0.1 percent Muslim.
The vast majority (97.9 percent) of parents in the study was also married and had an average of 3.5 children compared to the general population's average of 2.0 children.
The title of the study is "Progress Report 2009: Homeschool Academic Achievement and Demographics."