Homeschooling Gives a Firm Boost to Academic Achievement

Rodger Williams

In this article we will be looking at the academic achievement of privately home educated students. The family budget supplies the money for that education. Parents control the education process and the curriculum. These parents have willingly chosen to homeschool and are prepared to pay the personal price to do so.

Our data source is state-mandated, nationally-normed tests administered to Oregon homeschool students. Home educating parents are required to have their students tested by qualified neutral testers. It is the legally-required test score results that we analyze here.

giving the same boost to students at all ability levels

In the above graph, the curve on the left shows the distribution of achievement for public school students (median of 50). The curve on the right shows the distribution of achievement for homeschool students (median of 73, adjusted downward from 79 to account for demographic factors). Both distributions are normal, with the well-known bell curve.

The graph compares the public school academic achievement normal curve with the homeschool achievement normal curve. Standardized test norming centers the public school curve at the 50th percentile rank and the homeschool curve at the 73rd percentile rank (on the public school curve, i.e., in terms of public school scores).

The red arrows reflect the difference in underlying achievement between public schooling and homeschooling (demographics having been factored out). The arrow endpoints are shown connected to the corresponding normed scores on the public school curve.

The percentile difference measured by each arrow varies according to how far out it is from the center of the curve. Arrows towards the ends, where the curve is lower, cover smaller percentile ranges because there are fewer students in those achievement ranges, as shown by the smaller area under the curve there.

These arrows are all the same length since the homeschool curve is shifted as a whole to the right. This means that homeschooled students traveling from the 1st percentile to the 4th percentile (measured on the public school curve) receive just as much of an underlying academic achievement boost as those traveling from the 50th to the 73rd.

So students receive the same benefit from homeschooling (or factors uniquely associated with homeschooling) regardless of their academic ability. We label this consistent academic boost The Homeschool Effect.

Although there may be some homeschooled students who do not conform to the normal curve, they are so infrequent that we cannot detect them in the data.

Homeschooled students benefit across the whole ability spectrum, including those who have the most difficulty learning. The Homeschool Effect is an equal-opportunity aid to upward mobility through excellent education.

Data source: All Oregon data used in our study is available from the Oregon Department of Education.

For more information on The Homeschool Effect, please see our detailed explanation.

For more homeschool research results, visit the National Home Education Research Institute -- the definitive source for information about research on homeschooling.

(c) Copyright 2014 Rodger Williams. All rights reserved.