Subterranean Home-School Blues

Daryl Cobranchi doesn’t like Eduwonk’s views on the Virginia home-schooling debate and cites this study as evidence of the folly of requiring home-school parents to have a college degree. Problem is, the study is a voluntary sample of home-school parents so it’s hardly representative.

Cobranchi notes that the study shows that even when neither parent has a college degree home-schooled children out-perform the public school student average. Yet this statistic is interesting, but essentially meaningless. A self-selected group of home school students (whose parents are more likely to have college degrees in the first place, a key predicator of academic performance) out-perform the average for all public school students. Eye catching? Sure. Yet irrelevant to the college degree debate.

In fact, in terms of the importance of college degrees the study noted that among home school students, “children of college graduates out perform children whose parents do not have a college degree.” And remember, we’re talking about college degrees here, not having the state require teaching certificates for home-school parents (even though, interestingly, the study found that, “almost one out of every four home school students (23.6%) has at least one parent who is a certified teacher”).

Cobranchi argues that the issue is one of personal religious freedom. Fair enough, and again, Eduwonk’s not against home schooling. But Virginia’s collegiate degree requirement includes a religious exemption (keeping it on the right side of SCOTUS rulings in this area) and has some other loopholes that hardly seem unreasonable in light of the complexity of the content students need to master. In fact, the law is sufficiently accommodating now that it’s hard not to speculate that proponents of the bill Virginia Governor Warner vetoed were less interested in “improving” the current policy than scoring political points with key constituencies.

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