Education secretary’s comments rattle homeschoolers
Homeschooling | John King said homeschool families aren’t giving their children the range of options best for all students
by Samantha Gobba
Posted 9/27/16, 10:33 am
U.S. Education Secretary John King created a flurry of frustration and fear among homeschool advocates last week with comments viewed as ignorant at best or, at worst, hostile toward alternative education.
“Students who are homeschooled are not getting kind of the rapid instructional experience they would get in school,” King said in a press conference hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, adding that’s true unless parents are “very intentional about it.”
But homeschool advocates say students’ performance proves homeschooling’s success—homeschoolers perform better than average on standardized tests and in college.
“We’re hopeful that the remarks are born out of ignorance, rather than out of antipathy toward us, but the silence is beginning to feel like, it’s ill will rather than, he just doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) chairman Michael Farris told me.
Farris said he is personally reaching out to King’s office in hopes of swaying him in favor of homeschooling.
King did give a nod to homeschooling’s success, noting some families are “doing it incredibly well.” He also acknowledged parents are free to choose homeschooling for their family.
But he said those children probably aren’t “getting the range of options that are good for all kids.”
Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute, told me contrary to King’s belief, homeschooled students have a vast array of curriculum and extra-curricular activities available to them.
“If he’s thinking options like science—beakers and Bunsen burners—that’s all available to homeschool families. If he’s thinking about instruments, like musical instruments, it’s all available,” Ray said. “You can find homeschool orchestras and bands and quartets and quintets. I think he probably doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
Even if state-run schools do provide more “options,” they don’t produce the same academic results as homeschooling.
Homeschooled students consistently score far higher on standardized tests than the average college-bound high school senior, and a University of St. Thomas study shows homeschoolers have higher college GPAs and are more likely to graduate than public school students, with a graduation rate of 58.6 percent for public school students and 66.7 percent for homeschoolers.
Meanwhile, just over one-third of public school eighth-graders can read at their grade level.
“Whatever the range of options is [for homeschooled students], they seem to be doing really well,” Ray said.
King’s remarks worry HSLDA, which opposed his nomination in March based on his firm support for Common Core State Standards.
“We believe his comments are paving the way for more government oversight to make sure that parents are being intentional,” HSLDA said in a statement.
Farris is further concerned the anti-homeschooling sentiment will seep into the next administration, should Hillary Clinton win the election in November.
Clinton has been a staunch supporter of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty under which, should it be ratified in the United States, parents would have little to no authority over their child’s education.
“It’s really clear that any theory of parental control of education is antithetic to the central premises of the treaty, that is that the government gets to decide in every case what is best for the child,” Farris said. “It will be a tremendous attack on every parent in this country, especially those who choose educational alternatives—Christian schools, home schools—and any parent that wants to teach their children that Jesus is the only way to God.”
Samantha is a former WORLD correspondent.