Which single ingredient in education is the one most likely to improve student performance? School worker unions may say higher salaries for their members, educational fad promoters may say more self-esteem training, legislators may say tougher school regulations.

But the verdict of hundreds of studies is that parental involvement is the one ingredient that improves student performance the most.

A small but explosively growing number of parents is demonstrating the ultimate in involvement: They homeschool their children.

About 1.2 million children are homeschooled nationwide, up from only 15,000 in the early ’80s. Today, about 56,000 Michigan students are homeschooled.

How do homeschoolers perform? A recent study found that they typically score better than 80 percent of other students in reading, math, science, and social studies. Universities eagerly accept Michigan homeschoolers based on average ACT scores of 23.1, nearly two points higher than other students average.

This does not mean that everyone can or should homeschool their children. But it does suggest that, until public schools offer parents meaningful choices in how to be involved in their children’s education, millions of them will simply opt out of the system.

For the Mackinac Center, this is Catherine Martin.