Home Schooling Works, Study Finds

Data Not Representative, Critics Contend

Home schooling works, according to Dr. Lawrence M. Rudner, author of the largest survey and testing program of home schoolers to date.

Rudner's Scholastic Achievement and Demographic Characteristics of Home School Students in 1998 studied 20,760 K-12 home schooled students in 11,930 families. It found that "those parents choosing to make a commitment to home schooling are able to provide a very successful academic environment." Rudner believes his results show that home education works very well for children who are not educated in traditional schools.

But critics charge that Rudner's sampling of home schoolers "has led to an erroneous picture of home schooling."

Kariane Welner and Kevin Welner contend in Contextualizing Homeschooling Data: A Response to Rudner that Rudner's analysis "fails to offer a straightforward explanation of important and striking limitations." These critics say the sample from which Rudner drew was non-random and represented only about "2 percent (even by the most conservative estimates)" of the entire home school population in America.

Although previous studies on home schooled children involved fewer than 5,000 students, Rudner's survey and testing results were taken from parents who used the Bob Jones University (BJU) standardized testing program. "Because the sample was biased in favor of a population associated with BJU, extrapolations from that data are very unreliable," say the Welners.

But Rudner believes his sampling reveals an accurate picture. He also cautions that the "study does not demonstrate that home schooling is superior to public or private schools."

"I think the real lesson from this report is that parental involvement really affects education. It's consistent with all the literature," says Rudner, whose two children attend public schools. "I'm viewing home schooling as the pinnacle of parent involvement."

In spite of the limitations of Scholastic Achievement and Demographic Characteristics of Home School Students in 1998, the Welners "applaud Rudner's contribution to building a greater understanding of the home schooling movement."