When people ask me why I started working with homeschoolers, I tell them it’s because I saw the products of home education, and they really impressed me. While I was on the faculty at Ball State University, I had students who graduated from public schools, students who graduated from private schools, and students who graduated from homeschools. In my experience, the homeschool graduates were truly head-and-shoulders above the rest. This led me to look at academic studies that evaluated the efficacy of home education, and those studies echoed my experiences: When it comes to academics, homeschooled students are simply a cut above the rest. That’s why I started working with homeschoolers. I saw the products, and they impressed me so much that I wanted to be a part of the process that produced them.Dr. Jay Wile: When it comes to academics, homeschooled students are simply a cut above the rest. Click To Tweet
Now that I have been working with homeschoolers for a long time, I am more convinced than ever that homeschool graduates make incredible university students. In addition, several studies have been produced that specifically compare the performance of homeschool graduates at university to that of their peers. Not surprisingly, those studies demonstrate just how successful homeschool graduates are in a university environment.
Let me share a few of these studies with you. I will start with my favorite one, which was done at the University of St. Thomas. Because it is a Roman Catholic institution, it separates its students into four categories: graduates of public school, graduates of Roman Catholic schools, graduates of private schools that are not Roman Catholic, and graduates of homeschools. They looked at several different things, but I want to highlight just three of them: first year grade point average (GPA), fourth-year GPA, and the percentage that graduate in four years. Here is what they found:
[Cogan, Michael F., “Exploring Academic Outcomes of Homeschooled Students,” Journal of College Admission, Summer 2010.]
Do you notice anything? When it comes to both first-year and fourth-year GPA, the graduates of public, Roman Catholic, and private schools did about the same, but the homeschoolers were a cut above. In addition, the homeschool graduates were significantly more likely to graduate from the university in four years. This is my favorite study because it illustrates exactly what I saw when I was on faculty at Ball State University. There was little difference between the graduates of public and private schools, but the homeschool graduates were a cut above them all.
Baylor University also did a study on their homeschool graduates. It wasn’t as extensive as the University of St. Thomas study, but its results were similar. It found that homeschool graduates had significantly higher SAT and ACT scores than the rest of the incoming students. The homeschool graduates, for example, averaged 115 points higher on the SAT than the rest of the incoming students. While that is interesting, the really important result is how the homeschool graduates performed in their freshman year at Baylor. The average homeschool graduate had a freshman GPA of 3.364, while the average for the rest of the freshman class was 3.038. [Office of Institutional Research and Testing, “Profile of First-Time Freshmen from Home Schools, Fall 2005 to Fall 2009,” Baylor University, 2010]
A more detailed study was done as a Ph.D. dissertation. [Jack N. Bagwell Jr, “The Academic Success of Homeschooled Students in a South Carolina Technical College,” PhD dissertation, University of Nebraska—Lincoln, 2010] The study looked at students who attended York Technical College, a community college in South Carolina. Why would a graduate student at the University of Nebraska study incoming students at a community college in South Carolina? Because he recognized that studies like the ones I discussed above are done on students who are subjected to a rigorous admissions process. It’s possible that universities are stricter when it comes to accepting homeschool graduates. So homeschool graduates might be doing better than their peers at university because they were selected to be better students than their peers.
York Technical College has an open admissions policy. That means students are not subjected to very much screening before they are allowed to enroll. As a result, the author thought this would lead to a more honest comparison between the homeschool graduates and their peers. Nevertheless, the results were similar to those of the previous studies. The homeschool graduates had a GPA of 2.99, while their peers had a GPA of 2.67. So whether or not they are selected to a rigorous screening process, homeschool graduates simply perform better in higher education.Dr. Jay Wile: homeschool graduates simply perform better in higher education. Click To Tweet
The study also looked at the results of COMPASS tests among the students. Because the college has an open admissions policy, it accepts a lot of students whose academic abilities cannot be assessed easily. As a result, the college uses COMPASS tests in order to help them place students in their first-year classes. These tests simply try to determine how much a student knows about a given subject. There are COMPASS tests for writing, reading, pre-algebra, algebra, college algebra, etc.
The study found that in all but one area, the homeschool graduates had higher COMPASS test scores than their peers. This means that for the vast majority of subjects, the homeschool graduates were better prepared for college than their peers. In the one test where the homeschool graduates scored lower than their peers (college algebra), the difference was small enough that it fell within the error range of the study. Thus, it’s not possible to know whether or not that result is valid. So in the end, whether you look at performance in college or how much the students know when they get to college, the homeschool graduates do better.
When you look at these three studies as a whole (and there are others that give similar results), the conclusion is clear: homeschooling prepares students well for higher education. They not only perform better than their peers at university, but they also start out better prepared for the subjects that they will have to master. Of course, this isn’t surprising to me. When I was on the faculty at Ball State University, I experienced all kinds of students, and it was obvious to me that the homeschool graduates were the best.