Saturday, August 15, 2009

U.S. homeschoolers score 37 points higher

Costs also average $500, compared to $10,000 at public school

A newly released study from the Home School Legal Defense Association shows that not only do homeschoolers incur expenses only 5 percent of what public schools spend on each student, they score nearly 40 points higher on standardized achievement tests. "These results validate the dedication of thousands of homeschool parents who are giving their children the best education possible," said Michael Smith, president of the advocacy organization.

The HSLDA said homeschooling in the United States already includes about 4 percent of the school-aged population and is growing at about 7 percent a year, now involving some two million children. If you ever wondered why you should yank your kids from government schools, read "The Little Book of Big Reasons to Homeschool"

The report, "Progress Report 2009: Homeschool Academic Achievement and Demographics," was conducted by Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute. The survey included 11,739 homeschool students in all 50 states for the 2007-2009 academic year, and the HSLDA said the results were consistent with previous studies on homeschoolers' achievements.

Drawing on the results from 15 independent testing services, the Progress Report 2009, the most comprehensive homeschool academic study ever completed, showed homeschoolers who participated in the California Achievement Test, Iowa Tests of Basic Skills and Stanford Achievement Test scored 37 percentile points above public school students on standardized tests. The study also showed that achievement gaps common in public schools and linked to income levels and other factors mostly were absent or minimal in the homeschool community.

The study showed homeschooled boys scored at the 87th percentile and girls were at the 88th percentile. Students where the household income was under $35,000 scored at the 85th percentile and students in homes with a household income over $70,000 were at the 89th percentile. There was only slightly more variance linked to parental education, too. Children whose parents did not have college degrees were at the 83rd percentile and children in homes where both parents held college degrees were at the 90th percentile.

"Because of the one-on-one instruction homeschoolers receive, we are prepared academically to be productive and contributing members of today's society," Smith said. "Homeschooling is a rapidly growing, thriving education movement that is challenging the conventional wisdom about the best way to raise and educate the next generation," said Smith.

Regarding costs, the average public school spends nearly $10,000 per child per year, but the Progress Report said the average homeschool parent spends about $500 per child per year.

Ian Slatter, director of media relations for the HSLDA, cited the 100,000 students graduated each year from homeschools as a reason the activity is getting more and more attention. "Despite much resistance from outside the homeschool movement, whether from teachers unions, politicians, school administrators, judges, social service workers, or even family members, over the past few decades homeschoolers have slowly but surely won acceptance as a mainstream education alternative. This has been due in part to the commissioning of research which demonstrates the academic success of the average homeschooler," the HSLDA report said.

Homeschoolers achieved the 89th percentile in reading, 84th in language, 84th in math, 86th in science and 84th in social studies. The 37-point margin was significantly higher than the 30-point margin reported in a 1998 study on the issue, the HSLDA said.

"This particular study is the most comprehensive ever undertaken. It attempts to build upon and improve on the previous research. One criticism of the Rudner [1998] study was that it only drew students from one large testing service. Although there was no reason to believe that homeschoolers participating with that service were automatically non-representative of the broader homeschool community, HSLDA decided to answer this criticism by using 15 independent testing services for this new study. There can be no doubt that homeschoolers from all walks of life and backgrounds participated in the "Progress Report."

WND had reported only weeks earlier on an HSLDA assessment that determined moms and dads can teach their own children as effectively as any "certified" teacher. The report by Chris Klicka, senior counsel for the HSLDA, is titled, "The Myth of Teacher Qualifications." He revealed that having "certified" teachers actually has a negative impact in some situations.

He reported, "Educational research does not indicate any positive correlation between teacher qualifications and student performance. Many courts have found teacher qualification requirements on homeschoolers to be too excessive or not appropriate. The trend in state legislatures across the country indicates an abandonment of teacher qualification requirements for homeschool teachers. In fact, Americans, in general, are realizing that the necessity of teacher qualifications is a myth. The teachers' unions and other members of the educational establishment make up the small minority still lobbying for teacher certification in order to protect their disintegrating monopoly on education."

The assessment said, "One of the most significant studies in this area was performed by Dr. Eric Hanushek of the University of Rochester, who surveyed the results of 113 studies on the impact of teachers' qualifications on their students' academic achievement. Eighty-five percent of the studies found no positive correlation between the educational performance of the students and the teacher's educational background. "Although 7 percent of the studies did find a positive correlation, 5 percent found a negative impact," the report said.

More here

Leftist Britain to make the best universities accessible only to the well-off!

The left-hand clearly does not know what the right-hand is doing

Imagine that all the children in this country went to state schools. There would be good schools, bad schools, but no schools that charged fees. Pushy parents would still try to wangle their kids into the best schools, but simply buying a better education wouldn’t be an option.

And then imagine if the top schools asked the Government for permission to charge fees on top of their state funding. Of course this would mean losing pupils from poor backgrounds. But that couldn’t be helped if they were to maintain their high standards.

I presume that any British government would turn them down flat. Even the right wing of the Tory party would balk at state schools being allowed to price themselves out of the reach of the poor.

Yet this is exactly what is about to happen to the British university system. Whichever party wins the next election, it will clamp down hard on state support for universities. In return it will allow the leading universities to charge top-up fees of £7,000 to £8,000 a year.

At present university funding is a hybrid system. In most of Britain (the Scots are, of course, different) the government gives universities an annual sum for each undergraduate of between £3,000 and £15,000, depending on subject. Students themselves are asked for about £3,000 on top. The government doesn’t allow universities to ask for more, although they can, in principle, charge less. And because this cap on fees is so low, nearly all universities ask for the full £3,000, with the result that doing a degree at Oxford costs no more than at Hull.

But if the limit on top-up fees is raised in line with all the noises currently emanating from Peter Mandelson’s überdepartment, the market will start to bite for real. Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College and the other top dogs will promptly charge the maximum. But the Hulls of this world won’t be able to fill their seats at those prices, and will ask far less. At which point the best universities will become the preserve of the rich.

Political leaders on both sides are rightly keen to increase the proportion of state school children in the top universities. About half of the undergraduates at Oxbridge come from fee-paying schools, although the private sector educates less than one tenth of the age group. But there will be no hope of fixing this once universities can charge commercial rates. The people who can afford top university fees will be those who can afford school fees, and the government will have connived in turning our university sector into a state-subsidised version of our miserable school system.

No doubt there will be a system of means-tested bursaries to help families on low incomes. But this won’t solve the problem, any more that Margaret Thatcher’s misbegotten assisted places scheme turned the public schools into havens of social equality. A bursary scheme will assist the few children from very poor families who fight their way to a top university. But in a country where most households manage on less than £25,000 a year after tax, there will be a lot of families above the means-test line who can’t afford the extra fees.

The high-end British universities argue that their inability to charge higher fees is making them slide down the international league tables. But the facts do not bear this out. Most of these tables rank up to 20 British universities in the top 100 worldwide, and about 4 in the top 10. Only the US does better and even it is behind on a per capita basis. Britain is streets ahead of its European competitors. Any country in the world would give its right arm to have universities like ours.

Indeed there is good evidence that universities that rely on fees from rich parents are rarely academic heavy-hitters. There are plenty of “rich kids’ colleges” in the US, and some are academically substantial. But the vast majority of leading US universities are not like this. They are either hugely endowed, such as Harvard and Yale, so able to admit students without even asking if they can pay. Or they are highly subsidised state institutions, such as the Universities of Michigan and Texas, where local pride ensures that residents receive a fine education at nominal rates.

Neither of these options is on the cards in Britain. The kind of money commanded by Harvard and Yale lies far beyond the dreams of British university bursars. And you only have to imagine asking Hull’s taxpayers to fund its university to see the problem. Which leaves only one alternative. Once the cap comes off top-up fees, our proudest universities will quickly turn into rich kids’ colleges, and academic excellence is more likely to suffer than gain.

We all know that public money will be tight over the next decade. But the government must find some alternative to free-market university fees. It is no accident that admission to one of our world-leading universities is one of the few things in modern Britain that money can’t buy. Once it is restricted to those children lucky enough to have rich parents we really will start to slide down the international scale.


Dumbed down Britain again

Boy, 15, gets an exam pass - just for using the bus

Eagerly awaiting his GCSE results, Bobby McHale was surprised to receive an early letter from an examination board. The 15-year-old was not expecting his results until later this month, so he was understandably nervous as he opened the mystery envelope. But what he saw left him astonished, for Bobby had indeed been awarded a certificate - for getting the bus.

It came from the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance, the largest of the three English exam boards, and was headed Using Public Transport (Unit 1). The certificate recognised, among other skills, his ability to walk to the local bus stop, enter the bus 'in a calm and safe manner', and wait until the bus has stopped before trying to get off.

Bobby, who wasn't even aware he had taken the test, received the AQA certificate after attending a three-week holiday scheme for teenagers run by Bury Youth Services in Greater Manchester. Some of his friends who attended the scheme also received the qualification although others, including his younger brother Joe, 13, did not. 'Maybe he wasn't up to it,' said Bobby, who is hoping for A grades at GCSE. 'At first I thought I'd got some sort of GCSE early. When I read out the details to the family we all fell about laughing. 'The Bury Youth Scheme is excellent and we get the chance to do a lot of activities but I can't see the point of the certificate at all.'

His father Andy, 44, who runs a marketing company, said: 'Bobby's face was a picture when he saw the certificate. 'The Bury Youth Scheme is excellent and I can only suppose this comes from some box they have to tick in order to get funding. 'As part of it Bobby certainly travelled by bus. Maybe it's boosted his confidence because he was nominated as head boy. We think he may go far - so long as he gets the 135.' Bobby, who attended the course last year, said he won't be boasting of his achievement. 'I haven't bothered framing it,' he said.

More than 920 young people had signed up for the BRAG (Bury and Rochdale Active Generation) course last year and around 300 would have been awarded some sort of accreditation - either for sporting prowess or through an AQA qualification. The annual cost of running BRAG events is £20,000, paid for through a Government grant.

Barbara Lewis, of Youth Support Services in Bury, said: 'This certificate isn't just about getting on the bus, it's about time management, working out bus routes and for some people, travelling alone for the first time. 'We encourage people to make their own way to the range of activities on offer and work with parents by asking them not to drop them off in the car. For some it may be the only qualification they get. 'The idea is that it's about teaching young people self reliance and emotional well-being through fun and challenging activities. We try to reward young people for their achievements and their social and personal development.

AQA awards 49 per cent of full course GCSEs and 42 per cent of Alevels in England. Pupils sit more than 3.5million exams with it each year. A spokesman said: 'We expect centres to ensure that candidates are entered for units that are appropriate to their needs and abilities.'


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