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"The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests." Brian D. Ray, Ph.D. source

I tried finding a primary source for statements like this and wasn't able to; just more links to secondary sources mostly by Dr. Ray. A lot of home education studies are also fairly outdated.

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    Just curious: why should it take a lot of funding? Don't the people who administer SAT's keep stats on the schools of the test-takers?
    – explunit
    Apr 8, 2015 at 20:37
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    Simply comparing the average score of a home schooled students to a public schooled students is easy, but is likely missing the point. It is a lot more difficult to do a study where you do a comparison that controls for say income, number of parents, educational level of parents, and any of a number of other factors that we know influence the average test scores of students.
    – KAI
    Apr 8, 2015 at 22:45
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    Let's keep the comments on how to improve this question, not about our personal opinions on the subject.
    – Sklivvz
    Apr 9, 2015 at 19:53
  • Re. the tag, I think it's reasonable to assume that the claim in question (i.e. the statement by Brian Ray) is a claim about the scores of students in the United States. Ditto adding the united-states tag to the related question: that's a claim from PBS, which is also presumably about the USA.
    – ChrisW
    Apr 9, 2015 at 20:29
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    @KAI specifically, parental involvement in education is a huge predictor of academic success, and it is pretty hard NOT to be an involved parent when you are homeschooling.
    – Jonathon
    Oct 30, 2015 at 16:26

1 Answer 1

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From Homeschooling in Full View: A Reader (Cooper, 2005) p. 4 (internal citations omitted):

Studies done by dozens of researchers during the past 20 years examined the academic achievement of the home-educated. [...] the homeschooled have scored, on average, at the 65th to 80th percentile on standardized academic tests in the United States and Canada, compared to the public school average of the 50th percentile.

This references the work of Brian Ray, which the question already mentions, but also Home Education in Canada: A Summary of the Pan-Canadian Study on Home Education 2003 (Van Pelt/CCHE, 2003).

Over 94% of home-educated students scored above the Canadian norm for both grade equivalency and basic skills.

The average home-educated Canadian student in grades one through eight ranks in the 81st percentile in reading, 76th percentile in language and 74th percentile in mathematics. The mean (average) percentile ranks for home-educated students in grades nine through 12 were, in reading 85th, in language 84th and in mathematics 67th.

These results are correlational, not interventional. (CCHE, 2003), for example, simply distributed packages to 5,800 home-educating families across Canada and invited them to participate in a 16-page survey and self-administer Canadian Achievement Tests.

In The Correlational Relationship Between Homeschooling Demographics and High Test Scores (Burns, 1999), Burns notes that the "vast majority" of homeschooled students have married, biological parents with higher than average incomes and educations, and "watch much less television than their publicly schooled counterparts". These characteristics have each been shown to influence academic achievement.

I could only find one study that attempted to control for any of these other factors. Home schooling: The ameliorator of negative influences on learning (Ray, 2000) found that "children in homeschool families with low income and in which the parents have little education are scoring, on average, above state-school averages" (quote from Homeschoolers on to College (Ray, 2004)). Ray is president of the National Home Education Research Institute.


In my opinion, that there is a difference seems established enough, given the independent results by Ray and Van Pelt, even though they are both associated with home education centres/institutes. The research could be be more convincing and produce a more accurate estimate of the magnitude of the effect if it used more representative sampling methods and removed self-reporting. Why there is a difference has not been well studied.

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    Do these results try to control for any of those factors?
    – cpast
    Apr 8, 2015 at 23:24
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    Actually I think it is striking that the public school average is 50th percentile. Assuming there are sufficient numbers of pupils in private schools to be more than a rounding error, which I think is correct, it means that (on this particular metric) public schools are not outperformed by private schools. Go them, for whatever this metric is worth :-) Apr 9, 2015 at 10:14
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    I know this is Skeptic but I have to comment based off of considerable observation of numerous friends who have been homeschooled or homeschool their children. The majority of homeschooling families DEEPLY value education. In fact, quality education is EXACTLY why many pull their children out of public schools! Yes, many homeschool because of disagreements in "science" but they also do it because they see the flaws in a one-size-fits-all education system. Most homeschooling parents tailor their children's learning experiences to each child's learning style. The benefit cannot be disgarded.
    – RLH
    Apr 9, 2015 at 11:27
  • Depending on whether the number of homeschoolers (and any others, e.g. are dropouts counted) is negligible or not, public school average being 50th percentile might actually mean that private schools average below the 50th percentile.
    – Tim S.
    Apr 9, 2015 at 15:22
  • @RLH And note that parents of students way above normal will be more likely to choose to homeschool because the one-size-fits-all of public school is more of a mismatch. Feb 26 at 3:46

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