Secretary King Is Right: Homeschoolers Need More Options

For Immediate Release: Small Changes Would Increase the Resources Available to Homeschooled Students

Canton, Ma., 9/23/16—This week, as reported by Politico, Education Secretary John B. King, Jr., made the following statements about homeschooling:

Education Secretary John B. King Jr. said today that he’s concerned that homeschooled students aren’t “getting the range of options that are good for all kids.”

But King also said he’s aware of homeschooling families “doing it incredibly well” and he knew of homeschooled students in college who had “very tremendous academic success.”

“Obviously, it’s up to families if they want to take a homeschool approach,” King said, when asked about the topic during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast with reporters.

King noted that research shows homeschooling is growing in popularity.

But King said he worries that “students who are homeschooled are not getting kind of the rapid instructional experience they would get in school”—unless parents are “very intentional about it.”

King said the school experience includes building relationships with peers, teachers and mentors—elements which are difficult to achieve in homeschooling, he said, unless parents focus on it.

“We appreciate that Secretary King understands the challenges involved in homeschooling and the importance of ensuring that homeschooled students have access to a wide range of resources and options,” said Rachel Coleman, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, a 501(c)3 nonprofit founded by homeschool alumni. “We urge Secretary King to increase the options available to homeschooled students by encouraging states and individual school districts to open public school athletics, extracurriculars, and individual courses to homeschooled students.”

Homeschooled students are barred from participation in public school athletics in many states. A 2014 study of homeschool alumni found that respondents who had participated in public school athletics rated their homeschooling experience more highly than did other respondents, suggesting that such participation may improve the homeschool experience. Further, researcher Joseph Richard Barno found that college admissions officers place added weight on extracurriculars when evaluating homeschooled students, making adequate access to extracurriculars such as athletics especially important for homeschooled students who are college-bound. “It’s time to increase homeschooled students’ options by granting them access to public school athletics,” said Coleman.

Homeschooled students would also benefit from access to individual public school classes. One of the strongest findings in current research on homeschooling is a weakness in math attainment. Opening public school math clubs and STEM courses to homeschooled students would help ensure that these students have access to the resources they need to succeed in high school math and, ultimately, in STEM career fields. Data on homeschooled SAT-takers and homeschool graduates’ college attendance suggest that homeschool graduates may be less likely to attend college than other students. “Widening the opportunities available to homeschooled secondary students would help homeschool parents ensure that their children attain college readiness,” noted Coleman.

In addition to access to a wider range of resources, homeschooled students would benefit from greater accountability for homeschool outcomes. While some homeschooled students excel academically and go on to do well in college or the job market, others are left behind, held back by a lack of basic educational attainment. “Accountability is important in every area of life,” said Coleman. “Homeschool parents should be held accountable for educating their children.” Many young adults with bad homeschool experiences have spoken out in favor of greater oversight of homeschooling. “We urge Secretary King to encourage states to create assessment mechanisms that protect homeschooled children’s interest in receiving a good education in a safe home environment,” added Coleman.

We will be reaching out to Secretary King with an offer to introduce him to some homeschool alumni, and to express a willingness to speak further on these issues. We will also be sending his office facts and information about homeschooling and homeschool reform.

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.

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