It is obvious to everyone that the U.S. education system has problems. We are falling behind in math and science. It is hard to imagine much of a technological future without math and science. But while the problems are easy to identify, the solutions are rather more difficult to nail down.
The problem is easy to quantify. Just check out our rankings. What is not so obvious is why we are having the problem in the first place. We have freedom and wealth. We have the ability to explore the best theories, philosophies, and methods of education money can buy. We have a mix of public, private, home, religious, and alternative schools. The educational possibilities in this country are limitless. Yet, when the final scores are tallied, we come in near the bottom in reading, math, and science.
Public vs. Private vs. Home
It is important to note that none of these school types fit neatly into well defined categories. We know that not all public schools are created equally. Some schools have only children of wealth and privilege, while others have only the opposite. Those schools of privilege tend to perform well above average. Yet all Public schools are lumped together.
The same tension exists in private school. They do better overall. But when affluence is factored out of the equation, private schools often do worse than public schools. It is just that wealth and privilege is a huge factor for private school success.
Homeschool success is not a measure of demographics, but of curriculum. Structured homeschool performs well above average. While unstructured homeschools perform below average. That said, overall, homeschool seems to be the clear winner when it comes to academic performance. What is it about homeschooling that gives it the academic edge? Here are three possibilities:
I believe the key to academic success in a homeschool environment is the same as the key in all other environments: parental involvement. In no other environment is the parent more involved. With homeschool, the parent and the teacher are the same person. Communication is absolute. Involvement is absolute.
The best way to keep a child on the path to success is to know where she is along that path at all times. In a homeschool situation, it is all but impossible for any child to get left behind. Assessing the effectiveness of the core curriculum in a public school setting is considerably more difficult. Edulastic.com lists some of the feedback they received from teachers regarding the challenges of implementation:
- It’s difficult finding time to create Common Core assessments for every standard.
- Building curriculum maps is a difficult process that requires more teacher collaboration.
- Grading and tracking assessments—while frequently checking on students’ progress—requires more actionable tools & strategies.
- More alternatives to the stressful and inefficient twice a year summative assessments is needed.
While public schools have software solutions that can help, the most effective formative assessment happens when teachers have productive communications with highly involved parents.
Finally, homeschooling has one more advantage they get for free, that requires a certain amount of wealth in any other setting: tutoring. Because of the 1:1 nature of homeschooling, all lessons are done via private tutor. Every homeschooled student has a private tutor for several hours a day, everyday.
With a 20:1 student/teacher ratio in a traditional classroom, that kind of focused attention is simply not possible. In such a classroom, there is almost no focused attention given to any student. It is the sort of thing that parents can provide that teachers can’t. A teacher has 20+ students per class, and multiple classes. A parent has only one to three students ever.
Whether it is because of superior formative assessment or 1:1 tutoring, it all comes back to parental involvement. Though unproven, there seems to be a correlation between parental involvement and scholastic success worldwide. While it is not the only factor, parental involvement is the true common core to successful education.