In the Nation's Interest

Homeschooling Can’t Come at the Expense of Accountability

Howard Fluhr
Chairman
The Segal Group;
Member
Committee for Economic Development

I understand that parents must play the central role in how their children are educated, but also believe that all students – no matter how they’re taught – deserve to be held to high standards. Unfortunately, a recent New York Times article details that numerous states have substantially relaxed their academic requirements for those that are homeschooled.

As author Motoko Rich reports, Pennsylvania, for example, now “allows parents to certify that their children have completed high school graduation requirements and to issue homegrown diplomas without any outside endorsement.” Moreover, families once submitted a portfolio of what their children studied each year, but are now excused from this sensible obligation as well.

Rich notes that the increase in homeschooling, in both Pennsylvania and throughout the country, is due in part to parents wanting their children to avoid the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Before commenting on this purported cause, I need to say that this issue is much broader than the Common Core. I see it as running in reverse from universal public education, which is necessary for an educated, democratic society. Our nation’s first President, George Washington, astutely noted that a sound education is essential for a virtuous, happy citizenry. That being said, at a time when teachers are criticized for failings, who on earth could imagine that any random person who chooses can take on this important role? It’s a dereliction by the states. Education isn't something to be left to novices.

In regard to the Common Core, families that homeschool should strongly consider voluntarily adopting these standards, especially now that some states have lowered accountability for this subset of students. To begin with, the CCSS are of high and rigorous quality. In mathematics, for example, fellow CED Member Pat Gross has pointed out that the development of the standards was influenced by the findings of top-tier international assessments; moreover, research confirms that they’re on par with the standards of high-performing nations. 

But parents that homeschool don’t just value quality.

They also place a premium on autonomy, which the CCSS incorporates. A common misconception is that the standards prescribe a fixed, set-in-stone curriculum for each state. Nothing could be further from the truth. The standards are academic benchmarks for students to meet, leaving the way in which they go about meeting them completely up to local  school districts, principals, and teachers, and, in this case, parents.

For homeschooling policies and practices that strike a balance between adequate oversight and educational autonomy, look to the Coalition for Responsible Home Education.

Homeschooling can be a viable option, but mustn’t come at the expense of accountability, nor should it be justified as a way in which to avoid rigorous, internationally-benchmarked standards.

 

Member blogs are the views of individual members and not the official policy of CED.