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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Home School Rigorous? What Do Your Public School Graduates Know?

HB 1160 passed the South Dakota House yesterday on a 42–24 vote. The bill would allow home school students to qualify for the state's Opportunity Scholarship by scoring a 26 on the ACT or a 1200 or better on the math-verbal portion of the SAT. That's higher than the 24 regular high school students have to get... but I suspect most home schoolers are saying, "No problem. Bring it on."

Michael Woodring at Constant Conservative notes the bill has drawn a line of news coverage that struck me as a hint of anti-home-school bias:

Because home-schooled students don’t take the rigorous high school classes, they would have to score 26 on their ACT to qualify. ["Bill Would Expand Scholarship Program," AP via KELO, 2010.02.16].

As Woodring points out, home school families already jump through more hoops and make more sacrifices to get their kids to college. They buy more books and educational materials, work harder to arrange extracurricular activities when their school districts won't let their kids play, and often give up outside income to stay home with the kids more, all while dutifully paying their property taxes to support the public school system.

Of course, you do know what happens when people have to work harder for what they get, don’t you? They usually value it more [Michael Woodring, "Homeschool in South Dakota Is Not Sufficiently Rigorous?" Constant Conservative, 2010.02.16].

The suggestion that homeschoolers don't take rigorous courses demonstrates an erroneous conflation of sitting in a classroom with real learning.

I've heard from other teachers and seen firsthand the entitlement mentality that is growing in our public high schools. We have seniors graduating who can't identify a subject and predicate in a sentence. We have university freshmen who need remedial English and math. We have too many students who think university is just grades 13–16, four more years to sit through and so they can get another diploma.

And too many students and parents think that just showing up and sitting through the process entitles them to a passing grade. Too many parents are willing to pressure high school teachers to give their kids the grade they need to qualify for the Opportunity scholarship. In too many cases, the grade is no longer a true measure of a student's acquired knowledge and skills; it's the permission slip teachers are forced to hand out so parents can lower their tuition bills.

All that entitlement mentality... and I thought my neighbors were Republicans.

As I've pointed out in previous coverage of HB 1160, homeschoolers already beat the national average on the ACT by 1.4 points. You public school kids are dragging the average down. Hit those books... and remember, you'll be competing against my daughter and the very rigorous Lake Herman Academy curriculum.


  1. Our youngest daughter was home-schooled. In high school she began taking some science classes. She took Bio 1,2,3; Chem 1,2; Physics 1. You know what? She never received a 'B'. On the other hand WE gave her a few 'B's. We did not use grades in grade school, in HS we kept better records to provide a transcript for college.
    At SDSU they were a little edgy about her transcript, in spite of a pretty good ACT score. But you know what? she has completed 3 semesters at college and has not yet received a 'B' there either. i would say our system was properly 'rigorous'.
    Any school, public, private or home can fudge on grades or requirements. In the broader world of college or Vo Tech, where they are with a diverse group of people, that will give a better idea of how well any school has done.

  2. Well, hearing from my own kids what kids in high school do in regard to cheating, I think colleges should be a little edgy about any transcript from public high school too. The proof of the pudding is more in the ACT scores and what they accomplish once in college. I'm glad the state is offering these scholarships to home schooled kids too, as they deserve the same opportunities.

    I still prefer public or private school because of the social skills and activities they get to participate in with that route, but I won't critize anyone willing to homeschool as that is a huge personal responsibility to take on for the entire family.

  3. Hrm, my high school and college experiences were two different worlds. In HS, most of the grade was through homework. In college, it was two tests (midterm + final). So, they really tested two different things. I went through an engineering program in college, so this may not apply to other disciplines.

    I don't see any problem with using the ACT/SAT as an arbitrary cut off for this scholarship. It predicts college ability as well as any other metric.

  4. ...and if ACT/SAT is as good a predictor as any for college success, what justification is left for the state to require kids who pursue an alternative to the traditional classroom post higher scores?

  5. I was wondering why too, Cory. Still penalizing them?

    Linda M


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