Thursday, August 13, 2009

Yes, we can replace the irreparable dayschool system.

There is a way out of the dayschool crisis - a way that gives every Jewish child an education that is both academic and Torah based. A way that cuts costs down to a fraction of what parents are now paying for tuition. A way that reduces costs to nothing but textbooks and materials and the teachers' stipends. A way that has been tested for two decades now by other religious groups and works so well that the kids in these environments test far and away above the national averages academically and still learn and retain their religious classes. A way the keeps the financially strapped Jewish kids separate from the dysfunctional, failing, and decadent public school system.

What is that way? Homeschool cooperatives.

Study: Homeschoolers score 37 points higher
Costs also average $500, compared to $10,000 at public school
Posted: August 11, 2009 8:28 pm Eastern
By Bob Unruh © 2009 WorldNetDaily

A newly released study from the Home School Legal Defense Association shows that not only do homeschoolers incur expenses only 5 percent of what public schools spend on each student, they score nearly 40 points higher on standardized achievement tests...

...The report, "Progress Report 2009: Homeschool Academic Achievement and Demographics," was conducted by Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute...

...The survey included 11,739 homeschool students in all 50 states for the 2007-2009 academic year, and the HSLDA said the results were consistent with previous studies on homeschoolers' achievements...

...Drawing on the results from 15 independent testing services, the Progress Report 2009, the most comprehensive homeschool academic study ever completed, showed homeschoolers who participated in the California Achievement Test, Iowa Tests of Basic Skills and Stanford Achievement Test scored 37 percentile points above public school students on standardized tests.

...The study also showed that achievement gaps common in public schools and linked to income levels and other factors mostly were absent or minimal in the homeschool community.

...Children whose parents did not have college degrees were at the 83rd percentile and children in homes where both parents held college degrees were at the 90th percentile.

"Because of the one-on-one instruction homeschoolers receive, we are prepared academically to be productive and contributing members of today's society," Smith said.

"Homeschooling is a rapidly growing, thriving education movement that is challenging the conventional wisdom about the best way to raise and educate the next generation," said Smith.

Regarding costs, the average public school spends nearly $10,000 per child per year, but the Progress Report said the average homeschool parent spends about $500 per child per year...

..."Despite much resistance from outside the homeschool movement, whether from teachers unions, politicians, school administrators, judges, social service workers, or even family members, over the past few decades homeschoolers have slowly but surely won acceptance as a mainstream education alternative. This has been due in part to the commissioning of research which demonstrates the academic success of the average homeschooler," the HSLDA report said.

Homeschoolers achieved the 89th percentile in reading, 84th in language, 84th in math, 86th in science and 84th in social studies.

The 37-point margin was significantly higher than the 30-point margin reported in a 1998 study on the issue, the HSLDA said...

...The report by Chris Klicka, senior counsel for the HSLDA, is titled, "The Myth of Teacher Qualifications." He revealed that having "certified" teachers actually has a negative impact in some situations.

He reported, "Educational research does not indicate any positive correlation between teacher qualifications and student performance. Many courts have found teacher qualification requirements on homeschoolers to be too excessive or not appropriate. The trend in state legislatures across the country indicates an abandonment of teacher qualification requirements for homeschool teachers. In fact, Americans, in general, are realizing that the necessity of teacher qualifications is a myth. The teachers' unions and other members of the educational establishment make up the small minority still lobbying for teacher certification in order to protect their disintegrating monopoly on education."

The assessment said, "One of the most significant studies in this area was performed by Dr. Eric Hanushek of the University of Rochester, who surveyed the results of 113 studies on the impact of teachers' qualifications on their students' academic achievement. Eighty-five percent of the studies found no positive correlation between the educational performance of the students and the teacher's educational background...


A homeschool cooperative works like a regular homeschool except children from more than one family homeschool together. In the case of a community-wide cooperative, classes of 6-8 students per grade level would be assigned to meet in homes and work together, with a mom or salaried teacher. Kids bring their own lunches, and usually finish state required daily academic coursework much faster than in large institutional settings, giving time for ample religious training. In the afternoon hours, groups can break up and re-form into classes for music (the local colleges have a plethora of music majors who can teach various instruments and music theory and will work odd hours inexpensively), arts (ditto for art majors: oils, watercolors, sculpting, mixed-media, drawing, etc.), crafts (including apprenticeships with local craftspersons for teens), practical life classes (budgeting, spreadsheets, gardening, cooking, etc.), sports leagues, swimming, or other special interests. The only limit is the kid's imaginations.

The parents can feel their kids are safe and secure by way of internet webcam, streamlining the class's activities to a secure site where the parents can log in during any break in their day to see the kids interacting with the teacher. Tests can be swapped from the kid's "homeroom" teacher to another homeroom teacher on a rotating basis to make sure grading is fair and consistent. And all kids would take a standard achievement test (available online or by ordering paper copies) as often as the cooperative chooses to make sure their academic progress is up to par. A teacher whose student achievement lags can be replaced or moved to a different grade level more consistent with her teaching style. The schedule can be traditional spring and fall semesters, modified for trimesters, or "year round" with 4 quarters and vacation time between each (my personal favorite).

The point of homeschooling is that moms are the vast majority of teachers, and work unpaid or for a very small stipend. The textbooks are agreed upon by the cooperative as a whole and are passed down to the upcoming grades each year - meaning after the first year or two the only materials costs are workbooks and various kinds of paper and writing implements. The cooperative could eventually buy a set of 6-8 laptops with discounted "student versions" of various major software and rotate them, likewise, to the next upcoming grade. Some of the neighborhood shuls, yeshivas, or federation offices could donate a room for a lending library. Or it could be housed in some parent's garage - the possibilities are endless.

This is a workable plan - obviously, Christians have used it for years. There's no reason we can't do the same, and get just as good results.

UPDATE: I have submitted this to the Jerusalem Post's bloggers contest. If you thought this was a decent article, please vote for it there.

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