Public opinion of homeschooling slipping?

HarrisInteractive released the results of its May 2008 survey of over 2000 adults regarding the status of American education on Monday. Public schools, it seems, are not doing well in the eye of the public.

Public schools fall to the bottom of the list when it comes to the quality of education they provide. Just one in six U.S. adults (15%) say public schools, grades K-6 provide excellent or very good education while 13 percent say the same about public schools for grades 7-12; Are Public Schools Flunking or Passing?

Worse even than charters and homeschooling. The overview is interesting. Peter Shafer, Vice President and Head of Harris Interactive’s Youth Center of Excellence finds the results of the survey appalling and a call to action.

The continued decline in the public’s perception of the quality of education should be a call to action for administrators and policymakers at all levels of government. It is appalling that one of the best areas of performance in public education the quality of gym classes. Ibid.

Which I might be inclined to think as well, except this is merely an opinion poll. The same adults were asked to rate homeschools, charter schools, public schools and private schools (both church-related and non church-related) whether or not they had any specific experience with any of these forms of education.

Looking at the tables more closely, however, reveals a potentially disturbing trend. After all, homeschooling has made steady gains in successive opinion polls, demonstrating increasing acceptance. In this poll, however, homeschooling seems to have slid back a little bit.

homeschool opinion

The percentage of people rating homeschooling as “excellent” dropped, as well, but still did not upset our ranking above both charter and public schools. The differences are small…almost statistically insignificant. However, in some of these areas, the “approval rate” for homeschooling approaches the statistically insignificant.

I find it interesting that when adults are asked for an opinion of the general state of education, they rank public schooling so poorly. Broken down, however, it is clear that homeschooling ranks far behind public school. So we are better “overall” but not in any of the specifics? Something does not add up.

0 thoughts on “Public opinion of homeschooling slipping?

  1. I think it’s a forest vs. trees problem. Folks can accept home education as long as it is used as a general term, but when you get specific, most folks don’t know how those specifics are accomplished, because all they know is traditional school. They can’t picture a ‘regular’ Mom instructing kids in Algebra or being able to provide adequate care to a special needs child- after all, doncha’ need college for those things? It appears to me that there has been a big push in the media (may the fleas of a thousand camels nest in their armpits) to stress the necessity of higher education, specialization, and certification to be an effective teacher (in spite of the evidence to the contrary).

    I have also seen the attitude of not opposing home education, but also not supporting it either. An example is when someone will say something kind to me about homeschooling my kids- “You are a such a great mom blahblahblah” but when a young mother starts talking about possibly homeschooling, they will discourage her with how difficult it is, how much it costs, etc… even though they don’t know home education from a kumquat.

  2. LOL — exactly! 🙂

    Take “preparation for employment.”

    Well, if you are in a ps, that is one of the goals. Does Johnny show up on time and do as he is told?

    Maybe the 2008 “5%” for that category for hsers is about right.

    I am not training my children to be obedient factory workers.

    They understand that sometimes you take jobs to pay the bills or as entry-level positions to try something or for a certain experience. But they also understand that there’s more to life than that and part of that is finding what you really want to do for a living, growing, changing, etc.

    Whether or not it involves showing up on time and doing as you are told. 🙂

    They are the change that anyone who is comfortable with the the stranglehold the public school system has over everyone is uncomfortable with.

    Nance

  3. Funny thing is, most employers aren’t looking for obedient factory workers. They are looking for people who take ownership of their work and do so independently, which the ps model seems to kill.

    And Sunniemom, I agree completely. 🙂 I think people are generally favorably disposed to “homeschooling” but still see the ps model as the standard, even while they are criticizing it.

  4. I think, more than the ‘socialization’ question, the ‘what are you going to do when they know more than you’ question drives me up the wall.

    People assume that you can’t teach a child higher math/writing/science/history (what IS higher history?)/reading without a college degree.

    For me, it’s usually in talking about giftedness. Did you notice that even fewer people thought parents could handle gifted education than kids with special needs. Apparently, they think that the parents are stupid. I got this just this weekend from my next-door-neighbor. I just wanted to kick him. Seriously? What will I do when he outstrips me? Well, he’ll be in college by that point. I can learn as well as he can, after all.

    Ugh!

  5. Kristina, I’ve always wondered how on earth people think a child can handle “higher” subjects if they have no confidence in an adult who learned it back when they were in school. I think it comes back to “I could never do that…” so that is their standard. Because they can’t imagine themselves doing it, they don’t really believe it can be done.

    I wonder also if that doesn’t have to do with the discrepancy between the overall view of homeschooling and the specific areas. Most people I talk to concede that homeschooling works very well for “some” people, hence they have a positive view of its potential. But that doesn’t mean they think it works in a more general sense beyond those “special few.”

  6. And yes, I noticed the opinion with regards to special needs children. But it is an area, like homeschooling itself, that without experience it is difficult to really understand.

  7. I find myself wondering about the impact of geographic distribution on these numbers. I’m assuming that they are distributed somewhat as the population is distributed, in other words, more people polled in California and NY than, say Alaska. I wonder what the impact of local news stories is on something like this.
    Take the Jacks case in DC. Would metro DC respondents grade homeschooling down because of the coverage or have they realized from more coverage that it was an abuse issue not an educational choice issue. Does someone from Chicago have the problem of hearing that a “homeschooler” in DC killed all her kids but never the other stories of all the previously existing problems? Or does it all cancel each other out.
    I’m also curious if the opinion of homeschooling is higher in areas where the local public schools are notoriously bad. Here in Hawaii, I’ve had long time local residents be very supportive of homeschooling. Finding an acceptable private school that you can afford on just two jobs is quite the local passtime.

  8. I wanted to add that this reminds me of the poll of school officials in the 1990s by American School Board Journal. A large percentage of those polled had a low opinion of homeschooling, even though a similarly large percentage admited having no personal professional contact with any homeschoolers in their district.

  9. What stands out for me is that it seems the general perception is that public schools are for socialization and private schools are for education. So why then do so many people select public education (beyond the obvious-cost?)

    I personally do not think homeschooling will ever garner great support from the general public… there is simply too little known about it and what does tend to go public is the “not so good stuff.” But that being said, it seems from the graph that the public feels that homeschooling offers more in terms of education than it does in terms of socalization.

    Wonder what it is about private schools that leads the general public to see more balance between socialization and academics?

  10. In response to Sebastian, I know a few people who homeschool or are considering it because their local schools are very bad. My dh grew up in Hawaii, but his family moved back to the mainland when he entered HS precisely because the ps was so bad, and they could not afford to put all four of their children through private school. I seem to suffer from the opposite problem; my town is very proud of its public schools, and the fact that I homeschool is taken as a slight (nevermind that I was homeschooling before we moved here and my reasons for homeschooling have little or nothing to do with anyone’s school.)

    What interested me about these numbers is in the first three categories (getting along with people of different backgrounds, social skills with peers, and PE) public schools clearly outranked both private and home schools. Then in the next three (special needs, citizenship, and preparation for employment), things begin to even out, and in the rest of the categories (all academic) opinion favors homeschooling and private schooling. (I’m just watching the homeschool numbers go up and down on their own curve, since hsing is still propotionately smaller and still considered “alternative”.) Interesting that of the three categories in which ps is favored over hs (and private school, two are the “hot button” issues which are used to argue against hsing. So, looking at these numbers, and thinking of all the vehemence we’ve seen over socialization, I have to wonder: are socialization and sports more important to the majority of people than academics?

  11. What my first impression was that this is the result of a media-influenced opinion of education rather than one which has been thought through. The media is constantly telling us the public schools are failing…Nation at Risk, NCLB, the nationwide push toward “accountability.” “Public schools are failing” we are told every day. So we believe it.

    When asked to actually think about education, however, the stats look a little different. Because people are being asked to think just a little bit rather than respond with their “feelings” about public education, homeschooling, etc.

    I certainly hope that they don’t all think that phys ed and socialization are the two most important parts of education. However, if you look at the money we spend on extra-curricular activities, I suppose you could make a pretty good case for that.

    Kahlenberg (the guy quoted in the Parade article) puts socialization as a primary function of education, which is why he supports the public education model above any other.

  12. Kahlenberg isn’t the only one. Reading the constant mantras about the need for UP to be “school ready” (socialization) and how ‘sheltered’ our kids are makes me think that socialization has climbed up the rungs of ‘public school education’ to high priority.
    Illinois legislators (via the 2003 IL Children’s Mental Health Act,) and the IL State Board of Education et al, have included Social Emotional Learning Standards at the same status with English Language Arts, Fine Arts,Foreign Languages, Physical Development & Health, Mathematic, Science, and Social Science. Other states are less in your face than IL, but with the same creeping. That bothers me much more than the Senior Fella, Kahlenberg.

    http://www.isbe.state.il.us/ils/Default.htm

  13. I also noticed that a lot of the questions don’t come near 100% across the three school types. So in response to these questions, presumably 25% to 40% are giving some answer like unknown or no preference.
    Plus there is little breakdown of demographics for the respondants. Are these folks with children in school? Grandparents? Singles with no children? Employers?
    Seems like a survey that will get lots of media time but really shows less the more you look at it (about any of the types of schools profiled).

  14. Yeah, Sebastian, and are the people who were polled in 2008 the same ones who were polled in 2006? And how many of the respondents had any experience with homeschooling or homeschoolers, OR experience with public or private schools? Except for what I see in the kids in my town, my only public school experience is what I went through many years ago, and I have had no private school experience. So how could I answer these questions based on anything but my impression? This poll has too many variables and is only reporting on people’s perceptions. The title of the chart should be more specific about that, I think.

    Also, with Walmart and McDonalds being the two companies in America with the highest number of employees, that tells me that in general, these are the jobs the government schools are training our kids for… If I want to prepare my kids for employment I won’t using the ps system to do it.

  15. This Harris Poll® was conducted online within the United States between May 5 and 12, 2008 among 2,602 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

    The results are actually similar to the results of the recent EllisonResearch poll which has been going around, but with more detail as to what people are actually thinking about different areas.

  16. “No difference” and “Not sure” were ranking pretty highly in the poll, but didn’t make it to the comparison chart. (Table 2).

    In fact, more people thought they were all the same (for better or for worse) than thought homeschooling was the best option. And twice as many people didn’t know.

    Just because people do not see homeschooling as the best option for these areas is not the same as thinking homeschooling is bad, however. I was just interested that in all of the areas, including those who think homeschooling provides and excellent education, slipped a few points from the last time the poll was done.

  17. Dana,
    Although you might notice that the approval ratings for homeschooling has gone up in the local column while going down in the United States AND the spread between United States and local has closed in this year’s numbers.
    Given the tendency for people to say that public schools over all are doing well but they are satisfied with their local schools, I think that I could actually write almost any headline I wanted from these numbers and justify it.
    APPROVAL OF HOMESCHOOLERS IN US DOWN
    APPROVAL FOR NEIGHBORS WHO HOMESCHOOL RISES
    HOMESCHOOLING VIEWED AS BETTER CHOICE THAN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
    LOCAL HOMESCHOOLS FARE NO WORSE THAN NATIONAL
    or my personal favorite . . .
    BRING ON THE BIBLE: POLL FINDS CHURCH SCHOOLS DO BETTER THAN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
    It might actually be amusing to collect the actual headlines used to report this poll.

  18. And who says we aren’t any good at PE? Says some gymnastics coach who trains girls for the Olympics:

    “If we really want to do this right, to train at 5 in the morning (for three hours) with her skill level is too dangerous,” Eaton said. “With my experience the last time, home school is a must if you’re really going to make this a realistic goal. You have to do everything right, otherwise it’s too hard on these kids.

  19. Michele Tarlin says:

    This is ridiculous! I have four kids that home-schooled for 13 years and every single one of them has never gotten bellow a C minus! As for social skills, that depends entirely on who they interact with. If you have one kid that come over to play, they are going to be shy! It’s their nature if they are home all day. however most homeschooling areas have homeschooling groups and circles that are available to anyone. Of course, people think homeschooler’s don’t turn out well…. Evidence against that. My oldest girl, Emily, who was home-schooled for 14 years, and is now thirty, went to grad school and has a Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry. My opinion on homeschooling? Better than public, as good as private, nat as expensive.

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