Education Standards Spell Trouble for Private & Home Schools

        AFA has tried to sound the alarm that home schools will eventually be negatively affected by the push for standards, more testing, and exit exams.  The following excerpt from an article by Cathy Duffy on the Home-school World website explains this situation very well and outlines some actions for people to take. (Cathy's material are available at  www.grovepublishing.com ) After reading the excerpt, we hope you will want to read the entire article http://www.home-school.com.   


Clashing Worldviews

As the standards and tests are being implemented, it becomes increasingly clear that the standards will not easily accommodate those who would have their children learn a Christian worldview or any other worldview that does not align with the dominant secular materialist worldview reflected in the standards. Neutrality isn't an option. Education has an undeniable cultural/philosophic/religious aspect that is transmitted whether purposely or not. Historians Eby and Arrowood tell us, "Education is more than the acquisition of a certain body of knowledge; it comprehends the transmission to the younger generation of the entire culture of a people. Now the culture of a people involves an ideal of character and of religious faith, a system of behavior, together with some theory of the universe, however simple it may be." [Eby, F. & Arrowwood, C. F. (1940). The History and Philosophy of Education Ancient and Modern. New York: Prentice-Hall, Inc., p. 589.]

The late R. J. Rushdoony wrote even more explicitly: "Not only does education find its foundation in religion, but the educational curriculum expresses the religious standards and expectations of a culture." [Rushdoony, R. J. (1981). The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum. Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, p.4.] This holds true even if the religious foundations are non-theistic. For example, "statism" was the religion of the Soviet Union, so its educational system clearly reflected the state's beliefs, philosophy, historical interpretations, and goals. Under that system, professing Christians were typically shut out from college admissions, and hence from all but menial jobs, since they did not adhere to the state's philosophy and goals - its "standards."

Can We Work Around the Standards?

Some people suggest that private and home schools can work around the standards by first teaching the required content, then adding worldview-focused curricula to the mix. Others suggest ignoring the standards but providing students with a solid liberal arts education with the expectation that they will then be intelligent enough to "outsmart" the tests.

Unfortunately, neither solution is realistic. Teachers increasingly complain that school days are consumed with teaching to the standards and preparing for tests. The standards have become so extensive and detailed that teachers have no extra time to teach beyond them. [Stoskopf, A. (2000, February 2). Clio's Lament. Education Week, XIX, (21), 38-41.] Homeschoolers might be able to manage the time to do both, but I suspect that most parents would see the hypocrisy and waste in teaching material that supports conflicting worldviews.

Testing is likely to become more and more problematical. If private schools and homeschools try to ignore the standards and implement a classical liberal education (or any other alternative curricular agenda), their students might test poorly as tests become more and more narrowly focused on details dictated by the standards that would be unlikely parts of their educational program.

As the standards movement gathers steam, pressure will be exerted upon private schools and home schools to adhere to the same standards and tests as government schools.

Exit exams (tests students must pass before graduating from high school) might well have the strongest impact. Twenty-four states have exit exams in place or in the planning process thus far. Students in government schools must pass these tests to earn a high school diploma. [Olson, L. (2001, January 24). States adjust high-stakes testing plans. Education Week, XX (19), pp. 1, 18-19.]

Could "Standards" Be Forced on Homeschoolers?

Early in 2001, the Maine legislature introduced legislation (LD 405) requiring homeschoolers to take the state's Maine Educational Assessment exam. Although this legislative effort failed, it demonstrates that it is not a farfetched concern for homeschoolers in general. [HSLDA News Release. (2001, February 16). Home School Legal Defense Association, Purcellville, VA. ] Also, as colleges and universities explore linkage of college entry to student scores on standards-based tests and exit exams, it is likely that they will come to expect private and home school students to pass the same tests just as they now take the same SAT I, SAT II, and ACT exams as public school students for college entry exams.

Private and home schools that choose to teach a significantly different curriculum will be faced with choices of sacrificing their own agenda so their students can achieve high test scores, accepting the risk of low student scores, or fighting for alternative evaluation.

What We Must Do

We might be able to avoid these dismal alternatives if we can keep private and home education free from the standards movement. That means:


  • resisting or getting rid of state and/or federal laws that require home educators to take standards-based tests
  • encouraging colleges and universities to rely on evaluation tools other than standards-based test results
  • not enrolling our children in government-sponsored homeschool programs (which will all use standards-based tests)
  • educating others about the dangers of the standards movement.
  • clearly identifying our own educational goals and diligently working to accomplish them

Only if we resist government-imposed standards will we be free to develop our own standards of education that reflect God's purposes for our own families.

Cathy Duffy is one of the best-known and most respected names in home schooling. She is the author of the Christian Home Educators' Curriculum Manuals and Government Nannies and a frequent convention speaker.

Article Copyright 2001 Cathy Duffy. All rights reserved.


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