Record: R. Pennings, et al, “Private Education for the Public Good: 2014 Report,” Cardus Education Survey, 2014. [Available for download here]
In 2011 the first Cardus Education Survey was released. With its large randomized sample of young adults age 24-39, it provided some of the best data ever compiled about the experiences of young adults who had graduated from various forms of private schooling, including homeschooling. The present survey is another equally robust survey of 1500 young adults, age 24 to 39. The sample was obtained by GfK, whose Knowledge Networks Panel respondents constitute a representative sample of the U.S. population. Cardus drew on the GfK contact list to generate a sample of 500 public school graduates who served as a baseline for comparison to 1000 graduates of various kinds of private and home schools. Each of these subjects answered about ½ hour’s worth of questions about their high school experiences.
This time around, Cardus asked specific questions about curriculum (especially science and technology), vocational preparation and aspiration, and high school experiences and satisfaction along with their basic demographic questions. They thus are able to reveal (based on self-report data) comparisons between public school graduates and graduates from various private options on these questions.
For this particular report the authors have chosen not to include their data on homeschoolers. They tantalize us with this, “Some of our homeschooling findings raise questions about the civic skills and engagement of homeschooling graduates.” (p. 15) But they have decided to release at a later time “an in-depth analysis of our homeschool findings” in a separate report.
While the data that is covered in this report is fascinating and important, since it does not directly address homeschooling, we will not dwell on it here. In general, graduates of private schools are very like graduates of public schools on many variables. There are some differences, however. Private school graduates tend to have a more positive view of their overall high school experience. Catholic and non-religious private school grads report taking more math and science than public schoolers, and it shows in the professional careers these graduates move into later. Graduates of Evangelical Protestant schools report above average commitment to religious practices and beliefs, though they have weaker interest in art and culture, studied less science in school, and tend to attend less selective colleges and get lower paying jobs after they graduate. They also are more likely to report that their schooling experience isolated them from mainstream culture. But despite minor differences like these, the bottom line is that private schooled young adults are on the whole pretty average. The Cardus authors stress that private education is not creating isolated niches of unassimilated, apolitical, or radicalized Americans. On the contrary, their graduates are as likely to public school graduates to embrace and participate in the pluralistic civic life of the contemporary United States.
Appraisal: While it was of course disappointing to read that the homeschool data is not in this report, homeschooling researchers are encouraged by the promise that a separate report devoted exclusively to homeschooling is forthcoming. When that day comes the new study will be summarized and evaluated on this site.
Milton Gaither, Messiah College