We often hear questions related to homeschool accreditation. Do an online search for “homeschool accredited curriculum” or “accredited homeschool programs,” and you’ll find a long list of names.
But how necessary is accreditation to a successful homeschool experience?
The short answer is: not really necessary.
A Brief History of Accreditation
Accreditation occurs at different levels within the educational system: both the primary/secondary level and the higher education level. Either public or private schools can apply for accreditation.
Accrediting agencies, including a regional company called AdvancED, and even states themselves can offer accreditations. They do so after certifying that the institution (either schools or school districts) has achieved minimum standards of quality.
These standards often involve criteria like teacher-student ratios, student achievement, admissions policies and practices, and number of teachers with advanced degrees. (See how these don’t always apply to a homeschool?)
However, these minimum standards vary by state and contain numerous provisions. For example, a poorly performing school district may receive provisional accreditation only on certain conditions (e.g. additional requirements or increased scrutiny).
An in-depth exploration of school accreditation appears in this blog post from the Pew Charitable Trusts:
How tough is accreditation? Critics argue that voluntary accreditation could be tougher and is not particularly useful in the movement to bring accountability to education. That’s because good schools seek out accreditation knowing they can get it; bad schools don’t seek it if they suspect they can’t.
Some critics say the accrediting agencies themselves are too soft and laced with conflicts of interest. In an article adapted from their book on education accountability, Richard Rothstein, Rebecca Jacobsen and Tamara Wilder argue that regional accreditation agencies rely on membership fees from the very schools they assess. The authors also argue that assessment teams have an incentive to go soft because they are made up of teachers who know their school will be on the other end of an assessment some day.School Accreditation Explained: Does A Seal of Approval Matter?
How Accreditation Applies To Homeschooling
Homeschool laws vary by state, so make sure you know the legal procedures and requirements before you begin homeschooling.
In the state of Kansas, for example, homeschooling is not legally recognized as a form of schooling. Everyone who homeschools is, by definition, a “non-accredited private school” in the eyes of the law.
Does this mean their academic standards are inherently less, or that they are lower in quality? Absolutely not. For example, decades of research on homeschool students have found:
- Standardized test scores are typically 15 to 30 percentile points higher from homeschool students than from their public-school counterparts.
- The majority of peer-reviewed studies on academic achievement (78 percent) showed homeschool students performing better than students from institutional schools.
- When taking SAT and ACT college admissions tests, the homeschool students typically score above average.
- Homeschool students’ academic achievement is not related to whether their parents were ever certified teachers.
(See more of these statistics in our blog post debunking common homeschool myths.)
Sometimes people think their homeschool can become accredited if their students are taking courses from an accredited institution. However, that is not true.
You can always outsource certain subjects or courses to an outside institution. However, in the eyes of Kansas law, your homeschool is still a non-accredited private school (and you are its principal).
IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: Sometimes people may refer to a specific curriculum as “accredited.” Curriculum cannot be accredited because they are not schools per se. However, many accredited schools may use a certain curriculum package. This leads some people to think the curriculum itself has received accreditation, when it hasn’t.
Enjoyed this article? You may want to learn more about tips on choosing the best homeschool curriculum for your family!