Religious Exemption Study

Religious Exemption and Notice of Intent Homeschool Student Scores Exceed Public School Student Scores

Virginia Homeschool Religious Exemption Study

By: Yvonne Bunn

The concern that parents aren’t qualified to teach their children without being government-certified has consistently been answered by studies: homeschooled students in general score well above the nationwide public school average on nationally normed standardized achievement tests. But, now the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) has raised questions concerning the academic progress of students who homeschool under the religious exemption (RE) statute. The VSBA is scheduled to review their religious exemption legislative policies in 2021. Should there be more state oversight? Should RE students and parents notify the school board each year? Should students submit a statement of their own religious beliefs? Should there continue to be a religious exemption from school attendance? VSBA policy decisions trickle down to local school boards where they are adopted and then imposed on homeschooling families.

HEAV-Commissioned Religious Exemption Study

Because of the scheduled religious exemption review by the VSBA and an anticipated battle for religious freedom, HEAV commissioned a first-ever formal study of Virginia’s religiously exempt homeschool students. The 2019 study, entitled The Academic Achievement Scores of Homeschool Students in the Commonwealth of Virginia: Home-Educated Students in General and Those Choosing Religious Exemption in Particular, compared the standardized test scores of notice-of-intent (NOI) students and religiously exempt (RE) students in Virginia. A partnership with Dr. Brian Ray of NHERI and Seton Testing Services ensured the study was blind, impartial, and academically sound.
Here are three important takeaways from the study:
  • Both NOI and RE students scored higher than the nationwide average of 50th percentile for public school students.
  • Homeschool students who complied with the law by filing a Notice of Intent (NOI) scored an average of 36 to 41 percentile points above public school students.
  • Students who were religiously exempt (RE) from compulsory school attendance scored an average of 26 to 36 points above public school students.
The encouraging results of this academic study provide solid evidence that governmental oversight is not required for religiously exempt students—they are performing well above their public school counterparts. HEAV will use the positive results of this study to protect the religious freedom of Virginia’s homeschooling families. Download a copy of the complete study here.