The Importance of a Christian Education
Why K-12 Christian Schools are Worthy of Our Support
There are four basic reasons K-12 deserve our full support: (1) Faith-Saving, (2) College / Education, (3) Opportunity, (4) Character.
#1: K-12 Christian Schools are Faith-Saving
While about 60-70%1 of formerly church-going teens are no longer going to church in their twenties, the trend is not true for adults with at least four years of K-12 Protestant schools:
ONE OF THE MOST significant findings in this study is the long-term commitment of Protestant Christian school graduates to stay within the Protestant faith. Attending a Protestant Christian school seems to impact graduates’ choice to stay into adulthood within the Christian faith. Other schooling types, including Catholic schools, have no impact on the religious affiliations their graduates choose as adults. Again, it is helpful to note that these findings are significant after controls for parent religion is added; this finding supports the notion that Protestant Christian schools should be considered an important part of the child-rearing equation. Cardus Educational Survey, 2012, p. 19
The 2012 Cardus Education Survey is the largest longitudinal studies of outcomes based on public, Protestant Christian, Catholic, and home school results ever conducted. Chief author of the study was David Swikkik, Chairman of the Department of Sociology at Notre Dame. Research from Ed Stetzer concurred with this finding, and concluded the Christian schooling during high school was most efficacious. In our nascent research on alumni through the Parent Satisfaction and Referral survey, GraceWorks is finding similar results.
#2: Twice the College Graduation Rate for Christian Schooled Children
In most parts of America today, a four-year college degree is the new high school degree. What a difference a four-year college degree makes!
For the far majority of young people, a four-year college degree is essential for success at life. Yet today in the United States, over 40% will drop out of college before completion, often saddled with significant student loans, but no better life prospects.
In 2014, a major 10-year longitudinal study of over 15,000 high school sophomores by the U.S. Department of Education (N=15,000+) found that college graduation rates for Protestant and Catholic schoolers was about twice that of sophomores in public school:
Thus, Protestant and Catholic schooled young people are about twice as likely to graduate college, with far better life prospects. Not even homeschoolers will graduate college at this high rate.
#3: The Opportunity of a K-12 Christian Education
Are these enhanced college graduation rates simply a consequence of higher income of parents? Income does make a profound difference in college graduation rates:
At the highest levels of parental income, graduation rates are similar to those of Christian schools. However, in our experience with over 500 Christian school surveys of parental income, about 40 to 50% of parents at the average Christian school earn over $100,000 in yearly household income.
Through financial aid programs, Christian schools regularly work with students from 2nd and 3rd quartile families – 25-30%of students in our experience. These students are two to three times more likely to graduate from college than their counter parts in public schools. In fact, analyzing an extensive sample of over 200,000 students in a longitudinal study, Carpenter and Rameriz found that Hispanic students from Protestant and Catholic K-12 school were nine times more likely to attend college. Nine times more likely.
In other words, if you care about opportunity in America, get kids into Christian schools! This is a surprisingly settled issue in the research. Bill Jeynes has conducted two major meta-analyses on this topic. A meta-analysis is a “study of studies” meant to settle issues in social science. Jeynes two meta- analyses involved every relevant peer reviewed journal article for the last 30 years – about 220 studies altogether. Here’s the two most important findings:
While 10 to 33% of students at the average charter school would otherwise be enrolled in a private school, the national data on charter schools shows results very similar to public schools. For example, the CREDO National Charter School Study, based on a 95% sample of all charter school students in 2012, detailed reading and math differences:
Even private school critics Christopher and Sarah Lubienski conclude that charter schools are largely isomorphic with public schools.
Certainly America has a significant opportunity problem. And considering all that Jesus did to elevate the status of women in 1st century Palestine – God cares. Christian K-12 are arguably one of the greatest forces for equal opportunity in the 21st century.
#4: K-12 Christian Schools Produce Pillars of Character
There are four lines of evidence clearing showing that Christian schools produce students of high (Christian) character.
Line of Evidence #1: What we know about Christian school character results
The 2012 and 2014 Cardus studies are particularly instructive on Christian school character outcomes, because current behavior was compared to schooling 15-20 years earlier. In addition, the group studied were active in church as children and teenagers. Comparing the actual behaviors of over 1500 adults 15- 20 years later, compared to all other types, adults who were educated at least four years in a Protestant K-12 school were …
… more philanthropic, giving on average $1500 a more to the churches they support
… much more active in attending church, bible study, and participating in short term missions,
… much less likely to have pre-marital sex, or get divorced,
… reading their bible and praying far more, respecting the infallibility of the Bible and the authority of the church,
… uniquely optimistic about their future,
… more likely to pursue jobs that fulfill a religious calling, … leaders and pillars in their congregation.
Even as our communities unravel, K-12 protestant educated adults were “community stabilizers” according to the 2012 Cardus study. In terms of social capital, the 2014 study noted that:
SOCIAL CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT. The close-knit nature of private school communities and the strength of relationships between students and teachers suggest private schools are adept at fostering social capital. Graduates feel prepared for relationships. And in fact enjoy close ties with individuals who are different from themselves in significant ways, including close friends who differ in belief and race/ ethnicity. The social capital built within private schools does not appear to exclude bridges across social differences.
William Jeynes of Cal State, Long Beach, has conducted a number of meta-analysis studies of Christian school outcomes. These “studies of studies” conclude that students attending both Evangelical and Catholic schools were:
– Less violent, more racially tolerant and harmonious, less disobedient to parents, less involved in gangs, and less likely to steal
Christian school graduates have better marriages. The Cardus Foundation recently released (2017) a report about the marriage / divorce status of Christian school graduates. Here was their overall conclusion:
Protestant schoolers have perhaps the most distinctive outcomes, which are almost entirely consistent with the mission and orientations of evangelical schools. They are more likely to be married than single or cohabitating, and they are more likely to have married at some point in their lives and are less likely to divorce. Protestant schoolers have more children and are more likely to integrate religion into family life. They are more supportive of traditional gender roles as well. Overall, and net of the religiously conservative families that attend evangelical Protestant
Line of Evidence #2: What we know about American society when public schools became godless.
For 350 years, character education was central in all levels of Christian education in the United States. This changed in 1962 & 1963, at the apex of the United States economic and spiritual dominance, with three Supreme Court decisions that forbade bible reading, prayer, and discussion of God in the classroom. From then to the year 2000, the United States …
… Doubled the divorce rate,
… Tripled the teen suicide rate,
… Quadrupled the rate of reported violent crime,
… Quintupled the prison population,
… Sextupled the percent of babies born to unmarried parents, … Increased, by sevenfold, our cohabitation rates, and ….. is 10 times more depressed than before WWII
About half of young people have had their first sexual experience by age ten.
As was widely reported, SAT scores declined seventeen years in a row, from 1963 to 1980, altogether 110 points on their 1600 point scale. In middle school, students are, on average, about 1.5 years from their peers in 1930 – with the average textbook also written at about two grade levels lower.
Line of Evidence #3: The Link Between College and Character
Christian schooled children achieve a four-year college degree at about twice the rate of public schooled children. What is the character impact of a college degree?
… Church attendance has dropped only 10% in college-educated white adults, but 1/3rd among non-college educated adults. The difference is now 27% for the college educated, compared to 20-22% for the non-college educated. Even 18-29 year olds with some college where 5 percentage points more likely to attend church most weeks.
… Church attendance for young people in the bottom third of the socio-economic ladder is likewise dropping at twice the rate of that of the upper third.
In contrast to the view of many evangelicals that obtaining a higher education can be dangerous for their children, Putnam concludes:
“If you listen carefully, hymns in American houses of worship are increasingly sung in `upper class accents.” Robert Putnam
Line of Evidence #4: Religious Commitment and Character
A number of authors have noted the significant character advantages of devout religious commitment. Here is Smith and Denton’s take for teenagers ages 13-17:12
In short, if young people will continue to attend church, they are less likely to fall into sin. The bottom line is that attendees of Protestant K-12 school are attending church in their 20’s. For many Christian school parents, that is the ultimate in student safety!
Christian School Teachers: A Gift and a Blessing
What’s the difference when your child’s school teacher is mission and ministry-minded?
Here’s what parents say about their Christian school teachers:
- “When our two oldest children went to college, they were clearly more prepared academically than their peers. Even more im- portantly, their hearts and minds were anchored in Biblical truth and Christian liberty. They love the Lord more than ever and are flourishing. We are 100% confident that our youngest will be equally prepared when he leaves for college.”
- “We have been very pleased with all our children’s teachers — they have all been knowledgeable, very involved, loving and good Christian role models.”
- “Our son has bloomed in school this year!”
- “We have appreciated the positive way in which teachers interact with our daughter — they encourage her to grow, but appreciate her as an individual. She loves it!”
- “My sons’ teachers are on top of everything the students do — both good and bad.”
- “We are very comfortable there. We love the staff and families and feel like we are cared for. Plus the Christian worldview is taught throughout the curriculum — very important.”
- “You can tell that it is more than just a job for them; they truly care.”Here’s what students say about their Christian school teachers:
- “My teacher provides a feeling of safety. Kids can’t learn or grow unless they feel secure.”
- “My teacher is friendly and willing to help.”
- “We learn about God, and we learn a lot of things. The teachers are very nice and helpful.”
- “My teacher really cares about kids succeeding and being comfortable and confident in themselves.”
- “All of the teachers here always want you to be able to accomplish your work and learn the stuff you need to know in your class, and they are always there.”
- “This school is really nice to me and my mom. They also treat me normally even though I have diabe- tes.”
“The Christian school teachers that I established a relationship with are very special to me. The fact that most of my teachers cared about me individually and spiritually was amazing.”
Christian school teachers not only teach facts and figures, but they also integrate God into all their subjects. Math displays the orderliness of God. Social Studies reveals God’s working in lives of people. In History, students can see God’s timing as well as the consequence of good and bad, wise and unwise behavior.
To Christian school educators, teaching is more than a vocation; it is a calling and a ministry. Christian school teachers view teaching as a gift from God to serve the body of Christ. These are the most mission- minded teachers in the country, who deeply value the importance of education for life and eternity. They also know that education is more than cramming students’ heads with facts and figures to pass a govern- ment mandated test.
Christian school teachers help their students to think — to creatively apply the lessons they’ve learned in one subject to those in another. They provide a well-rounded education that addresses the whole person. In short, Christian school teachers teach wisdom for all of life.
Students also need to grow spiritually and develop godly character. Throughout the day, Christian school teachers incorporate within their instruction that which pleases God:
to care about and respect others,
to be kind and gentle,
to practice patience and self-control, and
to develop personal responsibility, joy and peace.
Christian school teachers partner with parents to shape their children into kind, responsible, wise, produc- tive citizens and community leaders.
Christian schools have much to offer besides hiring outstanding teachers:
- Their curriculum is not only high-caliber but also integrates Biblical standards, which results in aca- demic accomplishment, spiritual growth, and character building. Scholastic excellence is born out by the fact that standardized testing scores show, over and over again, that Christian school students score higher than their counterparts in public schools.
- Their students are motivated to excel and come from supportive families. And Christian teachers know how to sustain this motivation. (One of the top assets of Christian schools is parental support.)
- They provide a safe learning environment. Both administrators and parents support Christian teachers’ discipline. Therefore, less time is spent on disruptive behavior and more time on in- struction.
- Small class size offers more personal instruction and the ability to cover more material.“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6