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Christian school motivations, outcomes assessed in study

Written on May 30th, 2011

A peek into the findings of the Cardus Education Survey (CES) was released last week, featuring the largest representative sample of Christian school graduates with the aim to discover the alignment between motivations and outcomes of Christian education.

Pre-release events for the CES, which incorporates five separate studies, took place in Washington, D.C., May 25-26. The full data is expected to be released in mid-August.

The event for industry leaders had representation from the complete Christian education spectrum including homeschooling associations, Catholic schools and Christian Schools International. Participants were used as a focus group to test the results analysis and ensure they resonated, with feedback being taken into account for the final report.

Ray Pennings, senior fellow and director of research with Cardus and head of the CES project team, says the event showed there is “tremendous interest” in the study.

“(The study results) show that faith-based education is not only a benefit to those who attend schools, but the graduates of these schools are making a positive contribution to society as a whole.

“It makes it an issue and a question not just for those of us involved in faith-based schools but for society at large, so there were interesting broader social questions that were raised,” Pennings tells the OACS News.

For the last two years the research team worked with a representative sample of religious school alumni 24-39 years old to explore the schools’ spiritual, social and educational outcomes.

The study included 150 Catholic and Protestant Christian school administrators in Canada and the U.S. to assess the aspirations of schools currently in operation.

Research found graduates are very focused on family life, are committed members of their churches and large contributors to society. Christian school graduates donate significantly more money than graduates of other schools and participate more in relief and development service trips.

A surprise from the study was noting graduates are less interested in politics and vote less than comparable groups that go to public school, says Pennings.

Religious school graduates have higher numbers of total education years compared to public school graduates. The study found a difference between Catholic and Protestant schools, with not as many Protestant graduates attending elite schools and getting second degrees.

The executive summary suggests re-evaluating the motivations of Christian schools to provide a more comprehensive institutional program. Pennings says this is because some of the qualitative research indicated the degree of integration between community involvement and the curriculum was not as strong as might be hoped.

The next phase of the study is called Creating the Conversation. The report will be released with accompanying curriculum for staff facilitators and people involved in Christian education, as well as a separate curriculum for Christian education supporters.

“Our hope is that we’ll be able to stimulate a conversation and a challenge to those involved in Christian education to think through what they are doing, to celebrate the good things they are doing but also to recognize that improvements can be made,” says Pennings.

“We can learn from each other and identify some of the best practices and hopefully improve the options of Christian education that are available to parents seeking it for their kids.”

Pennings says they are still in the field conducting sub-sets of data and hope to have a representative Canadian sample soon, with the expectation to have a Canadian event in the fall focusing on comparing findings from Canada and the U.S.

Learn more and download the executive summary at