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U.S. study finds faith-based schools provide academic advantage

Written on July 30th, 2008

Public schools may be able to learn from faith-based schools: researcher

A U.S. study has found that faith-based schools provide an academic advantage, particularly for students who have typically been shown to struggle academically, such as those of lower socio-economic status or of the African-American or Latino race.

Dr. William Jeynes, professor of education at California State University, who undertook the study, presented his findings at a White House Summit on inner city children and faith-based schools in April, 2008.

Jeynes conducted an analysis of the overall body of existing research on schools and achievement in the U.S. and found that students in faith-based schools, even when controlling for socio-economic status, out perform their counterparts in public schools.

He also found that the achievement gap that exists between African-American and Caucasian students is reduced by 25 per cent in faith-based schools. There is a 25 per cent reduction in the achievement gap that typically exists between high socio-economic students and low socio-economic students.

“Now this is truly exciting, especially because the achievement gap is perhaps the most debated topic in this nation today,” he said in his presentation at the summit. “We have tried for decades as a nation to try to reduce the achievement gap with limited success. And to the extent that faith-based schools are a means to reduce students’ achievement gap, then the data that I’m presenting really need a very hard look.”

Jeynes said his study shows there are essentially three trends that account for the academic advantage of faith-based schools.

First, faith-based shools typically have a better school culture than is usually found in public schools.

Second, these schools encourage student religious commitment.

And third, faith-based schools encourage parental involvement.

He said the idea of a better school culture is also supported in the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS) which reports faith-based schools are more likely to have racial harmony.

“There are fewer racial fights and also they’re considered to be more racially friendly by the students,” Jeynes noted.

In addition, the NELS study shows that faith-based schools are less likely to have gang problems and more likely to have teachers who are interested in students. Students at faith-based schools are also less likely to be offered illegal drugs.

Jeynes suggested that public schools may be able to learn from faith-based schools in four key areas: maintaining high expectations for students, providing moral education, emphasizing loving and caring teachers, and encouraging parental involvement.

The purpose of the White House summit on inner city children and faith-based schools was to highlight the advantages these schools provide, particularly to inner city children, and to discuss how to ensure their preservation, including through government aid. Many of these schools are being forced to close their doors for financial reasons.