Christian Schools: Is Your Investment Worth It?
Have you ever wondered if sending your children to a Christian school is a worthwhile investment? My wife, Kathy, and I decided it was for our four children; our youngest daughter will graduate from a local Christian school in a few years. But the decision is a big one, and making it is a journey for many parents.
I’d like to share with you one couple’s journey and the questions they asked before they decided their children should at- tend a Christian school. I hope you enjoy the following article by Dr. Michael Zigarelli, a professor of leadership and strategy at Messiah College:
As a business school professor, I tend to think in terms of return on investment, or ROI in my world. So when my wife, Tara, and I considered shifting our four elementary-age kids from public school to Christian school, one of my first thoughts was, What’s the ROI for Christian schools?
Perhaps you think that way as well, and you’ve asked questions like these:
• What’s the real value of a Christian-based education?
• Should we spend money today that we could earmark for college?
• Is a Christian school really worth its price tag?
In our case, the price tag before us was daunting. When we did the math, we realized we’d be making a commitment to a six- figure expense through twelfth grade—about the same cost as a couple of college educations or the principal on our mortgage!
Most business professors don’t get paid as much as the executives we teach, so I admit that it was tempting at that point to stay with the status quo, especially since the public schools in our district were pretty decent. Compared to our local Christian school, there wasn’t a huge gap in SAT scores or college entrance rates. So why not just save the money and rely on home and church for values education?
Frankly, we concluded, values education through home and church would simply not be enough for us. Kids, like adults, often adopt the values of their peers and their teachers, and we saw signs that this was already starting to happen. We were diligently pouring ourselves into our kids’ lives at home, training them up in faith and virtue to the best of our ability. But seven hours a day, five days a week, they were being reeducated, marinated in a secular worldview that was competing for their precious, malleable minds.
Like so many parents, Tara and I want our kids in a safe, nurturing, academically challenging environment (with small class sizes). That’s certainly a big part of the ROI for Christian schooling. But the other bottom line in Christian schools is character development: renewing children’s minds so they’re God-centered rather than self-centered when making choices.
Someday—someday too soon—our four kids will be making those decisions without consulting us. Tara and I want to help them do so now by shaping their hearts to love God. This is the most important responsibility God has entrusted to us, so we can use all the help we can get—seven hours a day, five days a week.
That’s why we selected a local Christian school for our kids. It’s a school with caring, experienced teachers; a school with terrific facilities; a school with small classes and a big commitment to academic excellence; and most of all, a school that nurtures our kids’ spiritual lives without being legalistic about it.
Though the financial pressure is sometimes great, the ROI— well-educated kids who genuinely love God and neighbor— is far greater.
Dan Egeler, EdD Acting President, ACSI
Association of Christian Schools International | Strengthening Christian Schools, Equipping Christian EducatorsSM
PO Box 65130 • Colorado Springs CO 80962-5130 • 719-528-6906 • www.acsi.org
What Parents Look for in Christian Schools
This article is part of Barna’s back-to-school series. In the coming weeks, we’ll explore brand new research on education, from parents’ expectations and college trends to students’ schedules and school violence.
With the new academic year upon us, parents will be preparing to send their children off to school with different expectations and motivations for their education. Their process of choosing a school was most likely informed by the educational objectives they most value for their children. But what are the priorities of parents when it comes to choosing a school? And what role does faith play in such important decisions? In partnership with the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), Barna asked parents of current and prospective Christian school students about their schooling decisions.
The Goals of Education
When it comes to what they consider to be the goals or ultimate purpose of education, parents of both current ACSI students and prospective students want more for their children than a list of accomplishments or path to wealth. Parents clearly think of schools as meeting a complex range of student and family needs. Of course, that includes academic subjects. It also includes other ways of developing and nurturing children.
Barna asked these parents to choose the top five purposes of education. For both groups of parents, the most selected goal of education is to instill strong principles and values (current: 69%, prospective: 53%).
There are some key differences however. Prospective parents are more focused on objectives related to personal achievement and social skills like “practical life skills” (51% compared to 31%), “increased opportunities in life” (45% compared to 29%), and a “fulfilling career” (38% compared to 22%). On the other hand, parents of current students place a higher priority on spiritual goals and a lower value on personal achievement. As a group, the ACSI parents believe education is primarily for developing a child’s character and spirituality, then academics and career. They do not believe education’s ability to raise a child’s socioeconomic status is nearly as important.
In addition to instilling strong principles and values, a majority of parents of current students place a high priority on five goals that include “love for God and other people” (65% compared to 33%), the “ability to apply their knowledge” (referred to as wisdom) (60% compared to 47%), “faithfulness and obedience to God” (54% compared to 21%) and “leadership skills” (52% compared to 46%).
What Parents Want in Schools
Most parents are looking for a school that aligns with their general ideas about education—what a school should do. However, parents’ specific priorities when it comes to choosing a school seem to reveal another side to what they value in an education—what a school should be like.
Safety’s first. Next come quality teachers, academic excellence and character development. Barna asked parents to rate 23 characteristics of a school from “essential” to “nice to have” to “not necessary.” What follows is a detailed look at the top four characteristics that are most important to parents.
A safe environment is the most essential feature when choosing a school for parents of both current (98% essential) and prospective (94%) Christian school students. Safety can mean anything from a toxin-free building or a padded playground to bullying prevention. However, it can also include “cultural safety,” such as feeling safe to ask questions or express doubt, learning to work through differences or a general sense of belonging and respect.
Based on findings from qualitative research, parents considering sending their child to a Christian school are thinking of their children’s physical and emotional safety from other children in the school. However, parents with children currently in Christian schools are more likely to be thinking of the freedom to ask questions or raise doubts, like those related to their faith.
Among parents of current ACSI students, almost half (47%) rate their current school with a 10 of out 10 for providing a safe environment. Comparatively, only 4 percent rate charter schools and public schools in the same way. Prospective parents, though more generous toward public (21%) and charter schools (35%), also give private Christian schools (both 42%) a 10 of out 10 for their ability to provide a safe environment.
2. Quality Teachers
Children experience a wide range of relationships at school, but the core ones are with peers and teachers. Parents want warm teachers who they can reach easily. “Teachers who really care about their students” (98%) is the aspect of schools that ACSI parents are most likely to say is essential (tied with safety at 98%), followed closely by “accessible teachers,” which slightly fewer (94%) said was a necessity. Likewise, almost all prospective parents believe caring and accessible teachers (91 and 80 percent, respectively) are essential to schooling.
Parents—especially of ACSI students—generally want small class sizes for their children (current: 63%, prospective: 49%). It seems likely this aspect of a school might indicate to parents that their child will get the personal attention from teachers that nearly all deem crucial.
Parents whose children are in private Christian schools tend to rank their experience with the schools very highly. Almost six in 10 (59%) give their current school a 10 of out 10 for “Teachers who really care about their students” and over half (52%) give the same ranking to “accessible teachers.” For prospective parents, almost four in 10 (38%) gave a 10 out of 10 for “Teachers who really care about their students” and about one-third (34%) gave the same rating for “accessible teachers.”
3. Academic Excellence
Academic excellence is a top priority for parents of both current and prospective Christian school students. Nearly all current Christian school parents(95%)say it is essential. For prospective parents, that number is slightly lower, at 88 percent. Surprisingly, parents do not consider academic excellence more important as their children grow older and closer to the window for college admissions.
Current ACSI parents rate their schools quite well for academic excellence. More than one-third (38%) give their schools a 10 out of 10. Altogether, 86 percent rate the school a seven or above, and more than two-thirds of current parents choose “fosters excellence” to describe private Christian schools—ranking them far above other types of schools.
Fewer prospective parents share that view. They give lower scores to private Christian schools, with 29 percent saying that Christian private schools have the highest academic standards. It is not clear where this difference in perceptions comes from, except that those with a personal experience of ACSI schools have a much higher view of the schools’ academics.
4. Character Development & Spirituality
Current and prospective parents both also give high priority to “intentionally developing children’s character” (current: 94%, prospective: 73%). But in addition, current parents especially desire spiritual development for their children. This reinforces the above findings showing how most current Christian school parents believe that character and spiritual development are among the ultimate purposes of education.
When it comes to spiritual formation specifically, more than eight in 10 (82%) parents of current students believe it is essential when weighing a choice between different schools, but only one-quarter of parents of prospective students(26%) feel the same.
It seems that ACSI schools (private Christian schools) fulfill these expectations, especially for current parents. More than half of parents of current students gave Christian schools the highest score (10 of 10) for being deliberate about developing children’s character (59%) and spirituality (66%). In both categories, over 97 percent of parents give the schools a score higher than six out of 10.
Prospective parents rank Christian schools much lower on these two measures (35% gave a perfect 10 of 10 for character development and 42% gave a 10 of 10 for spiritual development). However, about three-quarters of prospective parents gave a score of six of 10 or better on those two dimensions of spiritual development.
About the Research
A sample of ACSI schools invited parents to participate in these surveys. To qualify, parents had to have a decision-making role in their children’s education and to have at least one child enrolled in an ACSI school. The prospective parent survey went to a nationally representative group of adults who had children in grades K–11 (those with seniors in high school and no other children were not included). To be counted in the survey, they had to indicate that they would be open to sending their child to a private Christian school. There was no restriction on the religion of these parents. While this survey was offered to a nationally representative group, the group that met the qualifications was also different from an average collection of American parents. Read the full research report at ACSI.
Barna research is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.
© Barna Group, 2017
The Benefits of Christian Education
A Christian education is an investment. You are investing in your children and their future. You and they will reap the benefits. Removing many of the negative influences makes Christian schooling an attractive alternative. Some say Christian schools shelter children from the real world.
YES, SHELTERED. ISN'T IT WONDERFUL?
One of the primary functions of the Christian school is to develop discerning hearts. We can do so by working through issues and negative influences with students in a constructive and Biblically based environment. We strive to develop hearts that challenge or test the influences of things like: humanism, evolution, immorality, and materialism, influences that are simply promoted in some public schools. Even ignoring all the positive influences the Christian school provides, simply removing the unquestioned negative influences makes it an attractive alternative.
SHELTERED? I CERTAINLY HOPE SO!
The Christian school is chosen by parents who see that one of their primary responsibilities is to monitor the input their children receive and how that input shapes their view of God and His world. Most parents make an effort to shelter their children at home by monitoring the books they read, the programs they watch, the sites they surf, and the friends with whom they play. Our school affirms the importance of this parental role and logically extends it to the school day, actively continuing the work parents do.
THE REAL WORLD? WHO ARE WE KIDDING?
The real world is the one created by God in which all things hold together by the power of His Word. Only an education which acknowledges the sovereignty of God over the affairs of men can be considered an education about the real world. To the extent that public schools fail to acknowledge God and give Him His rightful place, they are sheltering children from the truth. Therefore, in reality, public schools are the ones which shelter children from the real world, not Christian schools.
ONLY FOR A TIME ...
The Christian school works somewhat like a greenhouse which is designed to provide optimum conditions for growth while a plant is young. Young children are protected and carefully nurtured to help them mature properly. When the time comes for them to be transplanted" into a more hostile environment, they are more likely to endure difficulties and continue to thrive because they have been trained well and have developed a discerning heart.
THE CHRISTIAN SCHOOL PROVIDES A WHOLESOME ENVIRONMENT WHERE CHILDREN CAN DEVELOP TO THEIR FULLEST POTENTIAL.
The Christian school serves to support and extend the work of the Christian home and church by reinforcing the same values and beliefs. The Christian school makes the very difficult job of parenting a little bit easier by removing a major source of unquestioned negative influences from a child's life.
SHELTERED FROM THE IMPACT? YES! FROM A KNOWLEDGE ABOUT IT? NO.
Christian schools routinely discuss humanism, evolution, and other concepts readily accepted by mainstream society, but they do so from a Christian perspective. All of the problems which are part of a sinful world are also thoroughly discussed. We discuss solutions based upon Biblical ethics. The public school ignores the Christian view (or presents it as only one alternative from among many). Therefore, students cannot be guided into making the right decisions.
Thanks to Cornerstone Christian Academy in Kingston, CA for these thoughts
Taking a Fresh Look at Faith-Based Education
Dr. Edward Grigg
This is the time of year when parents are facing the task of choosing schools for their children. In deciding about education, parents, should consider faith-based institutions
Faith has long been the driving force that called out to noble leaders to pass along knowledge to the next generation. While the motivation for a few people was teaching faith, schools did not limit teaching to a sacred text, but included all aspects of the universe. Believing that God designed and created all that exists, faith-based institutions strive to teach all knowledge, by forging a deeper understanding of God’s sovereignty and omnipotence within the learner.
Faith-based education works on the premise that the more knowledge and wisdom a person gains, the more solid his or her faith becomes. These institutions are not afraid of the sciences, but rather count on the sciences to help complete the puzzle of knowledge. Regardless of the field of study, correctly learned knowledge points to intelligent design and helps to complete the puzzle that man has worked on for hundreds of years. The faith community does not fear knowledge but embraces it.
In seeking [a school], parents should seek one that develops true wisdom in the student, not just knowledge. Data exists and is raw, it has no significance beyond its existence and is little more than symbols. Information is data that has been given some relevant meaning and provides some answers to the “who,” “what,” “when” or “where” questions. Knowledge is the correct collection of information and answers the “how” question. Students take raw data and information and gain knowledge by the proper collection of information. .
True faith-based education provides the needed tools to enable the student to use cognitive and analytical skills. This is the difference between memorizing and learning. Learning takes place when understanding is evident. Understanding gives the student appreciation for the knowledge and answers the “why” questions. Most people are content at this point, they are joyful that they have gained data, information, knowledge and understanding.
Russell Ackoff adequately pointed out in his “Theory of Wisdom” that the stored information in the human mind — data, information, knowledge, and understanding — all point to the past. This is where most education ends, but not in the faith-based institution. True faith-based education tries to move the student to wisdom. Wisdom is an analytical, extrapolative, and discerning progression that calls on all previous levels of training, especially moral principles, and enables one to perceive and demonstrate understanding in areas where no previous understanding exists. It is the process by which a person discerns good from bad and right from wrong, a characteristic needed for success in business and patriotism.
Along with embracing knowledge, Faith based Institutions develop codes of conduct to stress integrity of character and on character development as well as academic achievement. These schools are concerned with more than mere academics, and seek to provide the student all the tools needed for a well-rounded disciplined life. It is the difference between gaining knowledge and gaining wisdom.
There is a wide misconception that secular institutions provide a better education for today’s youth. Those holding such a theory argue that education should be about discovering information, facts and data. These modernists think that education is faith versus fact. Therefore, most secular schools ignore teaching faith.
Faith-based [schools] believe the two are natural companions and that all knowledge comes from God. Without faith, there is no moral compass to guide humanity. Life descends into bottomless sinkholes of self-absorption and animalistic mayhem. Faith-based schools strongly believe that a true education is the ability to think, reason, and create from a moral perspective. Faith-based education enables the realization that each person is created in the image of God and given the ability to think, reason, and create from a moral perspective. It drives students to respect themselves and others, instilling a desire for doing right and for helping other people. One does not have to look hard to see the need for a greater moral-compass in today’s society. It is visible on Wall Street and on Main Street. It encompasses the offices and the boardrooms and is in political arenas and sports arenas. Without a moral compass, civilization can justify dark and wicked digressions. In fact, it is the lack of a greater moral compass that cries out across this country and around the world. This is why every parent should consider sending their child to faith-based schools.
Faith-based institutions do not restrict enrollment to those holding a set dogma, and they do not want to mold every student into identical spiritual men and women. Faith better qualifies the student to face the challenges of life. The student gains the assurance that God is guiding and enabling him to succeed in life, and enabling him to overcome obstacles that arise in life’s paths. Students from faith-based schools better understand the need to encompass faith and a biblical world view into their daily lives, whether about family values or life’s vocation.
Education is much more than simply rushing blindly into a sea of theories decorated with scattered ships of facts blown about by winds of fiction. Education must not ignore faith and civilization’s search for that higher ideal which makes humanity more than animalistic. Faith-based education addresses the whole person, not just academics.
Take a fresh look at faith-based education. It has come a long way and represents the gold standard of excellence.
Dr. Eddie G. Grigg is President of New Life Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC. For information visit www.nlts.edu.
Printed with permission
Archbishop Listeski Discusses the Value of Catholic Schools.
I graduated from my Catholic school toward the end of the height of Catholic education in the United States. My grammar school had 900 students, and when it came to school population in comparison to other schools, it was not exceptionally large. My school was filled with religious sisters, whose convent was right next door. It housed 36 religious sisters.
In addition to the grammar school, the sisters staffed and operated a girls’ high school. My sister attended and graduated from that high school. My neighborhood was predominantly Catholic, and the school was a significant part of our Catholic identity. It was an industrial area, so the students were products of hard-working parents, many who worked at U.S. Steel.
I mention this, because I want you to know the reason I am definitely biased when it comes to Catholic education. I know the value and the importance of the reinforcement that Catholic education provided in creating the vision necessary for me and others to navigate the course before us to become productive members of our society.
Of course, academics are important, and instilling a sense of academic achievement is part of the foundation. However, one’s success in life is not necessarily being the brightest, but one whose character has been built on the reinforcement of virtues that will shape the lives of individuals. Leaders were being created for the next generation.
Everyday, my classroom experience began with prayer, and everyday it ended with prayer. There was little doubt in the minds of the students that God held the primary position in your life. What supported this sense was the religious sister in her habit standing before you, whose life was dedicated to Christ and, because of her faith, she was serving this community. We were supported by the priorities of the greatest generation (as Tom Brokaw would write) – God, Family and Country.
Many would argue today that the picture I painted of Catholic education no longer exists. The religious sisters are almost all gone, educational costs limit the access for students, and competitive public education is free. These certainly are valid criticisms. However, just because the picture of Catholic education has changed, it does not mean that the purpose, spirit and vision of Catholic education has changed.
Why do parents send their children to Catholic school? I would hope because they desire an environment that places God first, and reinforces the Christian principles. Why did God make you? He made you to know, love and serve Him in this life, and to be happy with Him in heaven.
Yes, the religious sisters are no longer dominant in our schools. However, they have been replaced by professional lay Catholic teachers who are formed in the faith, and take that knowledge and formation into the Catholic parishes that comprise their communities. There is a whole new group of Catholic lay professionals that did not exist in the past.
Although spiraling costs have limited accessibility of some students, what was true years ago is still true today – Catholic education is marked by sacrifice and dedication. Parents sacrifice to send their children to Catholic schools. Parish members, through their contributions, sacrifice in their support of Catholic schools. Teachers accept salaries that are less than other comparable institutions, and priests and deacons sacrifice their time in forming and promoting the school community.
We should all have a spirit of gratitude for the many people who have supported, and continue to support, Catholic education. We, as a Church, need Catholic education in our society more today than ever before, supporting the dignity of human life and reminding us to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archdiocese of Milwaukee
Used with permission from the Archbishop’s blog Love One Another January 29, 2018