Volume 44, Number 5, 2012/2013
Association of Christian Schools International |
Strengthening Christian Schools, Equipping Christian
PO Box 65130 • Colorado Springs CO 80962-5130 •
719-528-6906 • www.acsi.org
Christian schooling movement has deep roots and a rich
history, and it continues to produce graduates who can
transform our nation with their Christ-centered values.
A few years ago Cardus, a Christian think tank
headquartered in Ontario, Canada, sought to discover to
what extent those graduates are making an impact. In
other words, does K–12 Christian education produce its
With grants from three charitable foundations and the
University of Notre Dame, along with ACSI and other
associations, Cardus spent two years surveying
Protestant and Catholic school administrators and
teachers as well as graduates aged 24 to 39 of public
schools, homeschools, Catholic schools, Protestant
schools, and nonreligious private schools. In 2011 the
Cardus Education Survey (CES) was released (Pennings et
al. 2011). The survey revealed that graduates of
Protestant Christian schools excel spiritually,
academically, and culturally.
My colleague Philip Scott, ACSI’s assistant director for
Legal/Legislative Issues, wrote a summary of the CES
that I found both insightful and encouraging for
Christian school parents (Scott 2012, 5–7, 11). I’d like
to share a few excerpts from that document. (Note: All
page numbers within the excerpts are from the Cardus
• Students graduate from Protestant Christian schools
feeling well prepared for a spiritual life;
consequently, they are more committed to their churches.
They practice spiritual disciplines and follow church
teachings more often than graduates from any other type
of school. et al. (16).
• They also attend church more regularly and are more
active in their congregations than other school
• These students “are distinctively different from their
peers in their belief that Jesus Christ is the only way
to salvation” (17).
• Homeschool, public school, and Catholic school
graduates all pray, read Scripture, and evangelize at
about the same rates, but Protestant Christian school
graduates practice all three at significantly higher
• When Protestant Christian school graduates marry and
have children, they also spend more time incorporating
their faith into their family life; they pray, discuss
God, and read Scripture together as a family more often
than any of their peers (22).
• Another distinctive of Protestant Christian school
graduates is their tendency to choose careers on the
basis of their religious calling and to place less
importance on compensation (20). These students average
lower household incomes, yet they give more of their
time and finances to their churches and communities than
their peers do (18–19)
• They also give significantly more time, volunteering
more hours in their churches and about the same number
of hours in other community causes (19, 26).
• These graduates also feel more gratitude for their
possessions, even in light of their relatively lower
household incomes and greater efforts in giving (24–25).
What community would not want such citizens?
• The CES data suggest that Protestant Christian school
graduates’ religious beliefs also have an impact on how
they interact with the culture. These graduates use
Scripture to make moral decisions more often, and they
believe more strongly that moral standards are
absolute—including prohibitions against premarital sex,
divorce, and cohabitation (16–17, 20).
• These students also strongly believe religion should
be included in public discourse on the pressing issues
of our time (20).
• Finally, they are doing more community good through
their commitment to short-term mission and aid trips.
Protestant Christian school graduates participate in
more post-high-school relief and development, mission,
and evangelism trips than any of their peers do (19).
• It is clear that these students are not islands unto
themselves in their communities, but they are integrated
into its various parts.
• The overarching academic finding of the CES was that
Protestant Christian education is significantly less
academically rigorous than Catholic education (31). Such
a claim deserves further inquiry and close inspection.
• Protestant Christian schools are already among the top
10 percent of schools when judged by average student
performance on the NAEP test. For the past 37 years,
since ACSI and its predecessors started tracking
Stanford Achievement Test scores in 1974, ACSI schools
have scored significantly higher than the national norm
in every grade level every year. Clearly Protestant
Christian schools, and ACSI schools specifically, are
excelling academically. The CES finding is based on
several criteria, among them school academic programs
(including number of required courses in various
disciplines and number of AP courses available), the
percentage of graduates who attend more-selective
colleges and universities, and graduates’ average years
of higher education and number of advanced degrees.
While Catholic schools do offer some specific academic
advantages, we believe that the academic gap is
significantly less than first reported and that it has
less to do with academic preparation than with school,
parent, and student goals.
• The [CES] authors make it clear that “research finds
Christian schools to be serving a public good in many
ways.” However, the authors set a high value on top-down
influence by saying that Christian school graduates show
“a surprising lack of engagement in areas traditionally
thought to influence culture: through the political
sphere, relationships with people in positions of power
and status or people earning
higher university degrees, and intellectual engagement
in the arts” (24).
• There is nothing wrong with emphasizing a top-down
view; however, [Christian school educators’] goal is to
prepare students to achieve the ultimate design God has
for them, whether that is a top-down or bottom-up
• Clearly there is more work to be done within top-down
influence, but as the CES clearly shows, [Christian
schools graduates] are excelling at bottom-up influence.
As a Christian school parent, you already know the
benefits of the educational investment you’re making in
your children. This study is a great reminder that
you’ll see a return on that investment long after your
children graduate. And so will our society!
Pennings, Ray et al. 2011. Cardus education survey.
Hamilton, ON: Cardus.
Scott, Philip. 2012. Upon a solid foundation: The ACSI
response to and expansion on the
“Cardus Education Survey.” Colorado Springs, CO: ACSI.
Dan Egeler, EdD
Acting President, ACSI