Benefits of Christian Education

Cardus Research Summary

A few years ago Cardus, a Christian think tank headquartered in Ontario, Canada, sought to discover to what extent Christian school graduates are making an impact. In other words, does K-12 Christian education produce its intended outcomes?

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.

Philip Scott, ACSI’s assistant director for Legal/Legislative Issues, wrote a summary of the CES for Christian school parents (Scott 2012, 5-7, 11). Below are a few excerpts from that document. (Note: All page numbers within the excerpts are from the Cardus Education Survey.)

  • 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 al. (16).
  • They also attend church more regularly and are more active in their congregations than other school graduates (16-17).
  • 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 rates (21).
  • 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.
  • 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 the 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.