Yesterday Cardus released the results of our Christian Education Survey (available for download here), the largest known representative study of the outcomes of Christian education in North America undertaken to date. The data provide fascinating results that portray the graduates of Christian schools as living lives that:
- --promote community building;
- --support civic responsibility and civic engagement;
- --contribute to strong family life;
- --are less involved in politics;
- --embrace hope and optimism about the future;
- --indicate strong life-direction; and
- --place a lower priority on graduate-level university educational attainment.
This project began about four years ago with a reflective conversation with a few people who had invested significant time and resources into Christian education over the years. Were the millions of dollars being invested in Christian schools having any lasting impact, our conversants wondered? Cardus organized a symposium with 37 participants to reflect on the question and while they unanimously agreed it was, they also recognized that there was little objective benchmark data available by which to demonstrate some of their claims.
Three years and $1.1 million later, with the help of generous funders and five university teams, we have managed to put into the public sphere a discussion document that we believe advances the discussion. The primary data gathered by a team at Notre Dame University has been supplemented by four qualitative studies which provide nuance and context to the numbers. The results will please some and frustrate others.
It is our hope that the results will provide a basis for conversation in which supporters of local Christian schools can together reflect on what this means for their own school and how they might better articulate and achieve the results they are aiming for. That is why the release of the report is accompanied by curriculums which will assist those involved in local schools in considering the results in their local contexts.
The results should also be of interest to those who are not supporters of Christian education. Our report cites a study which notes that Alberta provides the most supportive environment for schools other than public schools. Alberta students (including the 93% who attend public schools) happen to obtain among the highest results on international tests from around the world.
The 2007 provincial election in Ontario is but one of many available case studies of how faith-based education can be scape-goated by critics to reinforce stereotypes and pursue intolerant agendas that are actually socially divisive. The data provided in our study counters such simplistic claims and demonstrates the public good that Christian schools are providing. This is not wide-eyed or blanket optimism—the report challenges those who support Christian education with data that are not always flattering.
Rather than providing the final word, te CES Phase I report is a conversation starter that can contribute to both the advancement of Christian education and the good of society.