Tuesday, May 29, 2007

No Achievement Gap for Minority Kids from Intact, Religious Families

A recent study sponsored by the Baylor University Institute for Religion and published in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion has found that when highly religious African-American and Latino students from intact families are compared with white students, the achievement gap disappears. Dr. William Jeynes of CSU-Long Beach examined the data from more than 20,000 African-American and Latino 12th graders included in the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS). The study found that:

Highly religious African American and Latino 12th-grade students from intact families, when controlling for socioeconomic status (SES), scored as well as their white counterparts on the Social Studies test, the Test Composite, and scored virtually the same as white students on the Math and Reading tests. Highly religious African American and Latino students from intact families were also slightly more likely to advance a grade with their class than white students, and were more likely to take the basic core set of courses recommended for college preparation by the National Assessment for Educational Progress.

A student was considered "highly religious" by the researchers when the following three conditions were met: (1) attendance at worship services at least 4 times per month (2) active involvement in a religious youth group (3) self description as "very religious".

Dr. Jeynes also examined the NELS data to compare students attending public schools with those attending religious-affiliated schools. While students in religious schools on average outperformed their counterparts in public schools, poor and minority children were the greatest beneficiaries.

Dr. Jeynes' research found that the factors contributing to the religious schools' success with minority children include strong parental participation, the encouragement of religious faith, a higher level of racial harmony, and considerably fewer problems with drugs and alcohol.

One quote from the study I found particularly interesting as a homeschooling mom was the following:

the orientation of the public schools is one that sees schools as society’s instrument for releasing a child from the blinders imposed by accident of birth into this family or that family. Schools have been designed to open broad horizons to the child, transcending the limitations of the parents. By contrast, the religious school orientation sees a school as the extension of the family, reinforcing the family’s values
Dr. Jeynes argues that the religious school orientation promotes social capital and in that way contributes to the child's success.

(HT: DallasNews Religion)

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