Wednesday, December 24, 2008

How can we eliminate the achievement gap between white and minority students? Easy. Encourage religious faith and marriage.

I recently came across a study released about a year and a half ago about how to eliminate the achievement gap between minority and white students. This is a big deal because the problem is worse in the Twin Cities than most urban areas. And because Minnesota state policymakers usually prescribe the wrong medicine for the problem -- more money, higher taxes. That entirely misses the boat, because the problem isn't lack of money. It's lack of religious faith and marriage, intact families.

The 2007 study was conducted by Dr. William H. Jeynes, a professor at California State University at Long Beach and a scholar with the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion. The study of 20,706 12th-grade high school student was reported on by the Council for American Private Education which said:
In connection with what he described as one of the study’s most notable findings, Jeynes looked at what happens to the achievement gap for religiously committed students from intact families. He found what he called an “amazing” result: “The achievement gap disappears.” Put another way, “[W]hen the data are adjusted for SES and gender, black and Hispanic adolescents who are religious and from intact families do just as well academically as white students.”

Turning to the policy implications of the study, Jeynes suggested that “showing that factors as simple as religious commitment, religious schools, and family structure can reduce or eliminate the gap may inspire educators and social scientists to encourage policies that are supportive of faith and the family so that the gap can be narrowed significantly.” He argued that including private schools in school choice initiatives “conceivably could improve the overall quality of the U.S. education system,” and he suggested that public schools “can benefit by imitating some of the strengths of the religious school model.”

Jeynes concluded that “religious education is a vibrant part of the education system in the United States” and called for further study on “why students from religious schools outperform students in public schools.”

This report is especially salient for the times in which we live. The answer to better education performance by minority students isn't more money as the public school education bureaucracy and many politicians will argue. Instead it's focusing on strengthening intact families which means encouraging marriage and religious faith and private religious schools. The latter cost less and especially benefit minority students.

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