When the world measures the outcomes of a K-12 education, it most frequently does so in terms of grades, test scores, and college scholarships. That is the vernacular. When the conversation turns to what kind of schooling produces the best of those outcomes, the world naturally assumes prestigious college preparatory schools are best. But that simply is not true. To push back even further, it might be said that the world is measuring the outcomes of education all wrong. What if I told you there is now definitive proof schools that measure outcomes in terms of soul formation also produce the best grades, test scores, and college scholarships?What if students could graduate with even better than prep school results and also be prepared to live a fulfilling and joyful life? While it may sound too good to be true, it isn’t. Classical Christian schools like Trinitas are offering just that kind of education by focusing their efforts first on soul formation. By taking that approach within a stimulating academic environment—holding the highest standards in the classroom for God’s glory and not just for a grade—classical Christian school graduates are better prepared for college, career, and a life well lived than prep school alumni or alumni from any other kind of school.
The past few weeks we have been examining the results of a massive education survey by Cardus and the University of Notre Dame. The Association of Classical Christian Schools has compiled a report on the survey titled “Good Soil.” As we continue working through the report, this week we’ll look briefly at two more of its seven profiles: College and Career Preparedness and Life Outlook. Just to refresh your memory, this report examines alumni between the ages of 24 and 44 who graduated from six different types of schools: public, college preparatory, Catholic, Evangelical, homeschool, and ACCS schools (like Trinitas). All of the alumni surveyed grew up in Christian homes.
College and Career Preparedness
The survey found that alumni who graduated from classical Christian schools like Trinitas were far more likely to claim they were well prepared for college and for their careers than alumni of college preparatory schools. The other four school groups reported considerably lower preparedness than the prep schools. Again, high standards for academics and decorum coupled with the main goal of pleasing God rather than getting A’s worked for classical Christian alumni.
Taken into account in this summary statement were such data points as what percentage of alumni earned mostly A’s in college. The survey also asked how many alumni actually graduated college with at least a four year degree. For ACCS alumni, that number was near 90%, the highest of any of the six types of schools. The next closest group was prep-schoolers at about 77%. When the highest aim is something permanent and lasting, even eternal, everything else falls into place. In other words, seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness is the right path.
Time and again test scores for nearly all Trinitas graduates far surpass the college readiness benchmarks set by SAT and ACT. But more importantly, the anecdotal evidence offered by Trinitas grads comes most frequently in the form of, “I am so thankful for my time at Trinitas; it really prepared me well to face college expectations,” and only rarely in the form of, “I wish we had done more of [X] at Trinitas so I would have been better prepared for [X subject] in college.” Among the most telling of evidence that Trinitas grads are prepared for higher education comes in the value colleges and universities place on them. For graduating classes that average ten students, the scholarship offers they receive usually range between one and two million dollars total.
Yes, but can those college graduates enjoy their lives? One of the most eye-opening discoveries in “Good Soil” is that alumni of classical Christian schools are far more likely to have a positive outlook on life and experience satisfaction in their lives than alumni from any other school group. One reason this is so important is that nationwide statistics are showing a crisis in life satisfaction indicators; in fact, the leading causes of death for the age group surveyed are drug overdose and suicide. Life expectancy is now declining for the first time in decades. Alumni of classical Christian schools seem to be avoiding that crisis and are instead flourishing.
The survey indicates that alumni from classical Christian schools get a strong sense of fulfillment from their spirituality. They are also far more likely to see everything, including their suffering, as part of God’s plan for their lives. While large numbers from the five other school groups admitted their lives often lack a clear sense of direction, only a fraction of ACCS alumni expressed that; furthermore, twice as many alumni of the other five school groups confessed to feeling hopeless when facing life’s problems. It isn’t that classical Christian alumni don’t have problems; it is that they do not lose hope in the face of those problems because they are firmly anchored in the Christian faith.
Alumni of classical Christian schools leave their schools well prepared for college and for the workplace—better prepared than alumni from college preparatory schools. Not only do they outstrip all the other school types in the classroom and on the job, but they are happier people while they’re doing it! It is good to give a child an education that prepares her for college and career, but why not do that while you first and foremost prepare her for a life-well lived?
Next week we will unpack more survey findings from the “Good Soil” report.