There has been lots of discussion on the internets about a Department of Education study that compared fourth and eigth grade reading and mathematics skills in the U.S. (The full report in pdf format is here). While many have been concentrating on good news for the public schools–that there’s no overall difference between public and private schools once social factors are considered–what intrigued me was the poor performance of the conservative Christian schools (note: Catholic and Lutheran schools were not counted as conservative Christian). After adjusting for social factors, conservative Christian schools did substantially worse than public schools in reading and math.
In fact, the effect size (which is the difference in reading scores due to school type divided by the standard deviation) for conservative Christian schools is 0.24. So what’s going on with conservative Christian schools?
- Poor teacher quality. Maybe most teachers don’t want to teach at these schools.
- The legacy of Jim Crow for whites. These schools flourished after desegregation. This might not be the best foundation for learning.
- The effects of dogmatism. Intellectual curiosity and slavish obedience do not go hand in hand.
- Parental and other environmental effects that are particular to the population that attends these schools. Certain social variables won’t be picked up in these kinds of analyses.
Conservative Christianity is a form of child abuse.(Bad Mad Biologist! Bad!)
I’m sure some of you have opinions too…