by Adventist Today News Team

Correction added on April 30.

The first analysis of all available research comparing religious, public and charter schools was released recently in a presentation at Notre Dame University and the author had positive comments about Adventist schools. The meta-analysis combined data from all 90 studies on this topic published in recent years, most of them in refereed academic journals. It is the first such analysis ever undertaken comparing the three types of schools and included both elementary and secondary students.
Dr. William H. Jeynes, well known for his meta-analytic research on a number of topics, is a senior fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey, and professor of education at California State University, Long Beach. He is known as the architect of the economic and education plan that enabled the Republic of Korea to recover from the 1997-98 Asian economic crisis. He has authored more than 110 academic publications, including 10 books.
Students attending faith-based schools had an academic advantage of approximately one year over their counterparts in both public and charter schools, Jeynes stated in his Notre Dame lecture. Even when the data was controlled for socioeconomic status, ethnicity and gender this advantage was maintained. “I was quite surprised that students from charter schools did no better than their counterparts in traditional public schools,” Jeynes said. “I really expected charter school students to outperform pupils in traditional public schools. It appears that if this nation is to support the notion of a greater breadth of school choice, then religious schools should be included.”
Schools operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church were included in the analysis and Jeynes spoke exclusively to Adventist Today about the results. “Students who attend Adventist schools score at an academic level about 11 months ahead of their counterparts,” he said. “Even when controlling for socioeconomic status, race and gender, the advantage is six months.”
“The advantage for students who attend Adventist schools is somewhat greater at the high school level,” Jeynes told Adventist Today. Students in Adventist secondary schools are 12 months ahead of their counterparts as compared to 10 months for students in Adventist elementary schools. (Or seven months and five months when the data is controlled for ethnicity, socioeconomic status and gender.) “The primary reason for this is the high school students attending Adventist schools have been attending those schools longer than the younger students, and the … advantage tends to accumulate over time.”
The achievement gap for minority and low-income students in Adventist schools is about 25 percent smaller than in public schools, Jeynes said. “Attending private religious schools is associated with the highest level of academic achievement,” which means that Adventist education provides a significant path to overcome poverty for the children from inner city and immigrant families.
“One of the reasons that Adventist schools are successful,” Jeynes told Adventist Today, “is because they have higher expectations of students and encourage them to take hard courses. They are more likely to support the notion that ‘God doesn’t make junk’ and that students are often capable of achieving more than they realize.”
Jeynes also stated that “students who attend Adventist schools have fewer behavioral problems than their counterparts, even when adjusting for socioeconomic status, race and gender. In fact, the behavioral advantage is even larger than the scholastic advantage.” And students “report that there is a greater degree of racial harmony at Adventist schools than one finds in public schools,” despite the high level of diversity in many of the schools operated by the Adventist Church.
The research is being published in the Peabody Journal of Education, volume 87, pages 305-335.  The article does not include any specific references to Adventist data.
“This research is similar to what the Cognitive Genesis project is finding,” a veteran education administrator for the Adventist Church told Adventist Today. “It is great to see that someone with Jeynes’ reputation agrees with our own findings.” The Cognitive Genesis project is research being conducted by La Sierra University for the Office of Education at the denomination’s North American Division. Little of the findings and data from the project has been released to date.

Correction Addendum

Cognitive Genesis "was not a project of the North American Division Office of Education (NADOE)," Dr. Marilyn Beach, assistant director of the Center for Research on Adventist Education (CRAE), told Adventist Today. It "was conceived of and executed at La Sierra University [and it] was not funded by the NADOE or the Seventh-day Adventist Church." Funding came from grants by Commonweal Foundation, Versacare and the Zapara Family Foundation, as well as private donations. "However, the research could not have been done without the cooperation of the NADOE that collected the standardized tests data for four years and helped disseminate the results."

Beach told Adventist Today that a summary report was published in 2011 and a series of annual reports are available for download on the web site or from CRAE. In addition findings were published in The Journal of Research on Christian Education in 2012. And there is a 16-page booklet entitled Moving Hearts & Minds Upward that can be purchased from AdventSource, the leadership resource center of the North American Division.

"In addition to the academic achievement results," Dr. Beach told Adventist Today, "information gleaned from the questionnaires gives insight into student, parent/home, teacher and school factors that influence achievement. These factors continue to be examined by graduate students at La Sierra University and Andrews University as well as researchers at non-Adventist institutions such as the University of Notre Dame and the University of Iowa."