July 29, 2016
Little known fact: Without charter schools, there’d be no significant growth in public school enrollment over the last decade. In other words, the health of our education system depends on giving parents choices: “Remarkably, the entire enrollment growth in American public education since 2006 has been accounted for by charter schools. (District schools actually lost students during this time.) The demand to attend them still exceeds the supply of charter seats in many places,” report education analysts. Today, nearly 3 million kids—about 6 percent of all public school students—are attending 6,800 charter schools nationwide. This summer marked the 25th anniversary celebration of our nation’s first charter-school law in Minnesota. Now, 42 additional states have charter-school laws. The rapid growth of schools that operate independently from the traditional education system speaks powerfully to the strong desire among parents for education options that reflect their children’s unique needs and their families’ values.
Religious Freedom/Campuses: Christian Schools Face More Threats
We’ve all seen the news stories about how the White House’s arbitrary re-interpretation of federal education laws—specifically, Title IX—is undermining parental and religious-freedom rights in public schools. But multiple warning signs have also accumulated that reveal how Title IX will be used to jeopardize the freedoms of private, Christian schools. A few examples:
A small, Christian school in Wisconsin, with only 147 students and 10 teachers, has found itself under investigation by the Department of Agriculture (the agency that oversees the national school lunch program). The crime? The principal sent a letter to students’ parents explaining how the school planned to stay true to its biblical sexuality standards, especially in light of the White House’s recent gender-identity mandates. All it took was an atheist group to report the school based on that letter for a possible “gender-identity” discrimination violation, and now the school could lose funding to provide lunches for impoverished children.
A disturbing bill targeting Christian colleges is also moving through the California legislature. Once again— in the name of Title IX—this proposed bill (S.B. 1146) would, among other things:
- Essentially put the government in charge of defining what constitutes acceptable “religious education.” Under S.B. 1146, apparently only Christian schools narrowly dedicated to training pastors or teaching theology would qualify for religious-freedom exemptions. In other words, schools probably won’t get full protection if they’re providing broader education from a Christian- worldview perspective (such as Baylor University or Biola).
- As a result, it greatly discourages Christian colleges from applying for religious-freedom exemptions from the federal government’s Title IX mandates (affecting schools’ male/female bathrooms and dormitory policies).
- Restrict students' choices: Schools that chose to remain true to their biblical sexuality standards would be banned from inclusion in the state’s student scholarship program. For timely updates, click here.
Academic Update: Do Historic Graduation Rates Tell Us the Whole Story?
After stagnating at around 70 percent for decades—the high school graduation rate has risen to 82 percent according to recent reports. This marks the highest high-school graduation rate in our nation’s history, with about three million students graduating this year. But are these numbers telling us the whole story—and giving parents a truly holistic picture about their children’s academic achievement? Consider these other newly released stats:
High School Fade Out Phenomenon
Data from our nation’s most highly respected standardized test—the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)—reveal that high school students’ achievement scores have remained flat since the early 1990s. Despite rising achievement among elementary and middle-school kids, “those gains disappeared by the time they were 17.” We seem unable to break-through the “fade out” phenomenon occurring in secondary schools. Education experts disagree about the reasons why.
Evidence of Common Core's "College-Ready" Gaps
A survey of thousands of educators released from ACT—which produces the national college- admissions exam that nearly 2 million graduates take each year—casts doubt about whether Common Core standards have really delivered on the promise to make our students “college ready.” According to the survey, “only 16 percent of college educators said incoming students were prepared for post-secondary work.” These statistics beg the question: Are we graduating more kids at the cost of lowering the bar for them at the same time? For more information, read Focus on the Family's background articles on Common Core.