Barna, in partnership with the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), recently conducted a study on what parents look for when making decisions about Christian schools. Both parents of current ACSI students and prospective students were surveyed. The parents were first asked to choose the top five purposes of education; both prospective and current parents selected to instill strong principles and values as their top priority (69% for current parents, 53% for prospective).
Findings showed differences, however, between the focuses of prospective parents and current parents, as well. For example, prospective parents ranked “practical life skills” (51% to current parents’ 31%) along with “increased opportunities in life” (45% to current parents’ 29%) and a “fulfilling career” (38% to 22%” as objectives for sending their children to ACSI schools. Barna referred to these categories as “objectives related to personal achievement and social skills.” Current parents of ACSI students valued objectives related to spiritual and character growth, with the focus on raising the child’s socioeconomic status being far less important. Five goals that parents of current students noted as priorities are: “love for God and other people” (65% of current parents vs. 33% of prospective parents), “ability to apply knowledge (wisdom)” (60% to 44%), “faithfulness and obedience to God” (54% vs. 21%), and “leadership skills” (52% to 46%).
Parents were asked to rate 23 characteristics of a school from “essential” to “nice to have” to “not necessary.” The top 4 that were most important to parents were: Safety; Quality Teachers; Academic Excellence; Character Development & Spirituality.
Current parents (98%) and prospective parents (94%) rated Safety as essential when choosing a Christian school. Providing a safe environment can cover various topics in regard to the physical space, such as a playground or building, but it also covers what is referred to as “cultural safety,” which means an ability to ask questions or have doubt without fear, or having a feeling of belonging/respect. Prospective parents tend to think of physical and emotional safety for their children in a Christian school – as it applies to how other students are treating them. Current parents think about the ability to ask questions, including those pertaining to faith. Current parents of ACSI students rate their current school a 10 out of 10 at a 47% rate for providing a safe environment. 42% of prospective parents give a 10 out of 10 to Christian schools for providing safety, while they rated charter schools a 10 out of 10 at 35%, and public schools at a 21% rate. In comparison, current parents of ACSI students rated public or charter schools a 10 out of 10 at only 4%.
Quality Teachers are also very important and essential to parents, especially “teachers who really care about their students” at 98% for ASCI parents. “Accessible teachers,” at 94%, is also important. 91% of prospective parents think that caring teachers are essential, while 80% are concerned about accessibility. Current parents would like small classes (63%) with prospective parents at 49%. Among parents who currently have children in private Christian schools, 59% give the current school 10 out of 10 when it comes to teachers (“teachers who really care about their students”). 52% say that they would give their school a 10 out of 10 for accessibility to teachers. At a rate of 38%, prospective parents gave a 10 out of 10 for “teachers who really care about their students” and 34% gave the same rating to “accessible teachers.”
95% of current Christian school parents rate academic excellence as a top priority, or “essential,” with 88% of prospective parents agreeing on this point. 38% of current parents give their schools a 10 out of 10 in academic excellence, with 86% rating the school a seven or above. More than two-thirds say that attending a private Christian school “fosters excellence.” Prospective parents rate private Christian schools at 29% when it comes to academics; this difference in opinion can only note that the perception may be attributed to a personal experience with an ACSI.
is important to both current and prospective parents; 94% of current parents say that “intentionally developing children’s character” is a priority, and 73% of prospective parents agree that this is a priority. However, current parents also focus on spiritual development as well. 82% of current parents of Christian school students believe it is essential to consider this when thinking about different schools to attend. Prospective students consider this essential at 26%. Current parents give Christian schools a 10 out of 10 at 59% for being deliberate about developing children’s character, and for developing spirituality, at 66%. 35% of prospective parents gave a 10 out of 10 on character development to Christian schools, and 42% for a 10 out of 10 in spiritual development. 97% of current parents gave both topics a six out of 10 or above compared to three-quarters of prospective parents, ranking the combined topics a six out 10 or above.
— Reporting by Joyce Guzowski