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Should Parents Consider 'Value' When Picking a Christian School?

Should Parents Consider 'Value' When Picking a Christian School?

Robert F. Davis
Robert F. Davis previously served as vice president for Advancement at Bryan College in Tennessee and consulting vice president for Advancement and Alumni Affairs at Liberty University in Virginia. |

Who doesn't want to get more for their money? Who doesn't want more "bang for their buck?" Who isn't interested in value in what they purchase? I'll bet you'd have to question a lot of people to find one who says, "I don't mind paying more and getting less."

You may find someone who would say, "Money is no object when it comes to my kids." But do they really mean it? Would they actually pay more for something which could be found for less, and of equal or better value?

I found it interesting to discover an exception to this when I was working to establish a Christian university preparatory school for New York City. Parents, even Christian parents, appeared to be more interested, at least until you "drilled down" deeper, in being able to say, "My son/daughter attends one of the 'prestigious' (and more expensive) prep schools in Manhattan," rather than a Christian school. It was a "pride thing."

"At least until you drilled down" is significant because as conversation progressed it became clear that these parents were indeed deeply interested in their children's: academic, social, physical, and spiritual well-being. Underneath all of the posturing these parents knew that the typical New York school would put much of what they desire at risk.

A serious conversation of this nature quickly moves to a discussion of equipped faculty, challenging courses, options, and yes, money. Most of the aforementioned are elusive to the Christian school! I know this because I've taught at them, administrated them, counselled them, and on one occasion removed from the classroom because I was "too hard." I required too much! The school was more interested in "academic grace" than rigor.

Many of the things considered important to school organizers, some school administrator, the Christian school board, and the average Christian parents are not the things that matter most.

These things would include but not be limited to: Is Bible taught? Are the teachers certified? Is the environment safe? Will the school introduce my youngster to Christ? Are all of the students from Christian families? Do they teach creationism or evolution? Do they have chapel?

Hey, I'm not saying these question aren't valid, but they don't unpack the real foundations of education, certainly not of Christian education. I will even go as far as to say the basic questions put to government schools don't get to that which is important either!

Now, having said all of this I haven't yet addressed the single most important issue to the average parent, "How much will tuition be and what do I get for what I pay?" And this, for me, gets to a significant point. Value in Christian education!

Defining value will bring us all to the same page and minimize confusion. Value is most clearly defined as, "The regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something."

There are at least four elements directly affecting educational value. Knowing these and what to look for, understanding what you see, and recognizing what to expect will give you a leg up when selecting the school for your children!

Determining the "academic environment" is the primary consideration and will influence all subsequent observations you will make. An examination of academic achievement by noting college acceptances and choices will indicate if the student body is motivated, achieving success, and taking courses which afford a challenge. These will characterize an environment of "preparation."

Take a look at the "faculty." Does the school offer an acceptable ratio of student to teacher balance which would foster a good deal of personalized attention? Are the teachers experienced or not and do they represent a diversity of college preparation? Do the more mature teachers mentor the less experienced? Also, observe several classes to get a sense of "classroom management" at the school, the "ethos" of the institution.

One thing I like to look for is "teacher certification." I prefer "non-certified" teachers and in favor of those who have majored in their subject and not education as an emphasis. This means the difference between 58 credits (a bachelor of science) or 28 credits (a bachelor of arts) in the major subject. And yes, be skeptical of institutions which hire teachers out of the education department of a university! 58 versus 28 gives plenty for serious thoughts. Furthermore I have never been asked if I was certified. I wasn't. My vitae was examined to determine whether I knew and could teach my subject!

Try to discern if the school is one of "integrity." Is this virtue to be found in the administrators, counselors, and teachers? Character development should be a primary goal of any Christian school. If personalized attention is recognized then those providing this close personal contact "must" not be anything but positive role models!

You may count on finding that course selection will be limited, the arts and athletic options underrepresented, and faculty represent fewer from the "Big 10" or "Ivy League" universities, but with strength in the aforementioned elements you may be sure, whatever the tuition, that "value" is high! Your child, children, your family, while paying more cost-effectively, will be getting "more for less!"

Robert F. Davis has 40 years of experience providing counsel for educational and not-for-profit institutions. He previously served as vice president for Advancement at Bryan College in Tennessee and consulting vice president for Advancement and Alumni Affairs at Liberty University in Virginia.

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