With the school enrollment period opening across the Raleigh area, Christian parents are wrestling with the very difficult decision of school choice. Raleigh is blessed with an enormous array of schooling options to help meet the needs of most any child. However, choosing the right school for each child can be overwhelming and extremely stressful for Christian parents.
Among the public school options in Raleigh are base schools, charter schools, and magnet schools with each offering different specialties and unique opportunities. Wake County also offers a choice between traditional and Montessori educational philosophies through their charter schools. Parents must choose between the traditional school calendar and the year round option which includes another choice between four different tracks. Year-round families then must hope and pray that all their children get assigned to the same track.
Private Christian school options are also varied with choices between classical and traditional approaches and various types of curriculum. Raleigh area Christian schools differ in size, accreditation, extracurricular opportunities, environment, and cost. There is also the homeschooling option which has been growing in popularity in Wake County where there are now over 220% more homeschooled students than there were 10 years ago.
The best choice for one child may vary from year to year, and the best option for one sibling may be quite different than that of another sibling. For a Christian parent, school choice depends upon a number of factors such as:
- Academic reputation and college preparation
- Ministry Opportunity
- Worldview and moral training
- School and classroom size
- Physical, spiritual and emotional protection
- Special programs to meet each child’s unique areas of giftedness or need
Each parent’s final choice depends upon which factor or combination of factors he or she values most. Since no one school can offer the ideal for each factor, school choice is ultimately a question of priorities. The goal of this series is to examine each of these factors for both Wake County public schools and Raleigh Christian schools in general. This series will also provide some guiding questions to help simplify the decision making process.
The academic performance of students in both private and public schools varies tremendously. Typically, private schools are expected to have higher academic standards, but certain charter and magnet schools are fiercely competitive academically. Magellan Charter School and Quest Academy were listed in School Digger’s Top 10 list for elementary schools in North Carolina. Some rating systems rank certain base schools in Wake County even higher than charter and magnet schools. PSK12.com ranks schools within each county based on student test scores in previous years. For example, in 2002, Davis Drive, Green Hope, and Oak Grove elementary schools all tied for first place with 95% of students in third through fifth grade at or above grade level in both math and reading.
Perhaps the greatest advantage public schools provide parents is online data that helps parents compare schools. Useful public school data can be found online at ncreportcards.org, www.psk12.com (a fee is required for recent rankings), or www.schooldigger.com. If students are assigned to a low performing base school, then parents may choose to move to a better school zone or apply for charter or magnet schools. School zoning and principal assignments change regularly, so school rankings could change over time.
The same types of rankings and government accountability do not exist for private Christian schools. To assess academics and college preparation offered by Christian schools, parents must visit each school and examine the curriculum, course of study, and advanced placement course offerings. Parents should ask the administration for a record of college placement and scholarship money received by recent graduates. Large secular universities may not be as familiar with smaller private Christian schools as they are with the larger high performing public schools, so it is important to look for schools that offer strong academics in those subjects evaluated on the SAT. However, classical universities, Christian universities and Bible colleges may prefer students graduating out of classical or Christian schools.
When evaluating academics, also consider the impact that a hard driving academic culture may have on students. With limited resources and so much pressure to ensure students score well on end-of-grade exams, teachers are tempted to only teach to the test. Students may be pushed to perform by the administration or be labeled when they do not meet such high expectations. Homework could be excessive making the students feel more like machines than individuals in need of nurturing.
Christian parents are often more concerned with what is being taught than with how many students in the school are testing at grade level. Secular academics teach students facts and methodologies, but key facts may be either eliminated or changed to project a different meaning. In addition, when acquired knowledge is not applied at the spiritual level, the education is incomplete.
For example, in public school, students will learn many facts about George Washington, but they will not learn about his passion for Christ or about his powerful prayer life. The miraculous story of Washington’s coat being filled with bullet holes without one bullet touching him during the French and Indian War has been removed from secular history books but is still shared in most Christian schools. (Read more in The Bulletproof Washington.) Washington’s faith was the essence of his person, but all faith references must be omitted in government schools, although devoted Christian teachers may freely share such information when asked by their pupils.
As another example, consider the secular reference text, Everything You Need to Know About American History Homework, which describes Margaret Sanger as a nurse who believed having children made women poor, so “she devoted her life to making information about birth control available to women” (page 77). The text presents her as a key figure in the Age of Industry, but it does not mention that she was also a radical racist and supporter of eugenics who shared much in common with Hitler. Both promoted abortion, concentration camps, and forced sterilization as a means to rid the world of what they considered to be “inferior” genes. (“A Plan For Peace,” Birth Control Review) Read more about Sanger here. Public school texts must not cast her too negatively, lest they discourage teen mothers in crisis pregnancy situations from seeking help at one of the powerful Planned Parenthood abortion centers across the globe.
In science class, public school students will learn the different functions of blood within the body, and they may learn that the blood carries everything the body needs for life to every cell in the body to enable health and healing. Christian school students will also learn the Biblical significance of blood. The penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23), so atonement can only came by the shedding of blood.
Leviticus 17:11 (NIV)
11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.
Christ shed His perfect blood to pay the sin debt for all mankind. He shed His blood as the perfect sacrifice so that all who believe in Him may receive pardon and new life with His righteousness surging through a believer’s veins.
Colossians 1:20 (NIV)
20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Secular education equips students with knowledge which may build up or puff up (1 Corinthians 8:1). By incorporating Biblical truth, Christian education should provide both knowledge and wisdom while also compelling students to praise God. To worship and enjoy God is man’s primary purpose on earth, so Christian students often feel more fulfilled and are better able to thrive in a school environment that encourages Bible study, prayer, and worship.
Christian parents can still supplement and correct what is taught in public schools at home. A public school education can provide excellent teaching opportunities for parents to help equip their children to be discerning in all that they do, say, read, think, and hear. Parents must take advantage of every opportunity to teach their children to think Biblically and to live out a Christian worldview in the secular school system. Committed Christian students can shine as bright lights in the public school setting to those students who have been reared in darkness.
Matthew 5:15-17 (NIV)
15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
However, some Christian parents may judge their younger children to be too young and immature to think with such discernment. For them, ensuring that their children are educated within a Biblical worldview is a top priority. Whether parents choose public or Christian school, it is still important for all Christian parents to remain engaged in their child’s learning process. It is also imperative that each child’s parents, regardless of school choice, continue serving as the child’s primary Bible teachers and spiritual mentors. Parents simply cannot outsource this divine responsibility and privilege to a Christian school.
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
The next installment of this series continues the comparison between public schools and Christian schools with special emphasis on worldview training and cost.
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