[November 26, 2007] by Ansel Oliver/Adventist News Network
Academic achievement levels for students in Seventh-day Adventist schools in North America are above national norms, according to data from the first year of a three-year study.
Preliminary results from the study say Adventist elementary and high school students rank in the 60th to 65th percentile, and that the ranking is similar despite factors including location, school size or grade range in class.
The study, CognitiveGenesis, is funded by private donations and seeks to answer two questions: What is the achievement level in Adventist schools compared to national norms? And what student, parent, teacher or school factors are associated with achievement?
"This is the most important academic survey ever undertaken in the Adventist Church," said Larry Blackmer, vice president for education for the church's North American region, which includes the United States, Canada and Bermuda.
"Any time you look at a system with 30,000 students that perform above the national norm, even after accounting for ability, you know something is happening that is important and worth studying further," Blackmer said.
Preliminary results of the study were presented on November 1 to church leaders in an annual business meeting at the church's North American region headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.
Robert Cruise, the study's research director and a former professor of statistics and research at several Adventist universities, said the goal is to include every student in grades 3 to 9 and 11.
"Even after controlling for ability level, after one year of data, those students are doing well," Cruise said.
Church education officials are anticipating results of the study along with other denominational leaders and the U.S. Department of Education, Blackmer said.
Doug Walker, Education director for the church in the Southwestern region of the United States, says he plans to promote the results of the study while encouraging continuing participation.
"We get questions every once in a while about the quality of academic education in our schools. I think this study is going to provide some positive answers that we can back up with hard data," Walker said.
While student responses are nearly 100 percent, parent survey responses are lower, Walker said. "Maybe there's a fear amongst some people of others finding out about their business, but I think we've been able to show that we can guarantee anonymity," he said.
The study is measuring academic achievement using the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS) and the Iowa Test of Educational Development (ITED) and the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT).
Results will be used to study how student, parent, teacher and school factors are related to achievement. The second year of research has been collected, but researchers said final analyses will be held until data for all three years has been collected, Cruise said.