Christian Curricular Emphases and Academic Rigor: A Mixed Methods Study
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This study explored the relationship between Christian curricular emphases and academic rigor among Christian secondary schools. It used convergent data transformation methods to analyze published curriculum descriptions in relationship to published academic data. This study correlated the two sets of variables while controlling for the influence of family income on these academic performance metrics. A review of the precedent literature first presented foundations for Christian education. It then examined studies of both Christian curriculum and academic rigor. It reviewed studies of curriculum, both theoretical and practical, and introduced the term “Christian curricular emphases” for discussing intentional assertions of Christian principles. It also reviewed studies examining selected criteria (AP courses, SAT scores, and acceptance into top universities) as measures of academic rigor. Few published studies examined both strands together. The convergent data transformation research design consisted of both qualitative and quantitative analyses consisting of four phases. The study required a population which could demonstrate both Christian curricular emphases and academic rigor, hence the selection of CESA schools. The first phase collected published qualitative curricular data and quantitative academic rigor data. The second phase gathered both tuition and family income data to control for possible confounding variables. The third phase coded schools’ course descriptions for integration of faith and learning (IFL) language, which was then transformed into quantitative data for analysis. The fourth phase performed a multivariate analysis of variance with covariates (MANCOVA) on all collected data. Overall, this study found that CESA schools provided rigorous academics when compared to other categories of schools. Controlling for family income levels strengthened all academic rigor measurements. Increasing years of required Bible courses correlated with lower measures of academic rigor. Higher frequency of IFL language in science course descriptions correlated with higher academic rigor measures, while higher frequency of IFL language in English or social studies courses did not. No school used IFL language in math course descriptions. Evaluating CESA schools’ Christian curricular and academic rigor data confirmed the added clarity of controlling for income data. Additionally, this study provided a new methodology for correlating Christian curricular emphases and academic rigor in Christian secondary schools.