NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Black Parents Turning To Religious Schools

August 4, 1996

Educators say black parents are being drawn to private Christian academies in increasing numbers and for many reasons, including dissatisfaction with public schools, lower tuition compared to other independent schools and conservative social values.

  • Black private school enrollment is growing at a faster rate than overall private school enrollment, with the largest share of growth in the Christian school population, according to the National Center of Education Statistics.
  • The number of African-Americans attending conservative Christian schools nearly doubled from 1991 to 1994, rising from 36,710 (7 percent of the total population of students) to 71,399 (12 percent).

Some black parents are looking for the order, discipline and openly religious values taught in segregated black schools before federal court-ordered desegregation, says Emory University education professor Jacqueline J. Irvine.

Due to "white flight" from urban areas, and the perceived decline in government schools, some Christian schools that began with all-white enrollments in the early 1970s are nearly all black today -- from Old National Christian Academy outside Atlanta to the Inglewood Christian school in suburban Los Angeles.

  • Mt. Salus Academy in Clinton, Mississippi, was closed to blacks when it opened in 1969, but the number of black students has doubled in the past three years, to 10 percent of the 210 students this coming year.
  • Capitol Christian Academy, a formerly all-white fundamentalist school in Prince George's County, Maryland, is now 85 percent black.
  • In addition, more than 300 black churches and organizations have started schools in the last 10 years.

Some parents are attracted to religious schools by higher education standards. Average test scores at Christian schools show students at all grade levels are at least one year and eight months above national norms, according to Stanford Achievement Tests, which administers the national Scholastic Aptitude Tests.

Source: David J. Dent, "African-Americans Turning to Christian Academies," New York Times Magazine, Sunday, August 4, 1996.


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