Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dear God: help me pass that test!


Image: St. Paul Lutheran

The winter edition of my alma mater's alumi publication, Notre Dame Magazine, includes an interesting article by Greg Stowe titled:
More Church = Better Grades

For some students, good grades are an answer to prayer. It turns out that prayer may also be an answer as to why some students get good grades.

A recent study by Professor David Sikkink and visiting scholar Edwin Hernandez of Notre Dame along with Jennifer Glanville of the University of Iowa concludes that regular church attendance by students enhances their school performance.

Church-going, the sociologists say, boosts students’ relationships with adults and with other high-achieving classmates, and encourages them to become involved in extracurricular activities. All of those things appear to have a positive effect on school performance.

Sikkink and his colleagues reached their conclusion analyzing data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which was started in 1994 and includes responses from thousands of 7th through 12th graders.

Among other things, the researchers found that religious attendance increases the likelihood of joining clubs, which is positively related to finishing high school and earning higher GPAs.

Religious attendance also predicts an increased friendship network among students with higher grades. If a student’s friends have good grades, he’s likely to have them as well. Church-going also predicts more interaction with adults. Such intergenerational relationships, Sikkink and his colleagues say, have been shown to reduce the probability that a student will drop out of school.

The researchers found that a student’s participation in religious groups also predicts a slightly greater participation in sports and a much greater involvement in other extracurricular activities. This, they suggest, may be because church-going students are more accustomed to being part of a group or perhaps because their faith encourages them to evangelize others or get involved in community service. Participation in those activities, in turn, predicts better grades.

More broadly, Sikkink and his colleagues argue that religious attendance indicates a willingness to submit to collective goals and activities, including adult authority, and that makes participation in school more natural for students.

The authors of the study say other potential educational effects of religious attendance include disciplined scheduling, improved focus from the habit of sitting through religious services and the “moral fortitude” to persist when work is difficult.

- Gene Stowe

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