An Important Question About Income and Achievement

Earlier this month, I read an interesting new article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) called A Faithful Way to Learn.

It begins by asking: “What kind of child does well in school?” and shares some common characteristics of high achievers: “respect for authority, an ability to get along with fellow students, a stable family, exposure to responsible adults, and a feeling of hope”—characteristics we typically see in children from higher-income families.

But, then the WSJ asks, “What if there were one particular element in a child’s experience that could foster such characteristics in everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status?”

God, Grades, and Graduation—a new book by Ilana M. Horwitz—suggests an answer to this important question.

From analyzing a decade of national survey results and hundreds of interviews, Horwitz found that “nonaffluent teens who are intensely religious” (that is, who grow up in a strong, Christian community and develop true faith of their own) “complete more years of education than nonaffluent teenagers who are less religious.”

Horwitz calls these teens “abiders”—emphasizing the role of both faith and community in academic achievement. She says children must “believe and belong.”

This is exactly what we see every day at Hope Academy. For six hours a day, five days a week, students are enjoying a healthy, structured learning environment and connecting with caring staff. Children know they are loved by God and the people around them.

“Kids like coming to school. They feel safe here,” says Mr. Gillespie, our Head of Family Ministry.

Hope Academy students are also learning about God and His Word, and growing in virtues like kindness, diligence, and respect.

Like Horwitz explains in God, Grades, and Graduation, all of this helps non-affluent children gain “social capital” and achieve higher academic performance. Here is just one example:

One of our students has significant family challenges. But, for years at Hope Academy, he has been impacted by loving teachers, high standards, and high accountability, and gained extra support to thrive. Now, he is showing a true desire to improve his grades and prepare for high school.

At Hope Academy, hundreds of urban youth are persevering through a pandemic, violence and chaos in Minneapolis, and other trauma, and becoming true abiders in Christ. Students are continuing to grow academically and personally, and to achieve remarkable graduation rates (96% across all classes – 1 in 6 on a full tuition college scholarship!)

With the prayers and financial support of many partners, children are gaining hope and lives and futures are being transformed in Minneapolis. I invite you to watch our Hope in a Half Hour video to see more of the impact.

Russ Gregg, Co-Founder and Head of School