"Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ" (Colossians 2:8).
The present generation of students in American schools seem to exhibit more confusion of mind than any other generation in recorded history. This confusion is mostly related to a lack of belief in God and His standard of absolute truth. Fundamentally, I believe the permeating influence of the evolutionary theory is the principle cause of this lack of belief in God and His absolutes. The false philosophy and empty deception of evolutionary theory does not allow for the Biblical admonition of setting our minds upon the things above. This is because of the focus on things of this world.
This state of confusion and lack of belief in absolutes is not limited to secular schools. The problem is also present in the private Christian schools of America and Canada. However, all is not lost; several groups such as the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) and the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) are waging the battle against the false theory of evolution and its impact on young people's minds.
One aspect of education where evolutionary theory has had a stranglehold is standardized testing. This is especially true for standardized science achievement tests. These tests have been written from a secular, humanistic, and evolutionary world view. Because of this inherent bias, young people educated in evangelical, Christian, private schools which teach creation science are at a distinct disadvantage.
This situation is changing. ACSI, in cooperation with the developers of the Stanford Achievement Test series, introduced in the fall of 1995 a special Christian School Edition of the Stanford Achievement Test. This test is called the ACSI/SAT-9 Christian School Edition. Copies of this test may be obtained through ACSI.
Reasons for Development of ACSI/SAT-9 Christian School Edition
Should Christian parents be concerned with the issue of standardized testing? In order to answer this question we consult Scripture. We find that Scripture makes it clear that believers in Jesus Christ will undergo testing as part of the maturing process of a life in Christ (I Thessalonians 2:4; 5:21; Romans 12:2; Hebrews 12:4).
God puts believers to the test in many realms:
(1) Thinking and emotions of heart and mind (Psalm 7:9; 139:23; Proverbs 17:3; I Thessalonians 2:4)
(2) Knowledge (I Peter 1:7; 4:12; James 1:3)
Biblically, parents are responsible for training their children and monitoring the knowledge their children acquire (Genesis 2:9,17; Deuteronomy 6:1-9; Psalm 127:3; Proverbs 22:6; Matthew 15:4; Romans 13:1; Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:10).
Clearly (from a Scriptural viewpoint) parents should examine and evaluate their children's progress, both academically and spiritually (Proverbs 20:11).
Another fundamental issue of testing relates to the content base from which the test is to be constructed. Because Psychological Corporation largely serves a secular clientele, the content for their test is based on the curriculum taught in public schools of America. It is no secret that the public school curriculum is mostly evolutionary based. For organizations which serve Christian schools, this is a problem because many of the Christian schools use curricular materials which are creationist-based. This creates a mismatch when the test is used by Christian schools. This can potentially mean that students in Christian schools score lower on the standardized Stanford Achievement Test. The lower scores are not due to achievement-related factors, but rather a built-in bias of the test. This is the issue the new ACSI/SAT-9 Christian School Edition addresses.
Educational Issues and SAT-9
The production of SAT-9 raises some interesting issues and concerns. It also generates some cautions for the Christian educator and concerned parent. Among these are:
(1) The SAT-9 measures achievement only; it does not measure student skill, ability, spirituality, or learning styles. This limitation should be understood by most Christian educators. There is need for a wide range of classroom and school assessments. The same basic caution applies to the homeschooling parent. The axiom is, simply, not to put too much stock in a standardized test score. Remember, standardized tests are limited instruments, even for measuring achievement.
(2) The fact that achievement tests are designed and constructed around what is thought to be the content of school curriculum is of major importance, assuming that Christian textbooks and school curriculum are being sampled for the development of the SAT-9 test and future SAT tests. This is especially important for the developers and writers of Christian school materials to understand. The responsibility and opportunity for these writers and developers has now shifted. The need for high quality, creationist-based textbooks in all disciplines is an imperative.
How Does the Christian School Edition Compare to the Regular SAT-9?
The ACSI/SAT-9 Christian School Edition is known as a custom-made test. It contains the same set of core questions as the regular SAT-9 and will be used for all students taking the SAT-9. The difference lies in the subset of questions outside of the core. These subset questions can be changed to reflect differences in student backgrounds and world views and can be written in a manner which is not offensive to Bible-believing students of Christian schools. The non-core questions of the ACSI/SAT-9 Christian School Edition use a Biblical and traditional-values approach with illustrations, examples, and stories. The core questions provide the link to the national norms of Stanford-9.
What Are Some Benefits of the New Christian Edition?
There appear to be many possible benefits. Among these are:
(1) The new ACSI/SAT-9 Christian School Edition has a science subtest with items which are written from a creationist perspective. The test has also been screened with the intent of removing all questions which are related to a false, evolutionary worldview. Thus the science portion of the new test is compatible with a Christian creationist worldview. The same process was followed for all subtests of the new ACSI/SAT-9 Christian School Edition, including the content areas of reading, mathematics, language, listening skills, science, and social studies.
(2) The new ACSI/SAT-9 test provides an alternative for not only Christian schools, but also for homeschoolers. This is of great importance to homeschool families. Many parents are looking for standardized tests which test what they are teaching. Many homeschooling families are teaching basic creation science and do not wish to have their children indoctrinated in the evolutionary worldview. The development of this new test will have an impact on testing rules and regulations in all fifty states. Many of the states already have some type of testing requirements for those who choose to homeschool their children. Homeschool support groups will now be able to work with state legislators in an effort to get the ACSI/SAT-9 test approved for inclusion in their state's list of approved tests.
(3) The new ACSI/SAT-9 Christian School Edition will be nationally normed, which will allow for the comparison of a student's performance with current national norms. This will be a valuable assessment tool for both Christian school and homeschool children. The fact that the test is nationally normed may benefit homeschoolers in dealing with the issue of reentry into the public school system. Currently sixteen of the fifty states have a rule or regulation governing such an event. Many of the sixteen states require the student to take a standardized achievement test. The state or the delegated local authority makes a determination from the test results for grade placement of the child. Because of the inherent bias in the current standardized tests, many homeschool parents have not been pleased with their child's grade placement; the fair use of the ACSI/SAT-9 test as an alternative assessment instrument may help to alleviate some of these frustrations. Parents will need to work with their local authorities in order to get permission to use the ACS1/SAT-9 as an alternative test.
(4) The SAT-9 Christian School Edition will also provide a comparison of scores for ACSI students only. This will allow the comparison of one 8th grade ACSI student with other 8th grade ACSI students nationally, and will allow Christian school administrators to compare the levels of achievement of their schools with those of other like-minded institutions. This should provide data from which educational standards and quality can be evaluated, and may also lead to improvement in the quality of the Christian school education.
(5) ACSI/SAT-9 Christian School Edition helps to limit the influence of one of the major criticisms against standardized tests. This criticism is that the content of standardized achievement tests is often a mismatch with the school's curriculum and classroom's teaching. Because many of the questions which were biased or offensive toward a Christian worldview were removed, a portion of the mismatch problem is removed.
(6) Another criticism of standardized testing has been that teachers "teach to the test." The new ACSI/SAT-9 test will allow Christian educators to "teach to the test" under a whole new perspective. They will be able to teach the children to apply their minds to God's knowledge rather than a man-centered knowledge (Proverbs 22:17). The future of America lies in the hands of the Creator and His children. With the development of the ACSI/SAT-9 Christian School Edition test, the minds of many young people will be affected in a positive manner. In the end, the positive effect will be attributed to the new focus this test helps to establish, which is that true education is centered on "the truth" found in the person of the Creator, Jesus Christ. An educational step for assisting believers in Jesus Christ in seeing to it that they are not taken captive by the empty deceptions of evolutionary philosophy has truly been taken.
1. For documentation, see Josh McDowell's book, Right from Wrong. McDowell surveyed 3,795 evangelical Christian youths from 13 denominations (encompassing both public and private school youth). He concluded there is a difference in behavioral patterns of youth who believe in a standard of absolutes as opposed to those youth who do not hold to a standard of absolutes.
2. This milestone in Christian education was accomplished through the joint efforts of ACSI and Psychological Corporation (publisher of the test). The ICR Science Education Department also had a part in the success of this project. We were asked to write test items for the science portion of the test. The late Dr. Richard Bliss, Fred Willson, Dan Criswell, and I participated in this project. This team constructed several questions which were submitted and accepted by Psychological Corporation for inclusion in SAT-9.
3. The ACSI process for test development included the individual writing of each test item. Each test item was screened on several levels. One of the screens was for evolutionary thinking. Any test item which contained evolutionary thinking was dropped from the test items pool. This process was followed for several thousand test items and included test items in all subject areas (not just the sciences).
4. According to this author's publication, Homeschooling Laws In All Fifty States, thirty-four of the fifty states have some type of requirement for testing home schooled children. Copies of this publication can be ordered from ICR.
1. Deckard, Steve, Home Schooling Laws In All Fifty States (Santee, CA, Deckard Press, 7th Edition, 1994).
2. Eakman, B.K., Educating for the New World Order (Portland, OR, Halcyon House, 1991).
3. Fugate, Richard, Successful Home Schooling (Tempe, AZ, Alethia Division of Alpha Omega Publications, 1990).
4. Lowrie, Roy, To Those Who Teach in Christian Schools (Whittier, CA, ACSI 1978).
5. Morris, Henry, Christian Education for the Real World (San Diego, CA, Master Books, 1991).
6. Kennedy, James, Education: Public Problems and Private Solutions (Fort Lauderdale, FL, Coral Ridge Ministries, 1993).
* Dr. Deckard is Assistant Professor of the Science Education Department at ICR.