Top 10 lists always emerge as the year draws to an end and we pause to reflect on the past year. The Inside Higher Education website had its own top 10 list noting “the stories that attracted the most readers in 2019.” Eight of the top 10 articles included topics we have seen in the past such as racism, cost and financial aid, admissions requirements, and diversity. But it was the topics of two other articles that caught my attention: NACAC changing its code of ethics and the highly publicized scandal about wealthy parents attempting to influence and cheat the system to get their children admitted to top universities.
As we look to the future of Christian education, these two stories are noteworthy for a number of reasons. Both situations could have a significant impact on our world. One story considers how outside influences can impact how colleges and universities operate, while the other is about a moral/societal issue that will continue to have an impact on Christian, K-12 schools.
The first article, titled “NACAC Agrees to Change Its Code of Ethics,” deals with the way college and university admissions offices operate. NACAC (National Association of College Admission Counseling) “is an organization of more than 15,000 professionals from around the world dedicated to serving students as they make choices about pursuing postsecondary education.” NACAC states that “they are committed to maintaining high standards that foster ethical and social responsibility of those involved in the transition process as outlined in NACAC’s Code of Ethics and Professional Practices.”
The change to NACAC’s Code of Ethics and Professional Practices came as a result of a Justice Department investigation considering potential antitrust law violations by the NACAC that may impact students’ choices. This investigation challenged the organization to respond. In September, they voted 211 to 3 to strip the provisions from the Code of Ethics that were potential antitrust law violations. Whether you agree or disagree with the changes, or have concerns about their impact, it is undeniable that the federal government is looking into admissions practices of colleges and universities.
The second news story was followed by most of the country, largely because of its connection to celebrities. A few celebrities and other wealthy and influential parents went to great lengths to make sure their children were admitted to highly competitive colleges. Reports emerged about bribes, cheating on college entrance exams, coaches placing non-athletes on their recruiting lists—all to “guarantee admission” to top schools.
This story says a lot about how some parents will do almost anything to help their children get into the “right school” and how some university professionals are willing to accept money and benefits in return. This scandal also opened up the conversation again about the opportunity gap between families with great means and those who have little. Children from wealthier families typically attend stronger performing schools, have access to additional academic support, and have greater opportunities to be admitted. These factors continue to impact admissions rates.
How do these two articles merge with Christian, K-12 education? The issues of higher education will most certainly trickle down to Christian, K-12 schools. Rising tuition, growing financial aid budgets, concerns about standardized admissions tests, greater emphasis and expectations from accrediting bodies, parents’ expectations for quality facilities and innovative programming are just a few examples of issues affecting both K-12 and higher education. We need to learn from the issues currently facing higher education so that we can be prepared for what is ahead.
In the future, I anticipate more pressure and influence on what we can and cannot do as a school from those outside of our institutions. Is it far-fetched to think that the government will have more say in what is taking place inside of our schools? K-12 schools are already dealing with the pressure from parents who will go to almost any length to get what they want for their children. Schools will need to carefully navigate how to create a fair admissions process and create safeguards that protect the school from influences that could be trying to cheat the system or have undue influence on what is taking place throughout the school.
As we look forward to 2020 and this new decade, I wonder what new topics will be become top stories. As members of particular school systems and the larger Christian school community, we can support each other in walking faithfully, eyes open, into the future.
Erik Ellefsen has served in education for 21 years as a teacher, coach, consultant, Grievance Chairman for the American Federation of Teachers, Dean of Academics at Boston Trinity Academy, and as Principal at Chicago Christian High School. He currently serves as an Academic and College Counselor at Valley Christian High School (San Jose, CA), a Senior Fellow for CACE, a Senior Fellow for Cardus, podcaster for Digical Education, and as Vice President of CCEI. Erik regularly organizes Christian school leadership seminars and speaks on issues pertaining to academic program, student leadership, and organizational development. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.