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New Initiative Will Study Religious School Outcomes

NOTRE DAME, IN, May 23, 2013—Building on its groundbreaking studies into the citizenship outcomes of educational choice, Canadian think tank Cardus has partnered with the University of Notre Dame to establish a long-term education research initiative.

The Cardus-Notre Dame initiative will formally launch in July 2013, with a mandate to explore how parental choice of religious school influences long-term student, family and community life.

Ray Pennings, Cardus executive vice president, says the partnership is a result of the think tank’s survey work in both the United States and Canada on how graduates of religious schools engaged in civic life once they entered adulthood.

“Our surveys in 2011 (U.S.) and 2012 (Canada) were the first of their kind and provided a snapshot of what sort of citizens are being shaped by religious schools. The Cardus-Notre Dame Initiative is like turning the snapshot into a video of the long-term impact religious schooling is having,” Pennings says.

“This allows us to map the contribution various social institutions, including schools, make towards our shared life. It recognizes that belief systems play a vital role in how we act and think,” he adds.

University of Notre Dame sociologist Dr. David Sikkink, who will direct the research initiative and a staff of four researchers, said the primary goal is to provide the educational world with comprehensive, trustworthy data on the outcomes of religious schooling, and provide religious schools themselves with self-assessment tools. Cardus and the Notre Dame team will also host regular symposiums through the partnership.

“The Cardus Initiative will design and conduct data analysis that addresses the question of why religious schools matter for particular student and family outcomes,” Sikkink says. “By sorting out these mechanisms, the initiative will provide information to improve schools throughout the various religious school sectors and illuminate how these schools provide models for successful education.”

Cardus is a Canadian-based think-tank that has the renewal of North America’s social architecture as its mission. The research initiative coincides with a growing profile for Cardus in engaging public conversations regarding faith in public life. In early May, it hosted a high-profile lecture featuring Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney speaking on renewing trust in the financial system. It has also expanded its Social Cities program studying the relationship between municipal governments and faith institutions.

For more information or to arrange interviews Ray Pennings and David Sikkink on the Cardus-Notre Dame initiative, please contact Julia Nethersole at 905-528-8866 ext. 29 or by email at