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Toward Shaping the Agenda, A National Survey of Catholic Religious Education, Survey of Children Aged 15-18, 1993




Relying on input from a panel of Catholic leaders in religious education, the Educational Testing Service designed a series of surveys on Catholic religious education, or catechesis. The surveys sought to answer questions in the following areas: the desired outcomes of catechesis; the effectiveness of programs in fostering these outcomes; the problems and issues facing catechetical leaders; the important characteristics of religious education/catechesis today; the use of video technology; and steps to improve the enterprise. This data file contains the Survey of Children Aged 15-18, which was completed by children between the ages of 15 and 18.

The ARDA has added four additional variables to the original data set to enhance the users' experience on our site.

Data File

Cases: 970
Variables: 123
Weight Variable: None

Data Collection

Spring and summer 1993

Funded By

The Lilly Endowment, Inc.

Collection Procedures

Several approaches were used to collect survey data from students. Most surveys were administered in Catholic schools or parish classes. A few (12-38) surveys were obtained by direct mailing to homes of students identified as less active by parish staff. The initial effort, collecting data from the homes of registered parishioners in sampled parishes, was effective with the parents, but not with the students. Only a few responses (30-40 in each age group) were obtained with this approach.

Sampling Procedures

A random sample of 4,000 parishes, from the universe of 17,963 parishes in the United States, was selected in phase one of the study. Questionnaires were sent to the pastor of each parish. After one follow-up mailing to nonrespondents, surveys were received from 1,822 parishes, resulting in a response rate of 46 percent.

In the second phase of the study, a subset of 136 parishes was selected to be studied in greater detail. This sample was later expanded to 194 to replace parishes not participating. The final group of respondents included 91 participating parishes.

Pastors in participating parishes were contacted and asked to identify a parish study coordinator (who was often the director of religious education) and to nominate up to 10 exemplary adult parishioners who were "representative of the desired outcomes of Catholic religious education." The parish coordinator was asked to do the following: to distribute catechist/religion teacher surveys to school and parish program staff; send a random sample of adult/households in the parish (following detailed steps for drawing this sample) to the Educational Testing Service; and distribute surveys to the pastor, director of religious education, and the elementary school principal (in parishes with schools).

The content of the surveys varied by sample. Given below is a list of the topics that were repeated across surveys.

Qualities/Goals; Problems/Issues
Diocesan Educators:
Qualities/Goals; Problems/Issues; New Possibilities
Catechists (School and Parishes):
Parishioners (Randomly Sampled Adults and Exemplary Adults):
Qualities/Goals; Problems/Issues; New Possibilities
Directors of Religious Education:
Qualities/Goals; Problems/Issues; New Possibilities
School Principals:
Qualities/Goals; Problems/Issues; New Possibilities

Randomly sampled adult parishioners and exemplary adult parishioners received the same survey.
The emphasis in this study was on program effectiveness. The assumption that guided this study was that answers to questions about programs can best be found in parishes that are strong in their program offerings. Thus, the sample used was by design biased in favor of more active parishes. The parishes in the sample response group were indeed those that more frequently offered religious education and formation programs and more often had full-time, salaried directors of religious educations. These parishes also tended to be larger in size, better educated, and more often suburban (Supplementary Final Report of a National Study of Catholic Religious Education/Catechesis, 1994:77).

The original intent was to collect data on youth by including youth surveys with parent surveys (i.e. randomly sampled adult parishioners). When the youth did not respond in any numbers, a follow-up effort surveyed youth in school and parish class groups and "less active" students identified by parish staff (Supplementary Final Report of a National Study of Catholic Religious Education/Catechesis, 1994:78).

Principal Investigators

Educational Testing Service

Related Publications

Toward Shaping the Agenda: a Study of Catholic Religious Education/Catechesis. 1994. Washington, DC: Educational Testing Service.

Supplementary Final Report of a National Study of Catholic Religious Education/Catechesis. 1994. Washington DC: Educational Testing Service.

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