Sunday, November 3, 2019

The Academic Strength of Midwestern Christian Academy

You're paying for a "private" school.  You have certain expectations about the strength of the academic program.  Those are reasonable expectations.  You want to make sure that your child is learning at a pace that keeps them on track for achieving the expected benchmarks of students in order to move on to each successive grade level, graduate from middle school, go to a high school where their talent and ability will be challenged and be able to move into college or into a career field and have the necessary skills.

When you enroll at MCA, our understanding and hope is that you understand our mission and purpose is unique among the academic choices which exist in our society.  No other kind of school works to make the connection between a child's development of knowledge and practical life skills that will enable them to develop a career or handle a job which will support their family and fulfill God's purpose for their life and the development and formation of their Christian faith.  We acknowledge God as our creator and in so doing, we acknowledge that each child has been given a mission and purpose in life that they begin to develop when they trust Christ as their savior.   We see the school experience as discipleship and instead of separating faith formation from academic achievement, we put the two things together so that students not only learn valuable, marketable skills but they also understand that life's problems are only resolved by trusting God, not by depending on human intellect alone.  Christian schools are the only educational institutions which operate under that educational philosophy.  We hope that this is the priority for each family who enrolls their children at MCA.

MCA does not screen students by requiring an admissions test to enroll.  Academics are important to us but we believe that every child should have the opportunity to learn in a Christian school environment and that their faith formation is a priority.  Many "private" schools, including some Christian schools, exclude students who are not able to pass an entrance exam from enrollment.  We believe that faith formation of our students is the most important achievement coming out of their school experience.  Not everyone will be a valedictorian, salutatorian or honor student when it comes to their math, history, science and verbal skills grades but our desire is that every child who graduates from our school does so with a love for God, an understanding of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross for them and the example for living that he taught and set and a commitment to serve as a "citizen of the Kingdom" through their local church.  Some of them will be doctors, nurses, lawyers, engineers and business executives while others will be plumbers, construction workers, truck drivers, waitresses and a few will be pastors, children's ministers and missionaries.  But our desire is that all of them be servants of Christ's kingdom in the church and Christians who make their ministry to others a priority.

That doesn't mean our academics are inferior to that of other schools.  The measurements and assessments we use to measure student progress are based on standards required of all schools, specifically those in the same city and state.  By comparison, the academic program at MCA is equally as rigorous as that found at other Christian, parochial, faith-based schools in our city.  MCA's students, collectively, rank in the top two "quartiles" when compared to students nationally in mathematics and language arts (grammar, writing, vocabulary, spelling, reading).  We use an achievement test that is based on national standards and while each individual student's score varies widely depending on their ability and effort, our school scores indicate that we do better than two-thirds of all the schools nationally who use this assessment.  This includes all kinds of schools, public, charter, private, religious-based, academic-oriented and on-line.  Considering that we are an inner-city school, with a third of our students coming from non-native English speaking families and from diverse economic and cultural backgrounds, those results indicate that the academics at MCA are excellent.

The results of our assessment can be broken down into three specific ways of measuring achievement:
  • The Percentile Rank measures how the students on each grade level scored in mathematics and language arts compared to the other students who took the same test.  MCA's percentile ranks range from 65% to 75%, meaning that our students did better than 65 to 75 percent of the students in the other schools who took the same assessment.  Generally, the smaller the class, the higher the percentile.  
  • The Grade Level Equivalent measures the progress that students made in advancing toward the next grade level.  For example, a class that meets the academic standards of the test would advance one percentage point, or 1.0, during the course of a school year if they had met the expectations of their grade level progress.  MCA's classes advanced an average of 1.6 points, meaning that our curriculum and instruction effectively prepares students for work that is advanced above the grade level expectations of the test's standards.  
  • The Curve Equivalency measures mastery of the essential learning objectives.  This is really an indication of the quality of instruction by teachers as well as the quality of the curriculum materials that are used in the classroom.  On a graph, curve equivalency is measured by the famous "bell curve."  The mid-point of student achievement is based on the percentile point where the "peak" of the curve represents the score that is in the exact "middle" of the students scores, with half getting scores higher than the middle, and half getting scores lower than the middle.  The middle point for all the students nationally who took the same assessment was 52%.  The middle point for MCA's students averaged above 90% and we had two grades where all of the students were above the middle point.  
So how does that compare with other schools in our area?  

Comparing our academic achievement to that of the public school system, especially in Chicago, is not only difficult, but produces a distorted perspective.  Because we are a private school and we charge tuition, we have virtually 100% parent involvement in their children's education.  The public schools don't have anywhere near that luxury.  They must take all students, including those who require special educational services.  While there is a "top" group of selective school programs in CPS that show high academic achievement, it is because they test their students and in most cases accept only the highest achievers as students, usually fewer than 10% of those who apply.  Compared to the assessments used by the public schools, MCA's academics would be off the charts in virtually all cases except the selective programs.  

There are several Catholic schools in our area, as well as a couple of parochial schools operated by a Christian denomination.  MCA actually compares very favorably to the schools in the Catholic diocese who publish their student assessment information.  Most Catholic schools, like MCA, do not turn down students based on an entrance exam or academic ability because their main purpose is to train students in the Catholic faith and tradition and they don't exclude students from that opportunity based on academic performance.  Looking at the data, it can be confidently stated that MCA students do a little better overall than their Catholic school counterparts.  The same can be said of those in other parochial schools in our area.  As far as I know, the other denominationally-affiliated schools in our area have similar admissions policies.  Some have developed a reputation by promoting themselves as strong, academic achieving schools but MCA is equally as strong when it comes to actual assessments.  

We have some real advantages here.  Small class sizes don't help the budget, but they lead to accelerated student progress which we are currently seeing materialize even as the first grades came out this week.  We primarily use Abeka textbooks in grammar and language arts and their phonics-based reading program is top notch.  Almost all of our students are reading ahead of expected grade level in guided reading.  We now use Purposeful Design for mathematics through sixth grade and that helped make some dramatic improvements in mathematics achievement last year.  It is noted for its rigor and for its hands-on approach to teaching math concepts.  MCA is an excellent school and you made a good choice when you sent your children here.  Don't make a bad one by moving them based on rumors or gossip that you might hear.  Get your information from a reliable source.  

We know there is room for improvement.  We have a long list of things that we are working on as we move toward full accreditation--something that no other private, parochial school in our area has yet done--to boost our academic program.  For the benefit of our middle school students, we have made some changes in mathematics, including designating 7th grade math as "Pre Algebra" and eighth grade math as "Algebra 1".   We are developing a much more comprehensive program of integrated technology into our instruction.  Our science curriculum needs a boost of STEM objectives at all grade levels.  We are introducing collaborative research projects in both science and social studies.  

A word of caution.  There are no guarantees.  Not every student will be an "A" student or a high achiever.  But they may not be called or equipped for that.  Education, by its nature, is geared toward measurement of accomplishment.  There are plenty of students who are underachievers, whose aren't motivated by their potential.  But there are plenty of others for whom a "C" is representative of their best work and who may have aptitude and interest in things other than what can be achieved in a classroom.  Every student needs to be encouraged to find their purpose in God's will.  

Monday, October 14, 2019

Because We Care...and Want to Make a Difference

Our students got the benefit of a nice "fall break" this week while our teaching staff spent a couple of days being students themselves at a professional development event sponsored by the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) at Aurora Christian School last Thursday and Friday.  Teachers get to listen to keynote speakers and participate in small group discussions aimed at helping them get information to do a better job than they already do.  They get the opportunity to fellowship and visit with other teachers from Christian schools all over the Midwestern region.  Teachers came from schools across Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan and there were even a few from Ohio.

Spending time with other Christian school teachers is motivation and encouragement for our own staff.  It is good to spend time with fellow Christians who make similar sacrifices to teach children.  It helps "charge your battery" when you spend time with people who share the same commitment to teaching children in a school that places faith formation right alongside academic achievement. Christian school teachers see their job as a ministry vocation and a spiritual calling.  It's about doing a a good job with academic achievement so that students are prepared for the future as they enter higher education and a career field.  But it is also about faith formation, connecting everything students learn in the classroom to a Biblical perspective and teaching the soul from the point of leading students to Jesus and helping them grow in their faith.  It is impossible for education to take place in a vacuum.  Thanks to teachers who see the value of helping students connect the knowledge they learn in class to a spiritual source and who are willing to sacrifice to teach, your children can be in a school where excellent academics go hand in hand with spiritual growth and Christian discipleship.

A conference like the one we attended helps dispel common misconceptions about Christian schools. The qualifications and requirements to teach in a Christian school are rigorous.  Not only must teachers have proper credentials, certification and experience but they must also have a strong, mature Christian faith.  It takes a mature Christian to understand all that teaching in Christian school requires.  Many of the people sitting in those conferences last week already have an advanced degree in their field and are willing to provide for additional education, most often at their own expense, since few Christian schools can afford to help much with the cost of additional education.  In addition to educational requirements, most Christian school teachers have also taken Biblical studies courses at the college or graduate level in order to ensure their competence as a student's spiritual counselor.

Giving up personal time for students is also a requirement and a sacrifice your child's Christian school teachers make.  As I write this, at 7 P.M. on a school holiday, no doubt your child's teachers are either preparing for tomorrow or have already taken time today to do it, or they're grading papers or entering grades or coming up with lesson plans or any of a dozen things to get ready for tomorrow.  It's "off the clock" but it is expected and our teachers are willing to invest the time to get the results.  No doubt many of the materials and items your child will use in the classroom tomorrow were provided out of the teacher's personal pocket.

Tuition and fees are always a big discussion item when parents get together.  The salaries Christian school teachers are willing to accept in order to serve are sacrificial compared to the life that most of the students are living.  Those salaries make it possible for you to afford to send  your child to a Christian school.  Every one of your child's teachers has personally made it possible for your child to attend by working for wages which allow the school to keep tuition costs affordable for most parents.  In order to pay our teachers at MCA the average salary of a teacher in the Chicago public schools would require us to more than double the current tuition and fee structure.  Every teacher at MCA is qualified and experienced enough to teach anywhere else, and many of them have come from jobs in the public school system to work here because they know they are making a difference, and they care. 

So when you come back to school tomorrow, keep all of this in mind.  Your child is getting a strong academic education paired with Christian faith formation because of the work that their teachers and the school staff is willing to sacrifice in order to do.  We hope you enjoyed your time off as much as we enjoyed our time together with other Christian school teachers and staff.

God's blessings to you!

Monday, September 16, 2019

Educational Facts and Myths: Christian Schools vs. Charter Schools

Every parent that makes a choice to sent their child to a school other than the neighborhood public school or district school to which they are assigned is making an "educational choice."  There are significant, multiple reasons for parents to make these choices.  For most of our parents here at MCA, the choice is based on the fact that as a school, we support and undergird an Evangelical Christian perspective of education that recognizes parental responsibility and involvement.  We are mission driven in our approach, committed to connecting every learning objective to a Christian view of life, supporting institutions of home and church as partners in the growth and development of children. 

The growth of private, Christian schools up until the 1990's created a competitive market in the educational sector.  Schools appealed to various constituencies for students based on the mission that motivated their existence.  What you had to do as a school to "compete" was a big part of the image that you projected.  Most Christian schools added fine arts, specialized electives and athletic programs to "compete."  But the main attraction to most Christian schools was, and remains, the mission driven approach to education that emphasizes connecting learning objectives to a Christian perspective and providing an education for the "whole" child, including support for their personal Christian faith.

One of the biggest competitors for students over the past 20 years has been the Charter school segment of public education.  Charter schools brought a mission-driven approach to public education, along with selective enrollment, specialized programs, smaller class sizes (in some cases) and since they receive a tax allocation for each student enrolled, the cost of attending one of these schools is much less than paying tuition at a Christian school.  The one significant difference is that, because Charter schools are still public schools, they are still secular in nature and they are still under the public system's mandates with regard to the content of their curriculum.  Philosophically, they still must follow the principle of "religious neutrality" by removing references to anything "religious" from their curriculum.

As you might expect when federal and state tax money is made available with limits on the restrictions of its use in education, Charter schools became synonymous with fraud.  And while most of them do a good public relations job of promoting their special programs, emphasis and the mission that motivates their work, with relatively few exceptions, Charter schools are not showing evidence that they are a viable academic alternative to the public education system.

"A well-publicized study of charter schools by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) in 15 states and the District of Columbia studied 70% of the students enrolled in charter schools in the U.S. They found 17 percent of charters posted academic gains that were significantly better than traditional public schools, 37 percent of charter schools were significantly worse, and 46 percent were statistically indistinguishable. Another recent study by Zimmer et al. found that charters in five jurisdictions were performing the same as traditional public schools, while charter schools in two other jurisdictions were performing worse. "(National Conference of State Legislatures, Podcast September 2019) 

If the spiritual values that are at the core of your Christian faith are the most important part of your child's education, then a charter school won't help you with that.  They operate under the same secular humanist philosophy of education that the public education system does.  Consequently, you will not find them to be supportive of those values in your home and church which reflect your Christian faith, nor will your children who are enrolled in them be taught that there is a connection to the revealed knowledge of God in everything they are learning. 

While we can't speak for all Christian schools, there is research available which shows that Christian school students consistently achieve at higher academic levels than their counterparts in the public school system virtually across the board.  Here at MCA, we use a nationally-based achievement test to measure our average yearly progress.  While we don't have a direct comparison by which to measure our progress against that of students in charter schools, the measurement we do use shows that 90% of our students score in the top half of expected outcomes, compared to just 50% of students in the public school system.  Since the research shows that charter schools generally fall within the range of public school expectations, we can conclude that the strength of our academic program exceeds that of charter schools. 

Enrolling in a charter school doesn't generally cost you more than public education, though there may be additional fees for sports or fine arts participation. There is no tuition, but since charter schools do not get property tax dollars, they are not able to pay their teachers at the same level as public schools can do.  But it is not an equal exchange with what you get in a Christian school.  They cannot offer you a school with a distinctively Christian atmosphere, Biblical truth connected to each curriculum objective, a teaching staff made up of born-again believers in Christ and the kind of academic excellence you will receive here. 

Monday, September 9, 2019

Spiritual Truths and the Education of Children

What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him--these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.  For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.  For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person which is in him?  So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.  And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.  

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God for they are folly to him and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.  The spiritual person judges all things but is himself judged by no one.  For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?  But we have the mind of Christ. 

I was reading an article in a professional development publication for teachers that contained the following quote from Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, written in 1990:

"Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection, we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience.  Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books."  (Bishop 1990) . 

The quote was used to support the inclusion of books which reflect experiences from authors who write from a lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) perspective in public school classrooms.  The author of the journal article is a fifth-grade teacher in a Chicago-area public school who believes that all classrooms should have a collection of books which reflect the LGBTQ perspective as a means of connecting students to the "windows of reality" in the wide world that exists outside of the classroom.  Reading them will "help students build empathy for those whose experiences might not match their own.  Hearing these stories can be a better way to understand others, to have their questions answered, to be prepared for the people they will encounter in this world." (Liftshitz, 2019)

I agree that hearing the stories and experiences of others increases our understanding of their perspective and promotes the kind of mutual respect between us that God requires us to have for each other.  The question isn't about ways to help students gain this kind of understanding, or even whether they should have it.  The question is who decides when they are able to develop the kind of discernment that leads to understanding and when are they mature enough in their life experience and in their thinking to develop the expected outcome?

Those choices do not belong to the government or to the school.  They belong to the parents, who have been given the authority and responsibility for educating their children by the God of the universe who created them, as well as all of the other very diverse and unique human beings on the face of the earth.  And the fact of the matter is that your children are already exposed to many of these things through the media where there is no filter, frame of reference or control.  School should not be another place where information is given out where students aren't provided with any spiritual frame of reference or ability to discern.  The article that I am referencing describes a setting where students in the fifth grade class either read the book on their own or the teacher reads it and opens up for questions to follow.  The public school position of "religious neutrality" makes it a certainty that the answers that are given will not reflect the principle of "interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual".

The decision regarding when to talk to your children about these things is also up to parents.  The access they have to media may already take the timing out of your hands, but at least you have some control over that as well and you have control of the content of your answer.  You don't have a guarantee that your child will always accept everything you say at face value but you at least have the opportunity to decide when they will hear it.

Leaving these decisions up to parents doesn't mean that kids will wind up developing bigotry and hatred toward those who are different, who have made different lifestyle choices and decisions.  As John 3:17-18 say, Jesus didn't come to the world to condemn it, because it was already condemned, he came to save it.  The gospel is a message of salvation and redemption, not judgment and condemnation.  Where do students in fifth grade find those books?

And here's another problem with this whole issue.  What do you think the chances are that a fifth grade classroom's choice of books for students to read also includes stories and experiences of those who have found God's grace and experienced his redemption?  If you are truly inclusive and you genuinely believe that reading is a means of self-affirmation and that readers often seek their mirrors in books, shouldn't your classroom collection contain books by authors who describe their experience of redemption through Jesus?

If your child is in a publicly funded school, either a public school or a charter school, the curriculum objectives related to LGBTQ studies is integrated into the curriculum.  In spite of the fact that your objection to their study of it appeals to religious freedom, you will likely not know when it will be discussed or when your child will be reading a book related to the topic.  That takes the choice out of parents hands and places it in the hands of a government bureaucracy.  There is no discretion or discernment of a child's spiritual or emotional maturity in being able to form a personal choice based on their Christian faith.

Monday, August 19, 2019

The Elements of "Kingdom Education"

Our faculty members are required to go through a study in the Philosophy of Christian School education in order to qualify for their position at MCA.  Standard teacher training programs, with the exception of a few Christian colleges and universities, focus on training teachers mainly for the public school system and there are some differences in educational philosophy between the two systems that teachers must know in order to be effective. 

Dr. Glen Schultz, a former Christian school administrator and executive director of the Bible curriculum department at Lifeway Christian Publishers has written a book called Kingdom Education:  God's Plan for Educating Future Generations which outlines the scriptural foundation for Christian schools.  Our staff did its philosophical study based on the book which draws all of its content from the Bible. 

A Christian school is an extension of the discipleship ministry of the local church.  Whether the school is connected to a church or operates independently, it operates completely within the Biblical directives that define discipleship and education as one of the functions of a local church along with worship, fellowship, evangelism and missions and ministry. 

The Biblical writers give parents the primary responsibility under God for the education of their children and this includes the principles and beliefs of the Christian faith along with basic skills in reading, mathematics, writing and language arts, social studies and science.  The Biblical community, which for Christians is the local church, bears a level of responsibility for helping families teach their children these skills and other necessities of being a productive and contributing member of the community. 

It is God's desire that children are provided an education which gives them excellent skills and which is rich in Biblical truth.  In our culture, where the government has assumed responsibility for the education of its citizens for the purpose of raising the standards of living for all of society, the public school is not connected to the Christian church, because it operates under the principle of "religious neutrality and does not provide the connection between its curriculum and Biblical truth.  So the church must pick up the responsibility to assist parents with this responsibility.  For centuries, churches have provided education and the model that modern Christian schools follow is as an extension of the church ministry.  In our culture, where Christian school requires parents to pay the bill for the education, we need to work on better solutions to make this possible.

Sometimes the content of the instruction in public school classrooms runs contrary to Biblical truth.  The state of Illinois has recently mandated the instruction of objectives related to homosexual lifestyles and transgender identification.  It is an almost certainty that the children will be taught a philosophical perspective that does not consider Biblical principles when it comes to these principles.  This is not the only area of public education where the principles that are taught are based on human reason and intellect and not on the authority of scripture. 

The cost of tuition and fees for parents to send their children to a Christian school is often a major factor in their decision.  There is still disagreement in the Christian community as to whether the tithes and offerings given in church offering plates should be used in part to pay school expenses to keep tuition costs down, or for churches to underwrite school expenses and offer Christian school as a ministry.  As Dr. Schultz points out, most church members would object to those who use the church's gym or family life center having to pay a fee in order to do so, but they have no objection to making parents who want to access the church's school pay the full cost without any church support whatsoever.  That is neither a Biblical nor a fair position.

Ultimately, the difference between the philosophy of the public schools, including charter schools which all receive tax dollars, and Christian schools is the source of knowledge and the definition of wisdom.  In public education, which does not acknowledge the existence of God nor of his son as our savior from sin, the source of authority is the human intellect.  Knowledge is invented by intellect to address problems and wisdom is knowledge when it is properly applied.  In Christian education, God is the source of authority and education is the process of discovering and applying knowledge that has been revealed by God.  Education connects the knowledge and skills students are learning to a Biblical way of looking at and evaluating the world.  Education in a Christian context involves parents, belonging to a church that helps them teach their children by providing an education which undergirds and supports the family's beliefs and values. 

It's time for you to give Midwestern Christian Academy a try.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

MCA Terra Nova Scores: Excellence at All Grade Levels

What is being reported?
The Terra Nova Achievement Test covers a variety of subject areas on each grade level.  There are primary subject tests and sub-tests to measure the achievement of specific skills considered to be essential to each grade level.  The Terra Nova covers mathematics, all areas of language arts including reading, grammar, spelling, punctuation and sentence structure, science, social studies and the ACSI edition also has a Bible assessment. 

The Terra Nova is an achievement test based on national standards for expected student outcomes and uses data acquired from students who take the test across the country to develop the norms for scores.  There is data available to provide information regarding how students in specific states performed on the test, however, it is more difficult to determine the norms from the data and how well students met the standards because not all states use the TN as a measure of average yearly progress (AYP) so the number of students who took the test in that state may be too small to get a good sample.

The scores from MCA that are reported here are in the category of Total Score, which includes results from general mathematics and mathematics computation, reading, vocabulary, language, language mechanics, and word analysis.  So what you are seeing are the scores that the students achieved compared to the expected outcome for their grade level. 

NPR is National Percentile Rank.  This score is based on the data from all of the student scores and tells you where students placed on the whole spectrum of the test, from 1 to 100 percent.  It is not the percentage of answers the students got right!  If your percentile rank is 60, that means you did better than 60% of all students nationwide who took the test.  If your percentile rank is 75, that means you did better than 75% of all students who took the test.  50% is the mid-point on the scale, but in any given year, the score that falls right at the mid-point may be higher or lower than a previous year.  

Parents sometimes have a tendency to look at those percentages, see something in the 60th percentile and think, "I expect more from my child than 60%."  Of course you do.  The test isn't scored in percentages, it is scored by "stanine."  If your child received a percentile rank of 67%, that very likely means they got more than 85% of the answers on the test correct.  Anything above the 60th percentile is an excellent score.

The spectrum is divided into quarters, with 25% being added to each quarter, so the first quartile is the top 25% between 75 and 100, the second is the quartile between 50 and 75, the third between 25 and 50 and the fourth between 1 and 25.  While about a fourth of individual students finish above the 75th percentile, it is rare for a class score to go that high simply because three fourths of the class will score below that level.  Our expectation at MCA is that in the overall evaluation of the test, class percentile ranks would exceed 60%.  Class percentile ranks above the 60th percentile are excellent scores.  LOOK AT OURS!!!

GME stands for “Grade Mean Equivalent.”  That measures where the class scored on the test compared to their grade level.  For example, a fourth grade class that did everything they were supposed to do and accomplished everything they should have learned in fourth grade would be measured at 4.9.  A fifth grade class that did the same would be 5.9.  MCA’s scores exceed the grade mean equivalent starting with Kindergarten, whose score was equal to almost a full grade level ahead of where they finished at 1.7.  If you look at our GME scores, each succeeding grade level advances more than a full point. 

NCE stands for Normal Curve Equivalent.  The score here indicates the percentage of students on each grade level whose average score was “above the curve”.  Higher percentages mean more students met the grade level expectations measured by the test’s stanine scores. 

MCA’s scores are excellent.  They give evidence of an academic program that has a strong curriculum, good curriculum support materials and excellent instruction. 

Midwestern Christian Academy Terra Nova Results 2019

Grade Level                                                    NPR                            GME                           NCE

Kindergarten                                                73                                1.7                               100

First Grade                                                    67                                2.6                               90

Second Grade                                                64                                3.6                               92

Third Grade                                                   75                                4.8                               91

Fourth Grade                                                62                                5.9                               90

Fifth Grade                                                    64                                7.2                               88

Sixth Grade                                                   72                                9.4                               100

Seventh Grade                                              65                                8.9                               87

Eighth Grade                                                 60                               10.5                              85

 Test scores are not the end "product" of a school.  These days, many states are using test scores as the only measurement of academic progress and place far more importance on them than necessary.  We use the Terra Nova test to measure our "AYP" which stands for "Average Yearly Progress."  It helps us determine if the students achieved mastery of the objectives for each subject on their grade level and whether the progress they are making is consistent with the expectations that are required for them to advance to the next grade level.  

The column labelled GME tells us whether what we are teaching is aligned with standards at the state and national level and whether our students are advancing according to plan.  The fact that all of our grade levels exceed the expectations means our curriculum and instruction is advanced, not only over that of the public school system, but over other private schools which align with the standards tested by the Terra Nova Achievement Test.  

I would also note that the students who have been at MCA since Pre-K or Kindergarten actually got better scores overall than the total score here represents.  That is a clear indication that what we do is working insofar as it provides the education parents want for their children.  

You made a good choice when you chose MCA for your children.  If you're not here yet, you should be.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Academics at MCA are Excellent!

Midwestern Christian Academy is a school with excellent academics.  I'd repeat that, but you can just read it a second time. 

If you've heard otherwise, I'd like to see the evidence to back that up.  I've got evidence, plenty of it, that the academic rigor and standing of the education provided at MCA is excellent and that our students, collectively, perform at levels which far exceed those of the public and charter schools in our area and which are at least equal to those of other private schools in our area.

We have several ways of measuring the academic strength and rigor of our curriculum and instruction.  Comparing our students and their achievements in the classroom to the expected outcomes measured against the minimum standards expected by the state's department of education is one way to see the strength of our academic program.  Keeping in mind that the state's objectives are minimum standards and that the textbooks and classroom materials we use exceed those standards by quite a bit, our students achieve well above the expected minimums of the state's curriculum.  I would be disappointed if we did not. 

Most public schools in Chicago, unless they have some sort of emphasis or specialty, are not even meeting the minimum standards.  Nor do the charter schools, which, by the evidence they provide, are not even as good as the public school system in academic achievement.  Charter schools nationwide have proven to be a disappointment from an academic perspective.  They were allowed to get tax support because they claimed they could do more with less money but what has happened is that most of them are more concerned with cutting corners to stay open than they are with the education of students. 

MCA uses a nationally-normed achievement test to measure student progress.  It is called the Terra Nova and the standard scores are set by all those who take the test at the national level during the spring.  Many private, academically challenging schools use the Terra Nova, so the standards of achievement are higher than state-based tests.  Collectively, more than 85% of the students at MCA finish within the "high average" range, with percentile ranks well above the 50th percentile, which is the standard of expectation for the test.  Somewhere around 5% of our students finish below the mid-point of the test, and 10% of them finish in the top quarter, among the highest achievers. 

The standard outcome expected by the test is the 50th percentile.  MCA students collectively cluster between the 65th percentile and the 75th percentile, at the very top of the high average range and we have about twice as many students in the highest quartile as the average school does.  We have about half as many students in the lower two quartiles as the average school does.  Our kindergarten, first and second grade students who went to Pre-K at MCA scored even higher than their peers in language arts skills and we had numerous students in each classroom who hit the 90th percentile or higher in language arts. 

Our high school admissions are another measurement of academic excellence.  One of the things that we plan to do for our students, starting this year, is offer them some guidance with the various tests and admissions processes they must encounter to get in where they want to go.  Most of our eighth graders found getting into their choice of high school relatively easy and the students who took the tests and went through competitive admissions processes, including competitive tests, all did very well, including those who opted for admission into academically competitive schools.  As one parent said, getting into a selective high school program was "a piece of cake." 

Different schools have different ways of measuring academic achievement.  One of the ways is to seek recognition through full accreditation.  MCA is in the final year of candidacy for full accreditation that is recognized by the regional agencies and which exceeds the state's recognition standards.  Up to this point, we've passed every standard with flying colors.  I believe that if you compared MCA's academic standards and achievement to those of the other private, religious based schools in our area, mostly the Catholic and Lutheran schools, you would find our standards to be equally as high and our student achievement to rank among the best of them.  Our test scores certainly show that and our students' post-MCA experiences also show that. 

If someone tells you MCA isn't a good school academically, don't believe it!  Excellence in academics and strong Biblical values can go together hand in hand, and at Midwestern Christian Academy, they do.  That's why YOUR child needs to be HERE!