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! 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Why Choose a Christian School for Your Child's Education?

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world and not according to Christ.  Colossians 2:8

By this you know the Spirit of God:  every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.  This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.  I John 4:2-3

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 to be 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 Corinthians 2:14-16

If you read and comprehend these passages of scripture, they will give you some insight into the difference between an education you get in the public school system and one that you would get in a Christian school.  There is a difference, a major one to be exact, in the educational philosophy between a Christian school which operates under a philosophy of education directed by the Bible and that of the public school system which, because of a position of "religious neutrality," cannot teach its students that their faith in God is what undergirds all of the knowledge and skills they learn in school.  It makes a major difference in the philosophy of education applied by the school where your children attend. 

The public education system operates under a philosophy of "religious neutrality," meaning that it does not endorse or favor any religious belief and does not include the teaching of any religion in its course objectives.  The intellectual vacuum that happens when faith is not included along side basic instruction in essential knowledge and skills has a tendency to undermine it, deferring to the belief that human intellect, rather than God, is the highest form of intelligence in the universe and that we can achieve our own salvation through education. 

The result of the influence of this secular philosophy of education in America's schools, over time, has been that young people are leaving the church in increasing numbers once they are supporting themselves and no longer living at home under their parents' influence.  The church engages most of its membership for an hour or two each week, at the most, four or five hours, while children are in their public school classroom up to 7 hours a day, 5 days a week.  School is where they do most of their social interaction as well, and where they are influenced by peers and by teachers who have been trained to instruct in accordance with a secular, humanist philosophical approach. 

A Christian school puts instruction in the basic principles of the Christian faith in the same classroom and in the same time block as it does the essential knowledge and skills of an academic education.  Biblical truth is integrated into each subject area and a connection is made for students from the knowledge they gain in every core subject to a Biblical worldview in an applicable manner.  The process of education becomes one in which students discover and apply the revealed knowledge of God in a spiritual understanding, as I Cornithians 2:14-16, cited above, states instead of one in which knowledge is a product of the human intellect.  Does it make a difference?  Yes, it does.  There are never any spiritual guarantees, but the fact of the matter is that children who receive the major part of their education in a Christian school are far less likely to leave the church when they are older than children who do not attend a Christian school. 

So the main reason for choosing a Christian school for your child is that your Christian faith is a commitment which is important to you and you want to do your best in passing that along to your children.  

There are other good reasons.

There is an agenda in the public school system build around social education.  Either out of necessity, or because it is a means of influencing the culture, the public schools have picked up the responsibility for educating children on social issues.  The subject matter includes everything from human sexuality to family relationships and everything in between.  Obviously, when Christian faith is left out of the content of these issues, the outcome is much different than it would be if a child's social education is connected to a Biblical world view.  Moral values are defined much differently from a perspective in which "having the mind of Christ" is not even a simple consideration. 

In a Christian school environment, social issues are defined by the Bible.  Human sexuality is taught within the context of Jesus' definition of marriage and family order.  Human life is valued because it is created in the image of God, not because it has evolved through experience.  Self-respect and self-worth are concepts coming from Biblical teaching and children are taught to aim for a goal of personal maturity that exhibits an understanding of who Jesus was and what he did for us.  God comes first and the value of other human life teaches that being Christian is the opposite of selfishness.  In the public education system, the emphasis is on self. 

It does require a sacrifice to send your children to Christian school.  Financially, the expense of the school's operation is shared by all of the parents who choose to send their children there.  But remember, the staff of most Christian schools are making an equal sacrifice, working for lower salaries and less compensation than their public school counterparts in order to make it possible for you to consider. 

Midwestern Christian Academy has been offering a high quality, academically excellent, distinctively Christian education to students for over 65 years.  Our teachers, all with degrees in their teaching field and certification required by accreditation standards, add the element of agape love for their students and a personal desire to see them succeed.  The results that our students achieve on the academic level exceed those of the public education system and put students well ahead on the road to educational achievement.  And we offer a safe environment, small class sizes and caring teachers on every grade level.  Check us our and you will see that we have an excellent school. 

Monday, June 10, 2019

Improvements at MCA: Increased Use of Technology by Students and the Introduction of STEM Objectives

School's out!  The last student departed around 2 P.M. on Thursday and most of the teachers got rooms ready by Friday's end.  Summer camp starts Monday.

Planning for next year has already started.

Through Title IV funds, MCA was able to acquire a set of Chrome books to add to those we already have.  This purchase, and another one that is planned for next fall, will enable us to have enough chrome books on hand for whole classes to use them for assignments.  They are lightweight and portable, so they can be used in the classrooms.  We will also have a dedicated computer lab set up in the room that has been serving as a resource center.

Computer Applications Objectives
Use of the chrome books on writing and research assignments or on completing specific objectives and projects meets the objectives for Computer Applications, a required course.  This applies to grades 3 through 8.  Our computer curriculum is Google Ed and using the chrome books makes it easy to teach as students use the computers to complete class work in core subjects.

From third through eighth grade, students will have two computer projects per semester.  With the additional chrome books we purchased this year, added to those we already have, three classes can have a complete set of chrome books at the same time.  The lab will be set up for students to have access to a chrome book to complete the project if they haven't done so when the class use of the equipment has been completed.

Science, Technology, Mathematics, Engineering Objectives=STEM
Expanding objectives for science and math has been something schools in the United States have been working on for several decades.  It isn't that we haven't been teaching these subjects but that we wait until high school to provide practical applications for their use.  For science, students are generally not exposed to lab experiments until high school.  In math, the practical applications are generally limited to a business class or economics. 

A "STEM" curriculum provides elementary and middle school students with course objectives that demonstrate the practical use of science and math concepts and through the use of a project approach to learning, introduce concepts related to engineering, yes, engineering in a simple but practical way. 

So with our expanded computer inventory, you will be able to walk into a third or fourth grade classroom next fall and see students working on a project using the chrome book that is sitting on their desk.  They may be doing something as simple as figuring out the capability of a device they are building with string and cardboard to move a basketball from the floor to the top of a table without touching it, or something as complicated as building a model bridge for a competition with other students. 

And yes, our teachers are qualified instructors in these areas.  It's simply a matter of taking objectives they already have in their curriculum and finding projects which allow students to practically apply the principles.  The teachers become facilitators, the students learn by finding the information and completing the project.  Their Google Ed platform allows them to store their work and then find it on their own device later. 

Correcting a False Perception
Private, Christian schools do indeed operate on a limited budget.  Sometimes parents get the perception that because we don't have the resources that public schools do, our students don't do as well.  But that isn't the case.  Not by a long shot. 

While an achievement test isn't the only way to evaluate student performance, it does tell you a lot about what your students have learned in a year.  At MCA, we give the Terra Nova Achievement Test.  This is a test designed to measure average yearly progress (AYP) in order to determine if they are learning what is expected of a student on their grade level. 

The scores are divided into quartiles, or fourths, evenly on a 100 point scale.  The responses of the students are recorded based on the percentage of questions they answered correctly and what specific concept in the subject area that the question measured.  Since the standards for achievement vary from state to state, the Terra Nova measures students on a national scale for accuracy.  The expected outcomes are measured on what is known as a standard "bell curve." 

92% of MCA students finished with a "high average" or "above average" percentile rank in two of the three core subject areas of mathematics, reading skills or language skills.  

As a private school with small class sizes and the expectation of higher student achievement, we would expect the class average composite scores on the Terra Nova to fall between the 60th and 70th percentile.  Ours are a little higher than that, ranging from the 65th to the 75th percentile.  But that puts us achieving scores which are about 15% higher than those of the public school system.  The test is based on national standards, so those numbers are excellent numbers. 

In addition to this assessment, our third grade students took a standardized math exam in October and scored about 15% higher than the national norms.  So if you wanted proof of the academic excellence of the curriculum and instruction at MCA, there it is. 

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Catch This Vision

For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man that is within him?  In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.  Now we have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who comes from God , so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God.  We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people.  I Corinthians 2:11-13

About a hundred years ago or so, give or take a few years here and there, the public education system in the United States was developing into its current form of schools supported by various levels of public funds including state and federal funding.  The reasoning behind that was to expand the reach of public schools so that equal opportunity existed in rural areas as well as the cities, so that business had access to a trained and educated workforce and because the preservation of the American Republic depended on an educated electorate.

The Catholic Church discovered that the public school system wasn't ideally suited to provide education to its children because it was overwhelmingly influenced by Protestants in its approach to education and in the daily routines for students which included prayer and Bible reading.  So the Catholic church in America set out to establish and develop a school system of its own, in which Catholic students would be taught the principles and beliefs of the Catholic faith alongside the objectives for math, science, social studies and language arts.  Over time, the structure of the church through its parishes and dioceses dedicated huge amounts of money to what they termed "Christian education" which meant the education of the church's children.  They determined to make it possible for every Catholic child in America to attend a Catholic school if they desired, and they strongly encouraged that desire.

The impact of Catholic schools on the church in the United States has been remarkable.  Church schools not only stemmed the tide of conversions of Catholics in the public schools to Protestant faiths, but they laid a foundation for support for the church that sustained it through generations of growth and expansion of ministry.  The schools helped themselves by generating volunteers to serve in the clergy and as Nuns who returned to the schools to teach, providing instruction at a very low cost to the schools, enabling more students to enroll.  It is estimated that over 80% of the volunteers for positions of ministry and service in the church came from their schools.  The Catholic church in America enjoyed its greatest period of expansion as a result of their commitment to educating children in schools operated by the church.  The vision for educating children with the goal of their becoming faithful members of the church was supported as a ministry function of the church by a considerable portion of the church budget.

Evangelical Christians began to wake up to the turn of the public education system toward promoting a more secular and humanistic philosophy in its teaching in the early 1950's.  By then, humanist philosophy was already well embedded in the standard curriculum of the public school system.  Awareness of the shift came as the removal of publicly recited prayer and the daily reading of scripture was removed from the schools in actions supported by the federal court system, declaring such activity as a violation of the principle of separation of church and state.  Since that time, the prevailing philosophy of public education has virtually eliminated any religious influences in the schools at all.  The goal of the humanists who gained complete control of public education by controlling the curriculum of colleges and universities where teachers are trained is to bring about societal change through education.  They see the church as a negative influence, darkening minds, perpetuating bigotry and prejudice and they are systematically working to eliminate its influence on society

The response of Evangelical Christians to this turn in public education was similar to the approach of the Catholic church.  Realizing that the school has major influence in the lives of its students because it has them for seven hours a day, five days a week, and the church is lucky to have them for more than a couple of hours a week if they are really faithful attenders, Evangelical Christian schools began to pop up starting in the mid-1950's.  Midwestern Christian Academy was one of those early schools.  Christian schools have been very successful in supporting and undergirding the purpose and ministry of the church, in providing a steady stream of well trained, well educated, spiritually equipped people to minister and serve.  The Christian school movement peaked in the mid-1990's when as many as 7% of all school aged children in the US attended a Christian school operated from an Evangelical perspective.

Unlike the Catholic schools, however, Evangelical Christian schools have not had nearly the impact or affect on the mission and ministry of the church.  That's because, unlike the Catholic church, Evangelical churches failed to unite together in support of the schools which were being started and left financial support and provision of resources largely up to the parents who wanted to enroll their children.  They operated like the academic private school sector and as a result, only those families who could afford the tuition could send their children to a Christian school.  Those who were unable to do so were left either to do their best with public school or find a way to educate their children at home, which relatively few parents comparatively are able to do in a way that allows their children to be academically competitive.

At one point, as many as 80% of the children whose families were members of any given Catholic church had their children in one of the church's schools.  Among Evangelicals, the percentage of children of church members in Christian schools has never exceeded 10%.  What the Christian schools have done in terms of support, such as producing a stream of vocational ministers, missionaries and church volunteers in relatively large numbers, has been remarkable and is proportionally much larger than the size of the schools in its impact on the churches.  But unlike the Catholics, whose hierarchical church structure made it easy for the church to unite around support for its schools, Evangelical Christians have not united around their schools.  Many of them see the problems in public education but their pastors and church leaders have a "turf protection" mentality when it comes to Christian schools.   It is very short sighted, but it is a fact that many Evangelicals will not financially support something they are not able to completely control.

The lack of ability to provide resources has created problems which have caused a drop in Christian school enrollment and a decline in the number of Christian schools in America.  Teacher salaries, kept low because of tuition costs, have reached a point where students graduating from college cannot make student loan payments on the salaries paid by Christian schools.  Lacking the ability to reasonably staff their schools with quality instructors, Christian schools are forced to close.  Increasing tuition, which is the only way 90% of the Christian schools in the US are supported, only decreases enrollment and puts the schools further out of reach of those who can't afford them.  Evangelical Christian schools at their peak in the mid-1990's enrolled about 10% of the children and teenagers whose families were church members.  That figure has dropped to 6% as of 2015.

The decline in Christian school enrollment has come at a time when the effect of the secularization and the humanist agenda in the public education system is causing a decline in Evangelical church membership and attendance.  Major denominations considered part of the "Evangelical" Christian community in the US are showing declines in membership over the past decade that are staggering in their scope.  The drop in the number of individuals baptized in churches when they profess Christ as their savior is also down over the past decade.  Since 90% of all baptisms among Evangelicals are children under 12, some of the decline can be attributed to a drop in the birth rate.  But how much of it is a result of the fact that the parents of most school-aged children now are Millennials, who were taught in school that churches have no value to society and among whom less than 20% are active and involved in the church?

We need Christian schools now more than ever and we need churches to catch that vision, see the value of Christian school education and the potential impact it can have on the ministry and mission of the church, unify around that purpose and provide support so that the schools can provide the ministers to reverse the trends.  Evangelical Christians in the United States spend 6 billion dollars a year on books, media and music, and 4 billion on interest on the debt they owe for buildings that sit empty six days a week.  They give just under a billion to overseas missions, and spend just under $200 million on "Christian education," most of which is buying some kind of curriculum materials.  They leave the parents of children to pay the tuition bill at the Christian school they attend which, in turn, provides the church with much of its leadership.

What kind of an impact on the ministry of the church could Christian schools have if they had the kind of financial support and church unity behind them that the Catholic schools did for over a hundred years?  Just imagine that.  What could happen if we spent $6 billion on education that counters the lie that the church isn't a benefit to society instead of on moves or music?

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Midwestern Christian Academy: We're a Good School and We're Getting Better

It is hard to believe that the school year is almost over.  I guess it depends on your perspective.  We might have a few eighth graders who thought they'd never get to this point.  For me, it went by quickly, the perspective of getting older, I guess. 

We've had a good year.  For a private, Christian school, there are some specific markers that we look at to tell us how we've done and what we need to improve and everything we see is encouraging. 

We exceeded our goal for re-enrollment for the fall 2019-20 school year.  We are far ahead of where registration was at this time last year and that is a good sign.  Families return if the educational needs of their students are being met.  As far as anyone around here knows, we had more students register in advance during the month of March than at any previous time in at least the recent history of the school. 

Staff Retention
One of the main signs of the health of an educational institution is the percentage of current teaching staff who opt to return for the next year.  This is an indicator of a very stable work environment.  We are losing two of our staff members after this year.  One is staying home to take care of a newborn, and the other is retiring from teaching.  Everyone else plans to return.  And that's a good thing, because from an academic perspective, MCA is an excellent school, so keeping its current teaching staff means it will continue to be an excellent school. 

Terra Nova Achievement Test Results
Most of our parents are going to be very pleased with the results their children earned on the Terra Nova Achievement Test which we took in April.  This is a nationally-based measure of "AYP" which stands for "Adequate Yearly Progress" and measures the academic growth of students from school year to school year. 

The Terra Nova is based on national standards.  It is a rigorous test.  Parents will get a report outlining their child's performance in their final report card.  Results are measured in two ways, so you will see two different performance charts showing your child's scores.  One measures the expected outcome of a year's worth of whatever subject is being tested, such as mathematics computation, general math or reading.  The other places students in a "percentile rank" indicating how well they did compared to the other students on their grade level nationally who took the same test. 

The mid-point of the percentile rank is 50.  So if a student got a percentile rank of 50, it does not mean they only got 50% of the questions right, it means they did better than 50% of the students who took the test, and worse than 50% of the students who took the test.  So anything above the 50th percentile would be considered a "good" score.  Looking at the class averages for each grade at MCA, the average percentile rank in mathematics, language arts and reading is between the 67th and 73rd percentile.  Science and social studies are above the 70th percentile.   

Parents, those are high scores.  The value we place on an achievement test like this is that it tells us where our instruction is meeting expectations and where we need to make improvements and adjustments to our curriculum objectives.  We expect our students to perform better than their counterparts in the public school system because we believe that the quality of our instruction, our smaller class sizes and our Christian distinctiveness all contribute to a better educational environment.  Our student scores are where we expect them to be and we will look at what this edition of the test tells us about where our curriculum and instruction needs to be improved and we will make those changes.

So if you were looking for a school that has excellent academics, you found it at MCA!

That's the good news about this year.  Now, here's where we're going in 2019-20.  

Increased Use of Technology in the Classroom
Through the generosity of donors and the hard work of our PTF, MCA has acquired enough sets of new chromebooks to equip at least two classrooms.  We will be adding use of technology objectives to the curriculum so that each class, from grade 3 to 8 will have regular assignments to complete using the chromebooks.  In addition to this, we are able to set up a computer lab upstairs in the main building for class or individual student use.  Chromebooks are excellent for school use because they can't have outside apps added to them.  They are secure in that it is difficult for students to access apps or websites they are not allowed to access.  We are already connected to Google Education for cloud storage so students can put their work away and retrieve it on their own laptop or tablet later.

Addition of STEM Objectives
STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.  There are specific projects which teach the application of these particular subjects to students, not just an emphasis in the classroom on more math or more science.  STEM applications involve students in specific projects using the knowledge they gain from the classroom in achieving a specific goal and they learn through the hands on experience.  

Take a look at this video for an example of what a good stem project using computers in the classroom looks like-

Middle School Mathematics
We are going to upgrade the textbooks for mathematics in grades 6-8 and change the course titles.  Grade 6 will be called "General Mathematics 6".  Grade 7 will be "Pre-Algebra 7".  Grade 8 will be "Algebra 1" and will meet the high school credit requirement for 9th grade mathematics.  Our students are already taking these courses at these grade levels, but changing the names makes it easy for their prospective high school counselor to know what they had here. 

Curriculum Alignment for High School
When your school ends at the 8th grade in a city like Chicago, where students have many options for high school, it is difficult to know how to align the curriculum.  Most of our students opt for high school programs that are accelerated above the level of the neighborhood high schools.  We have some students who go to the select programs in Chicago Public Schools, some who go to charter schools and some who go to one of the nearby Christian high schools. 

The academic rigor of the Christian high schools is the most challenging.  So we are looking at curriculum objectives required by schools like Chicago Hope Academy, Christian Liberty Academy, Walther Christian and Christian Heritage Academy.  These schools all have excellent academic programs and we are already in a relationship with them through our affiliation with ACSI. 

Spiritual Life
We will continue with our regular weekly chapel worship and involving every student in a Bible class every day.  We would like to have more opportunities for students to have a hands on experience that will help deepen their Christian experience.  We will have a "Day of Serving" for students in grades 5 through 8 two times each school year, once in the fall and once in the spring.  Projects will be located which will enable students to serve others during the school day.  We will be looking to help local churches with specific ministry projects. 

Building Touch-Up
There are still a few projects around the building left from last summer's construction that need to be finished.  The building will look a lot nicer when students return in the fall.  The stairs are the biggest project, some door facings, molding, painting the lockers, and improving some lighting.  We may have some use for parents who want to volunteer some time this summer. 

You Made an Excellent Choice!  
Midwestern Christian Academy is a great school.  You made an excellent choice when you decided this would be the place where your children go to school.  We provide an education that aims to connect the skills and knowledge students learn in class to their Christian faith, helping them to develop and build a Christian worldview.  The cost of an education is well over $12,000 a year in the public school system, and most private schools average between $11,000 and $13,000 a year, with some exclusive schools being even higher than that.  We are blessed here.  I hope that you take advantage of the opportunity to enroll your child at MCA for the 2019-20 school term.