Tuesday, June 15, 2021

An Overview of the 2020-21 School Year at Midwestern Christian Academy

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him.  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church.  He is the beginning, the firstborn from the deal, that in everything he might be pre-eminent.  For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross.  Colossians 1:15-20 ESV 

The primary philosophical difference between a Christian school and other forms of education is our belief and acknowledgement of the existence of God and our confession that Jesus is his son and our savior who came in the flesh as both fully human and fully divine.  We declare, as the Apostle John wrote, And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true (I John 5:20).  

We take a "discipleship" approach to education, instructing the "whole child" including intellect, soul and spirit, and the physical body.  So a child's education or "schooling" includes development of the intellect, spiritual formation and physical education.  All of these elements of discipleship are part of the school experience, placing a child's teachers in a partnership with parents who are ultimately held responsible by God for the discipleship of their children.  There are many aspects of Christian school education that are different from other forms of educational systems as a result of this philosophy, including the instructional pedagogy, curriculum objectives, expected student outcomes, relationships with parents, course requirements and teacher qualifications.  

When we looked at our options last summer, after the COVID-19 pandemic set in and we had been closed to in-person instruction for the last 9 weeks of school, it was our philosophy and approach to education that helped us make the decision.  We committed the decision to prayer, asking God to provide guidance, and in the event that we opened school to in-person instruction, protection and safety for our students and their families.  He did.  Sure, we took precautions, deep-cleaned and disinfected the building every day, students wore masks, had their temperature checked and quarantined when exposed.  We completed a school year without any school-based spread of COVID-19, only 10 cases total among our school community and were able to operate in-person all year.  

And as of June 4, 2021, we had recorded 176 days in session, 1080 instructional hours, which exceeds the state's requirement of 880 instructional hours.  That doesn't count three days of E-learning.  And that is an answer to prayer.  

It is also a real blessing with a measurable effect.  

School officials across the country are scrambling to find ways to get students back to performance levels that meet current standards.  State education officials in multiple states, including Illinois, are saying that it may take as long as three years of adjustments and planning to get students back to their pre-COVID academic status, and that efforts like adding time to the school term or school day, offering enrichment education in the summer and even allowing students to repeat the previous year in an in-person setting if they were on line are all being considered.  The affects of the COVID-19 pandemic on American schools were devastating.  

Students at MCA are among the fortunate group--and I will also say the blessed group of students who were able to go to school in-person every day.  It is indeed a blessing not to have to consider multiple methods, including summer school and weekend enrichment times, in order for our student achievement levels to return to their normal levels.  In fact, by all the observations we use to gauge our student outcomes, MCA students this year performed at their usual levels which I would characterize as "higher than average."  Over 90% of our students successfully met or exceeded benchmarks in core subjects.

Don't miss the significance of this accomplishment.  What it means is that after over a year of a viral pandemic that disrupted education for upwards of 75% of the students in American schools, MCA students are right where they should be academically.  It means we can continue working on the improvements we have planned for our school and especially for the academic program without having to spend time getting our students back to the place where they should have finished this school year.  All of our students will start next fall at the exact academic level prescribed by the course standards.  Eighth grade graduates going on to a local public or charter high school might find they will have an easier time of it at the beginning of the year, especially if they are attending a school that spend most of the year in a hybrid schedule or learning online.  

MCA has been recovering from some issues which occurred within the school during the 2017-18 school term.  In addition to the fact that COVID-19 was an unwelcome intrusion into everyone's life at every level, it was an unplanned-for disruption in the school's recovery process.  That's something else we have been committing to prayer.  But the dark cloud had some unexpected silver linings that turned out to be blessings to the school in its recovery process which moved forward this year, not exactly as we planned but exactly as God had planned.  We will head into the fall on a solid financial footing.  We had 97% of our students eligible for re-enrollment register for the fall semester and if things keep going the way they are right now, our largest number of new families and new students in several years is anticipated, with our largest enrollment in three years already committed.  We are asking God to continue to work the work by helping us be completely prepared when the ACSI Accreditation Team visits us in November.  Please join us.  

Friday, May 21, 2021

Christian School is Affordable! Check Out the Enhanced Child Tax Credit

Financial aid resources in most Christian schools are limited, but among the dark clouds of the COVID-19 epidemic have been some silver linings and this one will benefit over 80% of the families in the United States who have children under 17.  

It's called the Enhanced Child Tax Credit.  Starting on July 15, if you have a child in your household who is under 6, you will get $300 on the 15th of every month.  If you have children who are between 6 and 17, you will get $250 on the 15th of the month.  You don't have to do anything specific to get this tax credit, except to have filed your income tax return for either 2019 or 2020.  You may want to update your address and contact information on the IRS website in order to make sure the money gets to you.  It may come in the form of a debit card or a check.  

Click this link, link to CNN story on Enhanced Child Tax Credit and you can read how this tax credit will benefit your family. 

You will get the tax credit for each child for one year.  Suddenly, Christian school has become affordable for many families.  If you have two children in your family, the tax credit covers two-thirds of the tuition and fees for both.  Or at least it covers it at Midwestern Christian Academy.

If you were thinking about enrolling your children in a Christian school, but weren't sure you could afford it, this will certainly help.  Give it some thought and then give us a call to schedule a tour.  

Friday, May 14, 2021

It's Time to Unwrap This Gift....

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.  for we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness , so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Hebrews 4:14-16

It may seem a little strange to call this past school year a "gift."  With everyone wearing a mask, with students separated into "cohorts" to avoid contact with each other, with desks inside and lines outside to accommodate "social distancing," with the hand sanitizer dispensers everywhere, the additional handwashing, the extra deep-cleaning and having your temperature taken every morning, along with the daily risk that someone who was infected, but didn't have symptoms, would walk through the door it might not seem that this year was anything but difficult.  But I'm here to tell you, it really was a gift.  

Our written COVID-19 Re-opening protocol starts off by saying that we are depending on prayer to get us through the year.  We acknowledged our dependence on God and we requested that regardless of how parents, students and staff members might view the reaction to the pandemic, we were committed to the principles of Philippians 2:3-4, Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  

We have now seen what happens when you take God at his word.  We prayed, and as a school community, it was a real blessing to see our parents, students and school staff come together to cooperate with the guidelines we put in place and to "look after the interests of others."  And God has richly blessed us as a result. 

According to the website Thinkimpact, 75% of students in American schools were involved in on-line learning this school year, either all of every day or in a hybrid model, attending part-time at school and part-time on-line.  Most schools are still evaluating the impact of that, though according to the same website, the increase in "E-learning" has resulted in a 30% increase in failing grades.  The Illinois State Board of Education reported earlier this year that only 37% of third grade students met the expected benchmark in English-Languaga Arts and only 40% met them in mathematics. 

Across the country, many educational leaders in state departments of education are looking at curriculum objective adjustments which may take as long as three years to return to pre-COVID-19 levels.  Many schools are making plans to help students get back up to speed in their studies with summer school, extended school days and making tutoring services more widely available. And one of the big unknowns at this point is how many students haven't really been involved in any kind of academic exercise, not even enrichment E-learning, since schools shut down in Mid-March of 2020.  

The circumstances which allowed us to remain open to in-person learning all year are nothing short of miraculous.  We had students and staff members come down with COVID-19, but the timing and circumstances were always such that our protocol could be put in place and we avoided school-based spread.  The effort included many of our parents who had to find a place to take their child to get a test and get quick results back.  Sometimes that was inconvenient, but I never heard anyone gripe or complain about the care we were demonstrating to our students.  We had some close calls and a couple of times to "test" the system we had in place but God answered our prayers and we will finish this school year having completed more instructional hours in the classroom than required by the Illinois State Department of Education.  

That doesn't mean we are favored more than others or are somehow more deserving.  It just means that we have a sovereign God who answers prayers and he answered ours.  And really, that's just about all there is to it.  He knew what we needed and he provided it for us.  So join me in giving thanks to Him for all he has done for us this school year.  

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Measuring Expected Student Outcomes in Academics: The Iowa Test of Basic Skills

Next week, mornings at MCA will be occupied by students completing the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, otherwise known as the ITBS.  Achievement tests have been a part of school forever, but many parents have questions about the reason we give them, what the scores mean and how we use them.  

We planned to make the switch to the Iowa Test of Basic Skills last year, but the COVID pandemic prevented us from doing so.  We are members of the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) which provides a number of services for Christian schools including curriculum materials and textbooks, professional development and certification for teachers, consultation on legal and educational matters, a fully recognized accreditation commission and testing services.  They made the recommended switch from the Terra Nova for their member schools two years ago, based on research and information provided by schools and their perceived needs.  So this will be our first year to give this particular test. 

Why Iowa? 

The test is named after the University of Iowa, where it was developed.  It is not exclusively for students from Iowa, nor is it based on Iowa educational standards.  It is a nationally-normed achievement test designed to measure a school's AYP (educational acronym for "adequate yearly progress) based on a set of national standards and on comparative data from all of the students who took the same test at the same time.  

We are following the recommendation of the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) that the updated revisions of the ITBS are the best match for most Christian schools based on their research and analysis.  We are a member of ACSI and are a candidate for accreditation through their commission, so we will follow their expert recommendation regarding the best testing instrument to measure our students' progress.

What the Test Tells Us

Private schools are not required to give an annual assessment of AYP.  The main reason for this is that state departments of education use test results to get an idea of the overall progress of their public schools as well as measurements that characterize the achievement levels of each individual school district and school.  If private schools are part of the testing sample, then the percentile ranks and grade level progress are not accurate in measuring their progress.

The vast majority of Christian schools operate from a different philosophy of education than the public school system, not only in the Biblical integration and content of the curriculum, but in the whole structure of curriculum and instruction.  We place a strong emphasis on the development of basic skills in core subjects in the lower grades with consistent application of skills to critical thinking as students advance to each succeeding grade level.  Core subjects in addition to Biblical studies are English-language arts-reading (with phonics skills), mathematics, social studies and science.  As students advance, math and language arts skills become cross-curricular.  So we need a test that focuses on skill development and practical application.  The Iowa Test is designed for this specific purpose. 

We do not view a test or test scores as the "product" or "ends" of our instruction.  We simply use this kind of test to improve our curriculum and instruction and as a means of measuring our progress.  

How to Understand and Interpret the Results

The acronyms and terms that are found on test result reports received by parents are sometimes not helpful in interpreting the results.  Parents are used to seeing a percentage or letter grade on an assignment or test brought home by their child and knowing exactly what that means, which numbers and letters are good and which ones aren't so great.  Standardized test results don't come out that way. 

Here are some things to look for when it comes to the test results: 

National Percentile Rank

The percentile rank measures where your child's overall test score, and each score within a subject area, compares to the other students in the same testing group.  For example, if your child's percentile rank in math computation is 92, that means that they did better than 92 percent of all students in all schools who took the same test.  That's usually a national sample.  Any score above a 50 means they did better than half of all other students, above 60 is above average.  That's where most MCA students score.

Normal Curve Equivalent

Remember the old "bell curve"?  This simply measures the middle point of the testing sample.  On the ITBS, the normal curve equivalent isn't usually very far on either side of the 50th percentile because the testing sample is so large.  Sometimes the mid-point is slightly higher than 50, sometimes slightly lower.  That means if your percentile rank is 50 or higher, you are in one of the top two quartiles of the test.  Typically, 25% of the students are in each quartile, so if you are in the first or second quartile, you are exceeding the expectations of the test.  You might not be aware of the fact that on recent standardized assessments given to MCA students, over 90% of our students score in the top two quartiles. 

Normalized Standard Score or "Stanine" 

This is the raw score that each student achieved on the test compared to the expectations, or standards, that were measured by the test.  On a classroom test, for which the student spent time in study and did guided and independent practice in class, students can easily get better than 90% of the answers correct, and some will get a perfect score.  On a standardized test, for which there was no advanced study or specific practice, students usually get a higher percentage of responses wrong.  

If there were 40 questions on the math computation test, and a student missed 5, their percentage grade would be 88.  But if the test standard calculates that a high performing student would miss at least 5 answers out of 40, the normalized score might be as high as 9 on a scale of 9.  The scale runs from 1 to 9, with a 4 being considered the "minimum" benchmark achievement. On previous assessments, more than 90% of MCA students meet or exceed the benchmarks for their grade level.

Grade Equivalent

The grade equivalent measures the student's achievement against the expectation of the grade level.  A grade equivalent of 4.7 would indicate that the student has progressed to the point where a fourth grade student should reach by the seventh month of the year.  So a fourth grade student who scores 5.2 in mathematics would be exceeding the expectations of the fourth grade expected outcomes.  The test standard adds an advancement of 0.9 for each grade level.  On previous  Terra Nova assessments, MCA's grade equivalent on past assessments has averaged 1.2.  

A Perfect Score? 

If you want to check to see if your child got all of the responses correct, you would need to look at the actual raw score on the report.  Some tests don't put this on there and sometimes it can be hard to find.  Perfect scores on achievement tests are rare and aren't expected.  The goal is to meet or exceed the expected standard so if they're in the 60th percentile in math with a standard score of 6, they've been successful.  

On our most recent assessment, the Terra Nova 2019, more than 90% of MCA students had scores on the right side of the "bell" in the top two quartiles and had percentile ranks in mathematics and language arts/reading of between 65 and 75 and standard scores of 6,7 and 8 with a scattering of nines.  It's rare for us to have students who don't at least meet the minimum benchmarks and if that's the case, we can use the test to see what they've missed and plan for their future success.    

So How Will MCA Do This Year? 

This is our first time with the ITBS in quite a while.  It is similar to the Terra Nova and of course, teachers have their "favorites" when it comes to tests.  

We've been really blessed, and I mean REALLY blessed, to have been able to be in-person every day at school this year.  It does not appear that the nine weeks when we were in E-learning at the end of last year will have a major affect on our test scores.  Observing where our classes stand right now with regard to completion of their grade level objectives, I think we will see the kind of results we have had in the past.  

The number of students taking AYP tests this year is going to be down significantly, so that may have some kind of an effect on percentile rank.  But MCA has a strong academic program with an advanced curriculum base and strong instruction and that should show up as it normally does, in a strong showing on the annual achievement test.  The tests we use meet the standard for measuring AYP for all schools.  The results achieved by our students are a confirmation of the strength of an academic program that relies on best practices in education, based on research which includes tests like these.  We believe this year's test will affirm the academic excellence that goes hand in hand with the spiritual development provided at MCA.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Take Heart

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.  John 16:33 ESV

The resurrection as a verifiable, historical event is the center point of the Christian faith.  Without a resurrected Christ, there is no forgiveness of sin and no reconciliation to God.  That's exactly why the power of the enemy was so concentrated on that time and place, sealing Jesus in a tomb behind a stone with a detachment of soldiers to guard it.  But the power of God was also concentrated on that time and place, so much so that the earth shook, the temple curtain--symbol of the boundary between the presence of God and the souls of humanity--was ripped in two, it got dark and graves were opened (Matthew 27:52)and their occupants resurrected.  

Even so, on Easter Sunday, the sermon I heard in a friend's church was another review of the historical facts of the resurrection contrasted with the world's attempts to make it unbelievable.  What else would you preach on Easter?  But discrediting the historical accuracy of the resurrection is doing the same thing that the Roman soldiers did to Jesus on Calvary.  It separates humans from the very thing they need to forgive their sin and reconcile with God.  So pastors stand in their pulpits on Easter Sunday and affirm the historical accuracy of the scripture because that opens the door to an understanding of truth that leads to salvation of the soul.  

Many of the theories that have been brought forward to attempt to discredit the historical accounts of Jesus rising from the dead aren't really plausible arguments.  The tomb was being guarded by soldiers who would have been executed if they allowed the body to be stolen.  Then there's the idea that Jesus simply fainted from loss of blood and from having a spear thrust into his side and revived when he got into the cool tomb where, after being severely beaten and hanging on a cross, was able to roll a massive stone back from the inside and somehow walk out without being seen.  The claim is also made that the women who went to the tomb simply went to the wrong one.  Those claims, while they represent attempts to explain away a miracle in the world's terms, are not really plausible or believable.  

The most powerful argument made by the world against the resurrection of Jesus is a reliance on intellect.  Humans do not rise from the dead, according to the intellectual argument, hence such stories are legends built by Jesus' disciples, his followers who vented their frustration by creating the Jesus of the gospels out of the character of the itinerant Jewish rabbi to whom they attached themselves.  Somehow they persuaded Paul to join them, inventing--according to their perspective--a dramatic and intense conversion experience to go along with the legend they were building.  It was Paul who took the simple gospel account of Mark and turned Jesus into world savior and legend, a myth as compelling as the stuff the Greeks imagined, according to the perspective of human intellect.  

Factually, there are a lot of holes in that argument.  Paul, along with several of Jesus' original twelve disciples, met death by execution because of their testimony to the truth of Jesus' resurrection.  It's not very likely they would put their lives on the line for something they invented and didn't really believe.  Nor would the literally thousands of Christians who met their death at the hands of an executioner because they would not deny their belief in the existence of God, that Jesus was his divine and human son and that he was sacrificed as an atonement for sin.  By any accepted historical standard, the written account of the crucifixion and the resurrection were historical, not fictional. 

But the main fight against belief in God, and the specific means by which he chose to forgive sin and redeem his human creation today is the intellectual argument that relegates "religious beliefs" to some kind of mystical, unexplainable domain and simply make a statement by setting it aside and leaving it out of education altogether.  Children in our culture are compelled to attend school until they turn 16 years of age or they finish the eighth grade, and a specific curriculum of core subjects is required, along with minimum standards of achievement.  What message is sent when the Bible is rarely mentioned and when it is, only as an example of ancient poetry or literature?  Students get the message from the educational establishment that what is taught in school is important, and what is not taught isn't.  And that is reinforced by curriculum objectives which contradict Biblical truth.  

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.  And this is the spirit of the antichrist of which you have heard that it is coming and now it is already in the world.  I John 4:2-3 NRSV

That's why we exist. The education that is provided at Midwestern Christian Academy not only includes and integrates Biblical truth in its curriculum, including the confession that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, its whole philosophy rests on the foundation of the Bible's revelation of God to humanity and his redemption of us by grace through faith in Christ.  The education of a child is not complete without it.  


Sunday, March 14, 2021

Demolishing Strongholds

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."  2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NIV

It's that time of year when parents of MCA students give consideration to another year of Christian school.  Having been in Christian school education for a long time, I know that for many families, most in fact, there are always circumstances that must be taken into consideration before a commitment is made.  Sometimes, there are situations beyond our control that will have an impact on the ability of a family to send their children back to their Christian school.  

"Be sober minded, be watchful.  Your adversary the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world."  I Peter 5:8-9 ESV

We have an adversary and it doesn't suit his purposes to have children gathered together every day under the instruction and care of Christians who are engaged in a discipleship ministry aimed at making more disciples and preparing them to become disciple-makers.  There are already obstacles around which we have to navigate in order to provide a Christian school which supports and undergirds the work of Christ's kingdom and around which parents must also navigate to provide it for their kids.  We need to be aware of the adversary's work from the inside, as the scripture says, demolishing arguments that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.  

MCA isn't perfect, but neither is any other educational institution.  Our commitment is to do our best with what God has given us to give to our students so that they develop into mature followers of Christ who make a difference in the lives of everyone around them.  And as the scripture says, we do not fight with the weapons of the world.  We are taking something that the world is using to have influence and bring about social change according to its own human intellect and thinking, and using it to make disciples who will change the world by pointing it to God through faith in Christ.  And we hope that we have helped give them enough spiritual "weapons" to fight the battles they will face and overcome them by faith.  That's the main reason we exist.

That isn't all we do.  Like almost all of our fellow Evangelical Christian schools around the world, students at MCA also get a solid academic foundation, measurably more successful from an academic perspective than the education that the "world" provides.  Academics are important.  Though educational philosophy varies from school to school, Christian schools are successful because they link Biblical truth and Christian educational philosophy to the way they approach instruction and learning. When our academic progress is measured by the same standards used by most of American public education, MCA students show scores which place more than 90% of them in the top two academic quartiles, with average percentile ranks falling right at the dividing line between the first and second quartile.  

There are reasons for this, inherent in our basic educational philosophy.  I'll share a few: 

  • During a seven-hour school day, between 5 1/2 and 6 hours is spent on instruction in core subjects.  We replace the time that public schools spend on "social" education with our Biblical studies classes and corporate worship in chapel. The rest of the time is spent in core subject instruction supplemented with classes that promote cognitive development like music, art and physical education.  Add that up and it's over 1,000 hours in a school year, compared to an average of 880 hours in most schools in Illinois.   
  • We emphasize development of basic skills in reading, language arts and mathematics in the lower grades, actually starting in Pre-K3.  We use research-based methods that have proven records of success. We teach things like phonics, grammar, math facts and writing.  
  • We pray in class.  Our staff prays for the success of their students.  
  • The primary qualification for our teachers is that they have the spiritual gift of teaching.  But all of them have a degree, certification and are keeping up with re-certification requirements.  And they have all had training in Christian school educational philosophy  
  • We will work as hard as we can and do as much as we can to add some extras for students to expand their interests, including more extra-curricular activities and some in-school enrichment. 
There are some questions and comments that are pretty common at registration time and for most of these, my response to parents is to simply consider the potential influence of the alternative, and decide if you think it is worth it. 

I'm concerned that there is only one other (boy or girl) in my child's classroom and the opportunity to make friends may be limited.  

That's not as uncommon as you may think.  But limited options in this regard might be a blessing in the long run. We have done things like combine the girls or boys from smaller classes with the same gender for PE or elective courses.  In a small school sometimes it happens but it can just as often be a good thing.  

There's only one class on each grade level, so I can't pick my child's teacher. 

Even when there are multiple choices, not all schools let parents choose.  And the fact of the matter is that no two teachers are alike, teach alike, or manage students alike and through as many as 14 years of elementary, middle and high school, your child is going to have many different teachers with many different teaching styles and methods of classroom management.  You'll love one or two, like about half the rest and not really care for everyone else.  That's OK.  Handle it in a Christlike manner and you'll find that it was not as bad as you thought it was going to be.  The bottom line is the expected outcome for your child.  And know this.  Your child is still in a Christian school and your child's teacher will love them, care about their experience and do their best to produce the expected outcome.  

My son wants to play football and the Christian school is too small to have a team. 

Some Christian schools do have football, and offer a wide range of extra-curricular activities.  Along with that, you must consider that these options are not included in tuition and parents must bear the cost of their child's participation which can be high.  It is a trade-off.  At MCA, as we look at post-pandemic planning, our goal for extra-curricular activity is to provide wholesome activities which help students build relationships and through which we can show students how to practically apply their faith.   

It costs a lot for me to send my child to a Christian school and it's a sacrifice. 

One of the enemy "strongholds" is the fact that tax dollars go to support the public education system and other than charter schools, which operate under the same secular philosophy of education, the public schools monopolize tax dollars.  Parents have a "choice" in theory, but they can't use their own tax dollars toward education to make the choice.  Those who now hold the stronghold have made it virtually impossible for most families to choose an educational alternative other than the public system.  

But the sacrifice is mutual.  Our teachers, knowing that this involves sacrifice, are willing to accept a salary that is well below what their public school counterparts make in order to keep the cost low.  Your tuition bill would increase more than $2,000 a year per student if we paid our teachers the lowest annual salary offered to a Chicago Public School teacher.  And our teachers have to meet higher qualifications.  Midwest Bible Church provides the facilities and support and also contributes from its church budget. That's worth another $1,500 a year to our families.  We believe in what we are doing and are willing to sacrifice to make it happen.  It's a partnership and we ask you to join us.  

There aren't many alternatives.  Home schooling is one, but not very many people in our society are either equipped for it or can do it because of the time demands.  Charter schools may be mission driven, but they are still public schools and in some cases are even more aligned toward using schools to bring about social change as the public school system.  On-line education, which does not offer the academic quality, is still public school if it is publicly funded and there is not a high level of accountability.  Private on-line education charges about the same amount of tuition and fees as we do.  

Christian schools are one of the weapons we have "to demolish strongholds."  We have them because parents like you choose to send your children to us.  Our responsibility is to do as well as we can in order to earn your trust and have you bring them back.  Your responsibility is to take what God has given you, listen to his voice and support us.  

Sunday, February 21, 2021

ISBE Introduces Standards for "Culturally Responsive" Educators in Teacher Training

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has introduced a set of requirements in teacher licensing and certification training that are aimed at producing "culturally responsive educators and educational leaders."

A "culturally responsive educator", specifically, is one who will "critically think about the institutions in which they find themselves, working to reform these institutions whenever and wherever necessary," as well as one who will “assess how their biases and perceptions affect their teaching practice and how they access tools to mitigate their own behavior (racism, sexism, homophobia, unearned privilege, Eurocentrism, etc.).”  These are now being included as part of the requirement for getting a teacher's certificate in Illinois.  

In addition to this new requirement, approved by the legislature in the past week, last year Illinois public schools mandated "sexual orientation and gender identity" objectives for students with the goal of promoting understanding and acceptance of gay, lesbian, transgender and transsexual lifestyles.  These objectives had previously been in the sex education curriculum, where parents could opt out of having their children involved in the instruction but in 2019-20, they were moved into the "core" curriculum where they became part of regular, daily instruction and where parents are not aware of when the objectives will be introduced and discussed and cannot have their children "opt out" of participation.  

We also found out this week that only 37% of the third graders in Illinois public schools are able to demonstrate "proficiency" in meeting the benchmarks of the reading and language arts curriculum and only 41% are "proficient" in mathematics.  So if the majority of our students are not meeting the minimum expectations in these two core subjects which teach essential skills, then why is the ISBE adopting a whole new set of curriculum requirements related to a social agenda which will take time away from core skills subjects?  And if only 37% of third graders are meeting the minimum benchmarks in English-language arts, how are they going to read, understand and interpret the content of a social agenda course?   

And your tax dollars, and mine, are paying for this.  

The Blessing of a Christian School

First of all, we believe that education and training in "social issues" is a parent responsibility, not a school responsibility.  Our core curriculum includes daily instruction for each student at MCA in Bible and a weekly gathering for worship and teaching that has, as its goal, undergirding and supporting the Christian values that are taught in the student's home and at their own church.  Our teaching emphasizes the redemptive message of the gospel of Jesus, acknowledging him as Lord and Savior.  

Our students inevitably encounter the world, even while they are still in elementary school.  It is difficult to shelter them from all kinds of worldly philosophies, ideas and lifestyles because they are everywhere and the electronic age not only facilitates our students access to the world, but it also facilitates the world's access to our students.  The public school system has rapidly become one of those access points where the world's ideas and philosophies are taught as "options" and "choices" to the students.  It makes it very confusing and difficult for parents who are trying to help their children focus on Biblical truth and redemption through Jesus Christ.  That's why we exist.  Your children spend seven hours a day at school and that time should be a refuge and a shelter, yes, I said shelter, focusing students on life skills for success and shielding their minds so that their parents, and their Christian community in the church, can prepare them for the inevitable day when they will face the world and its choices. 

So our instructional time focuses on the development of basic skills in the early grades and the practical application of those skills as they advance to the middle grades.  We also offer physical education, art and music, which all contribute to intellectual development.  We do not waste time on a social agenda.  On average, our students spend 20% more of their school day in core subject instructional time than their public or charter school peers do.   

As a result, over 90% of our students on any given grade level at MCA are not only proficient in English-language arts-reading skills and mathematics skills, but they exceed the state minimum benchmarks.  The longer a student has been at MCA, the higher the likelihood that their achievement goes well beyond the state's standard for being "proficient."  On our last national standards based test, MCA's students collectively did better than 70% of the students who took the same test.  

Did you need a good reason to re-enroll your child at Midwestern Christian Academy for the fall?  There's one. 

Getting Past the Obstacles:  Colossians 2:8

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition according to the elemental spirits of the universe and not according to Christ.

It is not a requirement for teachers in private schools to be certified by the state.  The Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) of which we are a member and who will provide us with accreditation has a teacher certification program for Christian schools which, in addition to the requirement of a Bachelor's degree with the required education-based coursework, also requires six credit hours of college-level Biblical studies and a written, personal philosophy of Christian education, including their faith testimony, in order to be certified.  We do not consider the state's requirements as adequate in certifying our instructional staff.  

With most Christian schools dependent on tuition income for their operations, it is sometimes difficult to appear competitive when it comes to extra curricular activities, technology development and all the bells and whistles that parents expect and hear about being offered elsewhere.  Not every kid who goes through Christian school will develop into the mature Christian making wise choices that their parents might hope for, but the odds are certainly in favor of it and so are the results.   

As a Christian school administrator, I can show you what my school will do for your student, in real numbers that reflect its academic strength and in the content and integration of Biblical truth into the curriculum which your child will learn every single day they are here.  We have, at least when there's not a viral pandemic, a scattering of extra-curricular activities that we can provide.  We are able to put an electronic device in the hands of each student, show them how to use it to achieve an academic goal and provide instruction that leads to discernment and good choices when they have their own tablet and are making their own choices.  

I can show you that even without a full blown athletic or fine arts department, a fully equipped science lab or all of those other bells and whistles that our students achieve at a far greater level than their peers in schools which do provide the "bells and whistles." My hope, and prayer, as a Christian school administrator is that you, as a parent of a student or students are able to see how much better off they will be here, in spite of what you might think they are missing, than they will be spending 7 hours a day where the world has their attention and their interest.  And I can join you in the hope and prayer that their being in this school will make the kind of difference in their lives that you are hoping and praying for.  

Deceptive philosophy is not always easy to see.  Sometimes, it doesn't get noticed until a student is making choices which demonstrate that they've been influenced by it.  But next to your home, their school classroom is the place where your children spend most of their time and the atmosphere is one in which they are influenced by their teachers and their peers at least as much as they are influenced by their parents, especially after age 6 or 7.  Would you rather they have a "culturally responsive" educator in charge of their classroom every day or a "Christ-responsive" teacher who sees their instruction as a partnership with you, not a conflict of interest?