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?  

Monday, February 8, 2021

The Value of a Christian School Education: What You Get For Your Tuition Dollars at MCA

Christian schools are the only place where parents can choose an education for their child where the objectives of each academic subject is connected to Biblical truth and a Christian worldview.  Since the public school system is "religiously neutral," in theory if not necessarily in practice, parents must invest tuition and fees in order to be able to choose a Christian school for their children.  

While our main purpose is to provide a comprehensive education for students which integrates Biblical truth into academic content, we also provide an excellent education with expected student outcomes exceeding minimum state expectations.  Even though we are a small school with limited resources, over 90% of our students exceed the expected benchmarks in core subjects, compared with an average of just 40% of their public school peers, and our students score in the 70th percentile nationally on standardized achievement tests.  So even though we charge tuition and fees, your are getting excellent return and value for your sacrifice.  

Tuition and Fees Compared

The base tuition rate per student at MCA is $5,150 for the 2021-22 school term.  However, we give multi-child discounts and offer financial assistance to families who qualify, so the average tuition paid per student at MCA is about $4,425.  

The per-student, per year cost for public education in Illinois is just under $14,000 per year.  In Chicago, it is slightly higher, at $15,000.  Of course, that is taxpayer funded and inclusive of all services.  It's really an apples and oranges comparison, though in our section of Chicago, most public schools struggle to get 40% of their students to the state minimum benchmarks in math and reading while at MCA, we have more than 90% of our students meeting or exceeding benchmarks.

The average annual tuition at a private school nationally is $12,350 per students.  In the state of Illinois, is a little lower than that because many private religious based schools are Catholic or church-operated Evangelical schools.  In the city of Chicago, average private school tuition is $14,400 per student, because the city has a number of exclusive academies known for their academic success.  If you just consider church-based private schools, that figure drops to about $10,000 per year.  

In our area of Northwest Chicago, among the religious-based schools in our area that include 5 Catholic schools and 2 Lutheran schools, along with MCA, the average tuition rate is $8,150.  Comparatively, all of the schools offer similar programs, electives and activities, with MCA coming in at the lowest per-student rate of $4,425.  

So What's the Difference? 

Comparatively, our standardized test scores, 8th grade NWEA scores and high school admissions shows us coming in a little bit higher than even the other parochial schools in our part of town.  We also offer similar activities for our students.  So what keeps our costs low by comparison? 

Teacher Salary "Scholarship" Subsidies--If we paid our teachers a minimum $45,000 per year salary, which is at the low end of what public schools pay, it would increase tuition $2,275 per student per year.  So your teachers, who are all born-again Christians and who work here because they want to make a difference in the students' lives, not for the money, help make MCA affordable.  Noting that all of our teachers have a degree, certification and several have advanced degrees, they contribute to a sizeable savings for parents.  

Use of Facilities--MCA is a ministry of Midwest Bible Church.  As such, we are able to use the school facility, which includes the gym, without paying a lease.  We do cover utilities, which are really minimal next to what a lease or mortgage could run.  And unlike many church-sponsored Christian schools, our students have access to most of the church facilities as well.  Including the gym, about 40% of our space in any given year is shared.  Use of facilities combined with a lack of indebtedness on behalf of the school saves parents an additional $1,000 in tuition costs per child.  

Early Registration and Enrollment--We offer parents the opportunity to lock in a lower tuition rate and save over $500 by enrolling prior to March 31.  In exchange for a non-refundable enrollment fee and one month's tuition, MCA discounts the tuition by $500.  

Referral Scholarship--MCA families can reduce their tuition by $500 each time they refer a family to our school who winds up enrolling their children.  There is no limit to the number of these scholarships that a family can receive.  The $500 is applied to their account when the other family pays their enrollment fee.  

A Neighborhood Comparison

Each of these schools, which I have labelled "school A" and "school B" is a private, church-based school in our general neighborhood.  I am comparing the tuition and fees with MCA. 

                                    BASE TUITION     2nd CHILD DISCOUNT        ED FEE/ENROLLMENT

MCA                                $5,150                        $1,300                              $250 by 3/31, $350 after

SCHOOL A                      $5,720                        $1,240                              $625 non-refundable

SCHOOL B                     $6,450                         $1,000                        $850 fundraising, $350 enr. 

At MCA, you are certainly getting your money's worth.  Register or re-enroll today! 


Monday, January 25, 2021

Looking Ahead to 2021-22: What MCA has to Offer Your Child

Midwestern Christian Academy started providing students with a Christ-centered, discipleship oriented educational experience in the mid-1950's.  Literally thousands of students have passed through these hallways and classrooms over the years.  As we instruct students in a way that connects the objectives of their core subjects in mathematics, science, social studies and language arts to their developing Christian worldview, we are providing them with discipleship that will help their faith grow and mature and which will help them fulfill the purpose that God has for their life.  

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, ESV

What Makes Us Unique

MCA is a distinctively Christian school.  Our educational philosophy is based on Biblical truth.  We believe that education is the process of connecting the objectives and skills students learn in the classroom to a Christian worldview which is revealed to us by God in his written word.  In addition to the Biblical truth integrated into all subject areas, our students have a Bible study class every school day and once a week, we worship together.  

All of our teaching staff, in addition to having a degree and being certified, are born-again Christians who can testify to a time in their life when they trusted Jesus as their savior and received the grace of God's salvation.  They aren't here just because it's a job and for the money, they are here because they believe God called them to do this at this time in their life, and they are being obedient to him.  Your children benefit from their skill and their commitment.  We see our role as being in a partnership with parents to assist them and support them as they fulfill their God-given responsibility to make sure their children are raised "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." 

Christian discipleship is a natural part of a child's education, so having it as part of the school day and integrating it into the curriculum helps undergird and support the mission and ministry of their family's church and points them in the direction of discovering God's purpose for their life.  Students who spend at least five years in a Christian school environment are far less likely to drop out of church during or after their college years.  

Academic Excellence

Even though we are a small school, the focus of our curriculum is on core subjects.  In the early grades, the development of language and reading skills begins in Pre-K3, and mathematics skills begin in kindergarten.  We commit 90 minutes a day to language arts, phonics, reading and math.  The other core subjects we teach, including science, social studies and Biblical studies, are also part of every school day.  We offer P.E., vocal and instrumental music, art, band, computer skills and Spanish as electives or specials across the school day.  

We leave instruction in social issues up to the parents.  By focusing our time on skills in core subjects, our students demonstrate their academic achievement on standardized tests at a level well above their public school peers.  MCA students take a variety of nationally-normed, standardized achievement tests each year.  Our students generally score in the 70th percentile rank in mathematics and language arts which means they do better than 70% of the students who took the same test at the same time.  On high school admissions tests, most of our students score above the 80th percentile. 

We have a long list of recent graduates who are doing very well in local high schools, including selective enrollment schools, charter schools and other private, Christian schools.  Yes, it is a simple curriculum but we have a staff that is committed to providing a high quality education in a Christian atmosphere with a set of expected student outcomes that aim our students at higher than average goals.  I like to think that being in a school which prays, worships together and glorifies God also has something to do with our academic success.  

Accreditation Candidacy and Continuous School Improvement

MCA has just successfully completed a three-year candidacy for full accreditation through the commission of the Association of Christian Schools International.  ACSI's accreditation process is a rigorous one, using the same protocols and standards of the regional accrediting agencies.  In fact, ACSI accreditation is recognized by Cognia (formerly Advanced Ed), North Central/CASI and Middle States for dual accreditation status.  We are awaiting the visiting team observation and report and the final recommendation for approval.  

Accreditation is a seal of excellence.  It's not an arrival, it is the beginning of the journey.  Continuous observation and improvement is the end result of the accreditation process as the school sets goals to achieve beyond the standards it initially worked to meet.  

Choose Us, and Recommend Us! 

Like almost all other private, Christian schools during this pandemic, MCA has had to negotiate losses of students, and since we are private and tuition supported, revenue that supports our instructional program.  There are improvements we would like to make in both academics and in activities offered to students for enrichment which budget constraints will not allow us to consider at the present time.  So we are asking you, our faithful families, to assist us this year.  There are a couple of ways you can do this.  

1.  Re-enroll prior to March 31.  This will give us a good idea of what to plan for, but it will also benefit your family.  Tuition is going up, but if you enroll prior to the 31st of March, you can lock in the lowest tuition rate and save $100 on each child's registration fee.  

2.  Refer a family and get a $500 scholarship.  Word of mouth is one of the most effective means of promoting our school.  If you are having a good experience that means your friends and fellow church members might also like to give MCA a try.  We give a scholarship of $500 for every family you recruit whose children wind up enrolled in our school.  If you are blessed by having your children here, would you be willing to be our ambassador in recruiting other families?  That would be fantastic. 

A Legacy and a Future

Next to home and family, the school is the largest single influence on your child's character development, personal growth and way of thinking.  Christian schools exist because the "religiously neutral" atmosphere of the public school system includes operating under an educational philosophy that does not acknowledge the importance or influence of Biblical truth, but which instead considers human intellect as the highest power in the universe and education as the means by which humanity solves its problems.  Where would you prefer that your child spend 7 hours a day, five days a week?  In a school where teachers share your faith perspective and help your child connect Biblical truth to the knowledge and skills they need to navigate the world, or where teachers instruct from a philosophical foundation which teaches that there is no God and that right and wrong is a matter for them to decide for themselves?  

MCA has been a ministry since 1954.  We have many graduates who spent time here who have now gone out into the world and are serving the Lord in a wide variety of career options.  Some are pastors and missionaries, but most are just part of the body of Christ in his church where they serve.  We lost 21 students from last year whose families wanted them to return, but whose encounter with the COVID virus prevented them from being here, not counting new students who couldn't come because a parent was laid off or lost their job.  So we need your help in returning and recruiting.  If this is a great place for your kids, it is also a great place for their kids.  

For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. 

Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will. be pleasant to your soul; discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you, delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness, who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil, men whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways. 

Proverbs 2:6-15 ESV

Monday, December 28, 2020

MCA Moving Forward Toward Full Accreditation: What That Means to Our Ministry

A little over three years ago, MCA applied to be accredited by the commission of the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI).  MCA is a long-time member of ACSI, which is the largest organization of Evangelical Christian Schools in the world, headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  ACSI provides Christian schools with fellowship, professional services and professional development for staff, textbook series in core subject areas for students, student activities like band festivals, Math Olympics, Fine Arts competitions, district speech meets and a creative writing competition.  It conducts Christian leadership conferences for middle school and high school students and holds an annual professional development event for teachers in various states and regions across the United States.  

The ACSI accreditation commission is fully recognized to grant accreditation by the education departments of all fifty states.  It is modelled after the private regional accreditation agencies that provide this service to all schools, public, charter or private, across the country and has dual-accreditation arrangements with at least three of the other regional agencies, including Middle States, North-Central and Advanced Ed.  What that means is that when a Christian school is accredited by ACSI, the accreditation is recognized by the other agencies.  

Why Seek Accreditation

"Accredited schools are excellent schools and excellent schools seek accreditation."  

I'm not sure of the origins of this statement, but it is one that I've heard since becoming involved with ACSI over thirty years ago.  Private schools in Illinois can seek state recognition, which indicates that they have met a specific set of standards with regard to curriculum and instruction, school operations and quality of the academic program.  Recognition ensures that the credit students earn in their classes meets the minimum standards required by the state, so that the school can grant diplomas that are recognized by other schools.  MCA easily meets the standards for Illinois recognition which is all that is required to operate.  

But as  a private, Christian school, we believe we have a mission and purpose that obligates us to make sure that our students are getting what their parents expect from a school that is distinctively Christian in its educational philosophy and approach to education.  We are not here to imitate what the  public schools do, in fact, we exist because we have recognized that there are major philosophical differences in our approaches to teaching, especially in defining what is truth and recognizing that God is the source of knowledge and education is the process of helping students connect God's truth to the skills and objectives they learn each day in class.  

With humility, we are able to clearly see a major difference not only in how we define truth, but in the quality of the instruction and the curriculum as we lead students to understand and measure all of the subject content they learn using the Bible as a "ruler" and measuring rod.  Accreditation is a signal to parents that we are achieving our mission and purpose with our students and they can trust the results.  

Academic Excellence

Accreditation recognizes the quality of  the instruction in the classroom and the strength of the school's curriculum.  There are minimum standards expected.  MCA is able to document our academic achievement in several ways.  We evaluate our curriculum objectives against the state minimum requirements.  One of the measurements we use tells us what percentage of our students on each grade level are achieving at least the minimum benchmarks required in core subjects on their grade level.  At MCA, collectively, in mathematics and language arts/reading, over 90% of our students meet or exceed those minimum benchmarks.  That's compared to less than 50% of the students at one of the designated "scholastic" public schools in our part of the city, and less than 35% of the students in most of the public schools around us.  

We also compare favorably with other religious-based private schools in our part of the city, mostly the Catholic and Lutheran schools in our area.  Among those schools which publicize their scores, including three Catholic schools and two Lutheran schools, MCA students are slightly higher in their achievement of benchmarks.  Our academic offerings are limited because of our size, but the curriculum materials we use are of high quality and our course objectives are aimed at mathematics skills development and phonics-based reading.  All of our grade levels achieve percentile ranks that are over 20 points above the national average and in our last round of testing, we had three grade levels that achieved beyond the 80th percentile in both math and language arts.  

Distinctively Christian

Not all of our families are at MCA because of the school's Christian philosophy of education.  Christian schools meet parents' need for a safe environment for their child, both physically and intellectually, by focusing on the academic objectives and leaving out instruction in social issues and perspectives that isn't consistent with what families want their children to learn in school.  But measuring the school's effectiveness as a discipleship ministry is part of the accreditation process.  What is the expected spiritual outcome for students who graduate from MCA?  

Students in public schools are exposed to a progressive philosophy of secular humanism every day in every class.  Science, English and composition classes and Social Studies are specifically loaded with objectives which acknowledge human intellect as the highest power in the universe, ignore or deny the existence of God and which see education as an agent of social and political change.  Moral relativism, individual choice are seen as goals which lead to individual success and achievement and fulfillment of life's purpose.  In Illinois, objectives related to instruction of students in defining and understanding homosexuality and transgender identity have been moved out of the category of sexual education, where parents can object and have their students exempted, and into science, social studies and communication skills.  

Our philosophy of education is based on Biblical truth, centering on the existence of God who is the creator and sustainer of the universe.  We do teach morals and values in our school, all based solely on a literal-historical context of the Bible, which is the revealed word of God and which has truth for its content without any mixture of error.  Our students have a Bible class every day of every school year as a core, required subject and the school community worships corporately in a chapel service each week.  Biblical truth is incorporated into the course objectives of every other subject.  Our goals in this area are to support and undergird the work of the local church, leading students to see that church membership is part of their Christian identity and the church, the body of Christ, is the vehicle for their ministry calling and service.  We believe God has given them a life ministry, purpose and calling and it is our responsibility to help them find out what that is.  

MCA's Candidacy for Accreditation

The process has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Restrictions on gatherings and the nine-weeks period of E-learning with which we finished the spring created a setback in the schedule for all accreditations.  Everything was delayed and put on hold for all schools accross the country.  Because our period of E-learning in Illinois was longer than most states, our accreditation team visit was delayed indefinitely.  We have scheduled a tentative visit for November of 2021 which will complete our process by December 31, which is the current deadline.  

What does this mean to you?  

An accredited school is an excellent school.  Of course, we already know this.  But there are always people who need to be convinced with hard facts.  During the three years of our candidacy, MCA has consistently been fully compliant with the majority of standards in the Reach Accreditation Protocol we are using.  Our academic achievement is particularly strong, our spiritual life and Christian distinctiveness exceed the expectations.  Our school operation ranks high on financial efficiency.  The educational and experience strength of our faculty and staff is high and our measurable academic goals also exceed expectations.  So accreditation means that you have your child in an excellent school that is instructing and inspiring the "whole child."  

An accredited school has a high success rate in achieving its expected student outcomes.  This is visible in every aspect of our program.  "Best practices in education" are the driving force behind our instruction.  Best practices does not always mean rooms full of video, computers, and visual and auditory stimulation.   It means a room where the teacher has figured out how to motivate their students to learn, provides them with differentiation in their instruction to appeal to their learning style and achieves results rather than entertainment.   

An accredited school provides your child with teachers who see their presence in the classroom as a ministry calling, not just a job.  Teachers in an ACSI accredited school understand that teaching is a ministry calling.  They are here primarily to provide a measure of Christian discipleship to their students which leads not just to academic success, but to connecting Biblical truth to the way they look at life so that each student has an opportunity to sense God's calling in their life and be ready to make that commitment when prompted by the Holy Spirit.  

The Future of American Evangelical Christianity Rests on Catching a Vision for Christian School Education

Progressive secular humanists succeeded in gaining control of the teacher training curriculum in the colleges and universities in American in the 1920's.  Led by John Dewey, a professsor at the University of Chicago, their aim was to bring about social reform and political change in America through control of the curriculum of the public school system.  Long a domain of Protestant influence, over the course of two generations, American colleges and universities turned out hundreds of thousands of humanist-trained teachers.  Students were exposed to their philosophy and social change aims in the school where they spent seven hours a day, five days a week.  

The church, where children and youth who are active in attendance and participation, has the students in its possession for maybe two or three hours a week, if their family is regular in attendance.  There is no way that they could compete, ideologically, on that bases.  Church researchers began to notice in the late 1970's and early 80's that Evangelical Christian churches were seeing a decline in attendance and membership that was unusual, taking place among its 20 to 30 year olds.  

The influence of secular humanism in schools was having an effect.  By the early 1980's groups like Lifeway Research and Barna were noticing that 80% of young people who were active in their church during high school had dropped out altogether by the time they finished college.  Enrollments in college-aged church ministry groups was dropping substantially.   In the venerable Southern Baptist Convention, college and young adult Bible study enrollment fell to historic lows in the 1980's and 1990's.  

The one consistent statistic in what was happening was that students who were educated at home by their parents, or who spent five or more years in a Christian school environment were not leaving their churches, and were fulfilling the leadership roles in both vocational and lay-led ministry.  One study done in the early 2000's showed that fewer than 10% of the students who were active in their church while attending a Christian school every day actually dropped out of church.  

We feel the work we are doing on accreditation, which is part of our effort to revitalize the ministry of MCA, is worth it.  We hope your family benefits from our efforts.  We'd love to have you affirm our work by re-enrolling your child for the 2021-22 school term.  

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The Legacy and the Future of Midwestern Christian Academy

The COVID-19 pandemic is, without a doubt, the biggest disruption of life in the United States since the Second World War, and since there are few Americans alive today who are old enough to remember the Second World War, it's become the crisis of a lifetime.  Health care services are in a crisis mode and the effects of the uncertainty surrounding the spread of COVID-19 have affected everything from the economy to church services.  

The Effect of the Pandemic on MCA

Like other schools in Illinois, MCA shifted from in-person instruction to E-learning in mid-March 2020.  We made the shift as smoothly as we could, learned some lessons along the way and finished the school year strong.  Our teachers worked especially hard to make sure that their classes achieved their expected outcomes in every subject area at every grade level.  We were grateful to be able to return to in-person instruction this fall, even with the limits and restrictions that were put in place.  

Christian schools everywhere have seen enrollment drops and have had to make budget cuts and adjustments to cope with the effects of the pandemic, and MCA is no different.  Many of our parents work in retail or own businesses like restaurants and immediately felt the effects of the stay-at-home orders while layoffs and job loss came more slowly for others.  On the plus side, the CPS decision to go with E-learning through the first two quarters did bring us some new students.  Our experience has been very similar to what most other private, Christian schools are going through in terms of a drop in enrollment and subsequently, tuition dollars which support the budget.  The pandemic is the difference between where we planned to be and where we are now.   

However, as Mark Twain once said, the reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated. 

Most Christian schools operate on a very tight budget with little wiggle room for unexpected expenses and a very small reserve.  There's a delicate balance between the resources, most of which come from parents who pay tuition for their children to attend, and the expenses, which are kept low by a variety of ways, including staff members who make sacrifices to work for salaries well below that of their public school counterparts in order to keep expenses low.  But the bottom line is that we are a ministry in which we acknowledge that God supplies all our needs.  

Before They Call, I will Answer

This school has been favored by the Lord through sixty-six years of ministry and it has faced all kinds of crises that have threatened to close the doors.  As Peter says, our enemy is always prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour and a Christian school with a mission and purpose committed to preparing students to go out into the world testifying to salvation by grace through faith in Christ and serving in the church does not suit his purpose.  But God's power comes through Peter's words.  He cares for you.  Humble yourselves.  Cast your cares on Him.  Be sober minded and watchful.  Stand firm in your faith.  

We have no plans to close the school.  Like most other private schools, we have contingency plans and the ability to adjust our expenses to accommodate short-term emergencies and situations that we didn't anticipate.  The viral pandemic wasn't something we could plan for.  So we are reaching out to alumni, former students and friends of the ministry for help.  This is something we have rarely done in the past, but it is part of what most other Christian schools do to make ends meet all the time.  And it is proving to be a means by which God is answering prayer and providing for the school's needs.  

Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear.  Isaiah 65:24

The Legacy and the Future

There aren't many Christian schools around today who can trace their history back to 1954.  MCA has had the blessing of sixty-six years of ministry on the northwest side of America's third largest city, but the impact and influence of this small school has spread around the world.  Christian schools support and undergird the work of the church by teaching students to connect everything they learn to Biblical truth.  Through the classroom, students are directed to fulfill the purpose for which they have been created and called by God.  Students who once walked the halls and occupied the classrooms of MCA are not only serving in Christian vocational ministries around the world, but they are also salt and light in the communities where they live and work.  

We need to ask ourselves the question, "If our school were gone, would it be missed?"  

The need for schools which support and undergird the work of the church has never been greater.  Most churches would consider themselves fortunate to have those children who come to their services and programs under their care and teaching for a couple of hours a week.  The public school system has most children in their classrooms seven hours a day, five hours a week.  The curriculum is derived from a set of "religiously neutral" objectives which do not make any acknowledgement of the existence of God and which increasingly has removed the influence of any kind of Christian faith from the classroom, even to the point of ignoring the role of Christians and the influence of the church in history.  

This ministry is in God's hands.  It has served faithfully and remained true to its original mission and purpose.  If you look back at the school's legacy, there are many, many places where its ministry would be missed if it were gone or had never existed in the first place.  God puts visions like this in the hearts of his children in order to accomplish his will.  Looking ahead, it is not hard to imagine all of the places where students whose spiritual foundation and growth was strengthened and matured because of their daily exposure to a Christian atmosphere and solid Biblical instruction would be missed if our school wasn't here.  

We're grateful for the opportunity to be part of the effort to make sure Midwestern Christian Academy continues serving students and their families in Jesus' name for many more years.

Friday, November 20, 2020

A Word of Recognition and Encouragement for Teachers

 This is from a social media post by Dr. Nathan Finn, former Professor of Historical Theology and Spiritual Formation at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC and currently Provost and Dean of the Faculty at North Greenville University in Greer, SC.  

The teachers around you are anxious, weary, and exhausted. I’m talking about teachers at every level and in every type of school, whether 3rd grade or high school English or college Chemistry. Public school or private school. Religious school or non-sectarian school. All of them. These men and women almost certainly became teachers because they love students (of whatever age and stage) and want to make an impact in students’ lives through the classroom. They probably love their vocation and find significant satisfaction in being a teacher. But the last nine months has probably been the most difficult period in their career--even if they’ve been teaching for decades.
Teachers have been endlessly flexible in recent months. Many have adapted to various technologies to enable them to teach at least some students remotely, rarely with an ideal level of institutional investment in resources and training to help in this transition. Many have been forced to roll with scheduling or attendance changes, often with little advance warning from decision-markers. Even in cases where teachers have been able to teach mostly in-person, they have often endured quasi-isolation from their colleagues and their students. In many cases teachers have had to help “police” student conformity to protocols about face coverings, social distancing, quarantines, etc. Or, they have been anxious because students have refused to follow such protocols, potentially endangering those around them.
Decision-making has been more “top-down” than is normal in education. (Especially in higher education.) Budgets that were already probably too tight have been further cut. Needed positions have been tabled or eliminated. In many places, good teachers have lost their jobs because of financial realities. In other situations, teachers have left the vocation they once loved voluntarily because they no longer find it to be satisfying. Like everyone, teachers have opinions about how regions, communities, or particular institutions respond to the pandemic. And, like everyone, teachers may not agree with how their particular institution (school board, university system, school) has responded.
Teachers are also real people outside the hours of the school day. Many are married, so they may well be dealing with pandemic-related anxieties connected to their spouse’s job. Many are parents. This means they not only navigate the complications to their own teaching, but they have to navigate the complications affecting their own children’s education. Many are themselves adult children or have other close bonds with older loved ones who are in high-risk categories should they become infected. And many teachers themselves might be in one or more high-risk categories. Also, like everyone else teachers are anxious about all the other stuff: the economy, politics, etc.
What I don’t want to convey is that teachers are the only folks who are struggling with 2020. Everybody is struggling and every profession has is unique complications. What I do want to remind you of is that teachers play a unique and critically important role in our society. Their job is really important all the time and really difficult much of the time. And this year has been especially hard. This fall has been especially hard. Today is especially hard. So encourage the teachers around you. Pray for the teachers around you. Find tangible ways to support the teachers around you.
And for those of you reading this who are teachers: thank you, thank you, thank you for all that you are doing to make the best of a really difficult time. Hang in there. Please don’t give up. We all need you. God bless you.

Monday, November 16, 2020

To the Praise of His Glory!

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  Be sober minded and 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 5:6-9

These verses are loaded with a message to Midwestern Christian Academy as we face our sixth month of operation during a viral pandemic.  Our school was already in a recovery and rebuilding process from a previous complicated issue that had caused conflict.  We were seeing hopeful signs of recovery including a very promising re-enrollment and a potential influx of new students when we stopped in-person learning and made the switch to E-learning last March.  

A Prowling Enemy

Christian schools have been around as long as the church, but the modern Christian school movement in America dates back to the period of time just after World War 2.  Protestant Christianity was the primary influence over the philosophical foundations of most of the public education system going back almost to the very beginning of compulsory grade school education.  It was so influential, that the Catholic church started its own school system to get the children of their families back under the instruction of the church. 

Schools started and operated by Evangelical Christians began to pop up in the 1950's as a response to the progressive education movement which by then had gained control of the instruction and curriculum of most American public schools.  The progressive movement saw the public school system at the primary means to bring about social reform in America.  They succeeded in removing the Christian influences and teaching in the schools by getting the courts to use the establishment clause of the Constitution to invoke "religious neutrality" and replaced God with the belief that human intellect is the highest power in the universe and that education of the intellect is the solution to resolving humankind's problems.  

Chicago was one of the first places where progressives succeeded in getting control of the public school system.  One of the early progressive movement leaders was John Dewey, a professor at the University of Chicago who established teacher training schools in the city where many of the public school teachers earned their degree and certification.  As Christians began to see the effect of this turn toward a completely secular, humanist philosophy of education and the removal of Christian influence and even historical references to church history in the curriculum, some saw starting their own schools as a response.  Midwestern Christian Academy was one of those schools, founded by Midwest Bible Church, a non-denominational church with a strong Evangelical perspective.  The school's legacy spans sixty years of providing a strong, Biblically-based, Christ centered education to thousands of Chicago children who have passed through the doors.   

The establishment of Christian schools where biblical truth is the foundation of the educational philosophy and students get instruction which supports their faith formation and shapes the spiritual calling of God in their lives has attracted the attention of the prowling lion.  The disadvantages faced by schools that are balancing resources provided mainly by tuition coming from families that are already paying taxes to support a public education system they aren't using are amplified by operating in a city like Chicago, where high density development makes acquiring property and operating buildings expensive.  In this city of 2.8 million people, America's third largest, there are fewer than 10 schools with a strong Evangelical Christian background currently in operation, only three high schools and a combined enrollment of under 1,000 students.  MCA is one of the oldest among that group.  

As one of those who has survived for over sixty years, MCA can point to enemy attacks which have been aimed at putting it out of existence, silencing its voice and eliminating its influence.  This is not the first time the school has experienced a crisis and according to the words of Peter's epistle, it is not likely to be the last.  

MCA was recovering from a time of conflict and turmoil which caused difficulties, impacted the school's finances and led to some changes that included a setback in an attempted start of a high school program in the 2017-18 school year.  In spite of those issues, there were signs that the school was recovering and being blessed.  We were looking at a re-enrollment percentage of over 90% of eligible students returning in the fall of 2019 and the enrollment of 30 new students.  Early enrollment for the fall of 2020 was exceeding expectations and new student applications were up over the same period from the previous year. 

Then the roaring lion appeared.  COVID-19 closed in-person instruction in mid-March and stay-at-home orders were issued.  

Many of our students' parents work in retail.  Altogether, 20 of our school's families faced either a temporary layoff or a job termination.  A few were still able to consider paying tuition, but most were faced with the difficult decision of having to drop.  We are not sure how many prospective students were affected, but we know many parents who have Pre-K children decided to forego enrollment because of the possibility of a return to E-learning.  We were able to enroll 19 new students this year, including several who have come in because CPS is still on-line with no certainty of a return to in-person instruction.  But it is clear that COVID-19 is the obstacle that stands between us and an enrollment that represents a strong recovery and a balanced budget.  

Our Instructions

Humble yourselves (v.6).  Everything that we accomplish as a Christian school ministry comes from complete dependence on God.  Our teachers work for a salary that is far below what any of them could earn in the public school system.  They are here because they have submitted their lives to God's will and believe this is what he has called them to do.  We are serving Him by serving our students and their families.  

Cast all your anxieties on him. (v.7).  It is difficult not to worry about the future.  God has blessed MCA for over sixty years.  What seems to be a big bump in the road to us is easily overcome by Him.  

Be sober minded and watchful. (v.8)  We aren't just conducting business as usual.  We are carefully planning and using the resources we have, being as efficient as possible.  We are on guard against the possibilities and we take the situation with the seriousness that it demands.  We take our responsibility as stewards of this ministry seriously.  We trust in God's protection.

Resist him, firm in your faith. (v.9) MCA has been around for over 60 years and we believe it is God's will for it to be around for at least another 60.  There are never any guarantees in a ministry like this, but students who graduate from Christian schools are equipped to make a difference in the world when they understand God's plan for their lives and commit to fulfilling their mission and purpose.  The impact of MCA's ministry is effective and far-reaching.  We place our faith and trust in God, who has given us Jesus as our savior and the Holy Spirit. 

In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.  Ephesians 1:13-14 

MCA will continue to serve the Lord, to the praise of his glory! 

An Investment in the Future of MCA

So during this time of crisis, we are asking those who have been blessed by the ministry of MCA, as a graduate of the school, former student, parents who sent their children here, a Christian who sees the value of a Christian school education or a Christian who lives in Chicago and sees the impact that a Christian school has in this city, for your help.  

We need to make up the budget shortfall caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and put the school on a solid financial footing for the upcoming school year.  We don't know what 2021-22 looks like right now.  We are, like everyone else, hoping that medical science will be well on its way to conquering this virus.  The effects that it has left behind will still be around.  We need to think of families whose lives were turned upside down and who will need a longer time to recover.  

We need to be ambitious and hopeful for what God wants to do with our school in the future.  Here's how you can help: 

  • If you are a family with a currently enrolled student, please make an early commitment to re-enrollment.  Our diligence in planning is helped greatly when we have a good idea of how many students to expect.  We've set a March 31 deadline for re-enrolling early and are offering the incentive of a registration and tuition discount for those who do this for us.  Your commitment to us is always a blessing. 
  • You have friends in your church and community who need to be informed about what MCA offers.  Let them know that it works for you.  
  • If you are a graduate, former student or parents of former students and MCA was a blessing to you, please share something with us out of the abundance of your blessings.  No gift is too small.  Everything you can do is appreciated deeply.  If you can give regularly, we have many ways to put your gift to use, including in student scholarships for which you can receive a tax credit.  
Thank you.  God bless you.