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.