Monday, August 19, 2019

The Elements of "Kingdom Education"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 15, 2019

MCA Terra Nova Scores: Excellence at All Grade Levels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Midwestern Christian Academy Terra Nova Results 2019

Grade Level                                                    NPR                            GME                           NCE

Kindergarten                                                73                                1.7                               100

First Grade                                                    67                                2.6                               90

Second Grade                                                64                                3.6                               92

Third Grade                                                   75                                4.8                               91

Fourth Grade                                                62                                5.9                               90

Fifth Grade                                                    64                                7.2                               88

Sixth Grade                                                   72                                9.4                               100

Seventh Grade                                              65                                8.9                               87

Eighth Grade                                                 60                               10.5                              85

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Academics at MCA are Excellent!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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