Friday, February 14, 2020

MCA Alumni Spotlight: Isaac Ayala

A graduate of the MCA eighth grade class of 2019, Isaac Ayala is now a ninth grader at Chicago Bulls College Preparatory Academy.  Isaac was recently honored at his school by being named to the honor roll and invited to attend the honor roll breakfast.  Congratulations, Isaac.

Isaac attended MCA starting in Kindergarten.  After completing a special education exam, the conclusion was made that Isaac would always need special education classes.  At MCA, the teachers worked with Isaac, accommodated his needs, helped with one on one tutoring and both they and his parents did a lot of praying.  Isaac graduated from MCA last spring with several accomplishments to his credit, among them playing in the school band.

Isaac succeeded in meeting both the academic and physical criteria for admission to the Chicago Bulls College Preparatory Academy.  (Yes, those Chicago Bulls!). His class schedule includes an AP class, a first for freshmen at the school, and he placed in all honors classes.  During his first semester, he achieved the honor of making the high honor roll.  All of those accomplishments are a testimony to answered prayer.

Just let all of that sink in for a few minutes.  A partnership between parents and teachers in his Christian school that included a lot of prayer has led to a student's very impressive success in high school.  Midwestern Christian Academy is proud of Isaac's accomplishments and offers its congratulations.  We are looking forward to more great things happening in the future.

Keep an eye out here for more reports on some wonderful accomplishments that MCA alumni are achieving in high school.  This is the first of many.......

Monday, February 3, 2020

So if I enroll my child in a Christian School, what will we be giving up?

Not surprisingly, I've heard this question from parents who are considering enrolling their children in a Christian school for the first time.  Education is one profession where most people feel qualified to evaluate what is best because they've all had a school experience and tend to favor an approach that teaches their child the way they were taught when they were in school.  Fair enough.

There are some popular stereotypes which portray Christian schools as promoting a socially fragmented, anti-intellectual, politically radical and militantly right-winged lifestyle.   However, compared to their public school, Catholic school and non-religious private school peers, Christian school graduates are uniquely compliant, generous, outwardly-focused individuals who stabilize their communities by their uncommon commitment to their families, their churches and larger society.  This information resulted from some of the first research done which focused on the expected outcomes of Christian schools starting in 2006.

Parents coming from the public education system have a tendency to evaluate everything a private, Christian school does by what they experienced in the public education system.  But the two experiences, while they appear to have a lot in common, are really very much different.  When the Bible is considered the authoritative Word of God for all matters of Christian faith and practice, that includes how children learn as well as what children learn.

Your child will not "fall behind" academically because they go to a Christian school.  There is some difference in the pedagogy of a public school compared to a Christian school.  The development of language skills for reading, verbal communication and writing skills have remained as a key piece of the core curriculum of a Christian school.  A few schools have adopted a complete "classical" model including instruction in the basal language of Latin as a means of improving student's skills.  Mathematics skills are also part of the early skill development model used by Christian schools.  Problem-solving, experiential learning and hands-on experience is not fully introduced until students have mastered basic skills.

There is plenty of research and data to support the success of this approach.  Standardized achievement tests which many public schools use to measure their AYP are also used by Christian schools to measure theirs.  Most of the public schools in our immediate area find that between 32% and 35% of their students meet the grade level benchmarks on their standardized tests while 92% of MCA students meet the benchmarks based on the national standards of the standardized test we administer.  We don't select only those students who show academic potential, like the selective enrollment academic emphasis programs in the public school system do, but our students achieve results similar to theirs and they have verbal and written language skills that most public school students don't have.  Our students have a high rate of success getting into selective enrollment and high achievement programs in high schools and we have a long list of alumni who make the honor roll in those schools on a regular basis.

We believe our pedagogy helps us be successful because it is based on sound, proven principles which reflect experience and a commitment to Biblical truth.  We believe that parents are responsible for their children's education, as the Bible teaches, leading us to a high level of parent involvement in their child's education, a major contributing factor to success.  Maintaining a disciplined, well-ordered and well-managed classroom, also derived from Biblical teaching, is another major factor.  Memorization skills enhance attentiveness and increase students' attention span, proven by research.  Once students master basic skills and have a reasonable exposure to the principles of their faith, problem-solving skills can be introduced. 

You're right.  We don't have as many extra-curricular activities as the public schools do.  We do the best with what we have.  It's not that we don't think we have students with the potential to get a scholarship for college athletics, or play professional sports, but our resources demand that we plan and conduct the kind of activities which all of our students can enjoy and from which they can benefit.  So we offer what we can with the resources and facilities we have available.  The number of interested students also dictates what we can do.  Knowing that most of our parents are already making a sacrifice for their kids to enroll here, we look at offering activities that will appeal to as large a segment of the student body as possible. 

We balance the resources we have with the needs of our students, families, teachers and staff.  This is probably the biggest limit we have on our operation and ministry.  The tax-supported public education system puts any kind of alternative form of education in the business of having to charge for providing its services or having to raise money from other places to pay the bills.  American consumers have a choice in virtually every area of their economic life except education.  You support public schools with your tax dollars whether you use their services or not and if you decide they are not a fit for your child, the alternatives are either other tax-supported public charter or cyber schools or a private school where you must bear the full cost of the education.

Unlike the religious-based schools associated with denominations like the Catholic, Lutheran and Episcopal school systems, Evangelical Christian schools don't have a denominational base of support.  Some have organized cooperatives, which have helped, but while Christian schools have been supporting and undergirding the work of the Christian church in this country for more than seven decades, the churches have not invested much in the way of financial support.

Over the years, however, I have not met many parents who were not willing to sacrifice for their children's education in a Christian school because having them in an environment that supported their family's faith and beliefs every day provided them with hope and assurance that they could not buy at any price.  Many years ago, in Texas, one of the parents in our Christian school remarked that she was willing to mow her yard and eat the grass if that was what it took to keep her daughters in a Christian school.

The benefits outweigh the sacrifices.  Back in the 1980's several church researchers discovered that churches were beginning to see a generation gap in the membership and attendance of conservative, Evangelical churches.  What they found was that the secular, humanistic philosophy that permeated the public education system was not successfully being countered in the weekly ministries of the local church.  They found that over 70% of the children and youth who were raised in families that made sure they were in church each week stopped participating in the life of a local church at some point during or immediately after their college graduation.  That figure reached over 80% by the time the 21st century rolled around and now there are two complete generations of Americans where the number of "religious adherents" is less than half of the total adult membership of the generation, the millennials being the least connected to a church with only 20% in some kind of involvement with or identification with a Christian faith.

Being in a Christian school is no guarantee.  But looking at the results of the study cited at the beginning of this article, Christian school has a much greater impact on the faith and practice of students who are enrolled in them when it comes to their commitment and engagement in ministry.  Remember that list of characteristics that the study I cited at the beginning of this article listed as being associated with Christian school graduates and former students?  That's what you stand to gain from enrolling your child in a Christian school. 

So give that some consideration as you decide where your children will go to school during the 2020-21 school year.