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!