School is Back in Session!

I had time yesterday to visit some classrooms, enjoy chapel and watch kids in the hallways and lunchroom, and today I stood outside and watched as students arrived.  What a blessing and huge responsibility that the Lord has asked us to participate in with Him.  What a joy it is to link arms with parents, faculty and staff to seek to instill knowledge of God and His creation while drawing out of each student all that God has enabled them to do and to be.

My apologies for not writing more faithfully about my perspective on God’s work in and around MCA as well as providing insight into the political and environmental issues that are affecting Christian education today and tomorrow.  I have blocked out time on my calendar to do a more consistent job of that this year.

I thought I would re-start this communication with what is top of mind for leadership at this time:

  • Continuing to train, equip and assess our faculty to grow in effectiveness of educating children God’s way.  Several traveled to Dallas for the Kingdom School Institute.  Others participated in BJU Press’s training on biblical integration in curriculum.
  • Re-accreditation.  The visiting team will be here next April, so everyone at MCA has responsibilities to be prepared and prepare documentation for the team to review.
  • Growing the Academy.  With high school preschool growing, we are examining all the factors contributing to a decline across K-8.  We are seeking to find partners that can help us analyze, plan and execute.
  • Academics.  We have several things underway that will continue to sharpen our ability to help student achieve success in academics: training faculty on how to better use data from standardized test scores, on how to work with students with exceptionalities, and on how to be more intentional in meeting course objectives by documenting and using a curriculum map.  We have also made some changes to teachers’ assignments to better align with strengths.
  • Parent Involvement.  Delighted with the resurgence of MAP and the energy that they are bringing to this school year with a main focus of building relationships and community.  Should be a fun year!
  • Funding.  We have 3 fundraisers planned this year with the first one kicking off on 8/29.  With help from parents and energetic participation from students, faculty and staff, we could meet our goal for fundraising for operational needs and begin contributing to a growth fund.
  • Staffing.  We have welcomed 4 new faculty members to MCA and now are investing in them to help them acclimate and be successful.  Additionally several people have taken on new roles such as Mrs. Hanson serving as the interim Secondary principal,  Mrs. Wilde picking up College and Career Counseling, Mrs. Evans now leading our Elementary Learning Center, and Mrs. Martini moving to teach in the second grade classroom.

These are the big rocks in front of us, but there are many other things that rightfully need our attention.  Please join the many MCA parents who have committed to pray for God’s leading and blessing on MCA this year.


Most Important Purpose for Education

MCA knows what is the most important purpose for education.

If you listen to the world there are many important and world saving purposes for education.  In reading an article from the magazine The Renewanation Review (2015, vol. 7, no.2) titled Same Lie, Different Tree, I was reminded of some of the purposes that education has been saddled with solving.

  • President George H. Bush claimed that education was the solution for everything, “Think about every problem, every challenge we face.  The solution to each stars with education.”
  • Teen pregnancy crisis – our nation tried to solve that with “sex education”.
  • Alcohol and drug crisis – we turned to “drug education”.
  • Defeat ISIS – our recommendation was “to provide these people with a good education so they can have good jobs.”

No doubt the Holy Spirit uses an informed mind and heart to do good and change people.  However, when we point to education without God at the center of that process, we are falling prey to the tactic of the slithering serpent in Genesis 3.  Do you remember what he told Eve (and Adam…remember he was a silent participant in that exchange)?  Satan’s claim was “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  Ah, yes, the claim that knowledge will set you free and raise you to an equal of the Supreme Ruler of all things.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “”To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.”  In studying the Bible, Jesus clearly taught that knowledge is not all that should be gained by a person.  In fact, He warned us that knowledge can puff us up (I Cor. 8:1).  In all our seeking, what we should seek is God.  We want to know Him.  If we truly know Him, our lives will be changed with that truth so that we obey His commands and emulate Jesus Christ.

So the next time you are considering what is the most important thing about your child’s education, I trust you will be careful to not fall for Satan’s deceit and reach for the forbidden fruit of worldly knowledge.  Rather you will choose to make knowing God the most important thing.

How should that knowledge impact the Academy’s classrooms?  We will talk about that soon.


Public Praise of Faculty

Here is something I shared with the MCA faculty (PreK through 12) this morning:

Paul sets a good example for us by expressing his appreciation and love for fellow believers and co-laborers.  I know I do not follow his example as I should, so allow me to a few minutes to begin to correct that situation.

 I have had the privilege this week to hear our seniors speak about their faith, knowledge and wisdom gained so far in their journey of life.  I have been richly blessed by the experience.  Their ability to communicate about essential things in life through a biblical worldview and to encourage those that are following them with counsel based on wisdom shared by you, their parents and their pastors has been wonderful to experience. 

 You have had a tremendous impact on their lives and their ability to say and do what they have done this week.  As we learned with the “butterfly effect”, who knows how profound your flapping your wings in their direction will have on the future of this world.  20 years from now, if the Lord tarries, and if we could glimpse into the lives of all of these seniors, or when we stand before God, I firmly believe the most important aspect of what He has called us to do at MCA is to answer the question, “How well did you help your students know God?”  The better we have helped them know God and maximize their abilities, the more profound the impact.

 What I heard from these seniors gives me confidence that God will commend you for a job well done.  Thanks for listening to Him about how you can integrate subject matter into that process of knowing God, and then using all of the creative abilities, passion, intellect and experience to engage your students to know Him and His world.  Saturday, May 21 will be our commissioning of the missionaries you have been training that will go into various different communities and fields of study around the nation.  It is a time of celebrating not only the graduating seniors, but all of you and the tremendous part you have played in equipping and encouraging these student through their life’s journey.

 Serving Jesus together,

Mark


Eagle Update – Spring, Part 1

We tried something new on the evening of the Eagle Update on March 29.  We added a 40 minute session to discuss a topic that is of interest to everyone: academics.  That interest was re-iterated in the school survey that happened in February.  The format of this MCA Shaping session was discussion-based.  Questions were presented and everyone had an opportunity to voice opinions, insight, and ask questions.  Feedback from parents was encouraging that the session was helpful both in the opportunity to be heard and to hear.

I started the discussion by asking the question, “How do you measure the success of academics as it relates to your child?”  Some responses were:

  • Standardized testing scores like ACT or Terra Nova
  • Grade point average
  • College acceptance and scholarships awarded
  • Feedback from alumni on how well they felt prepared
  • Knowing about plans for improving academic performance
  • Communication from teachers that convey individual care for students whole education
  • How the Academy presents itself: website and other communications are accurate and grammar and spelling are correct.
  • Curriculum compares well with other schools, especially public schools
  • Use of technology is effective compared with other schools

Next Mr. York and Mrs. Watt reminded everyone of all of the standardized testing that is currently in place:

  • Terra Nova – Given to 3,4,5,6,7 and 9th grades
    • Request from parents was to provide more help in understanding what the results are saying
  • Explore – Given to 8th graders; intended to help 8th graders determine how to plan their high school courses, prepare for the PLAN and ACT tests, and start thinking about a potential career.
  • Plan – Given to 10th graders; this is a preliminary ACT test. ACT, Inc. claims that it predicts success on the ACT.
  • PSAT – Given to 11th graders; administered by the College Board and cosponsored by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation in the United States. The scores from the PSAT are used to determine eligibility and qualification for the National Merit Scholarship Program
  • DIBELS – Given to Elementary students; The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) are a set of procedures and measures for assessing the acquisition of early literacy skills from kindergarten through sixth grade.  And the DIBELS math measures are used as indicators of the essential skills that every child must master in order to become proficient in mathematics.

A parent asked what we are doing with the information we are learning from these tests.  Here are some of our responses:

  • Science – test scores indicated that we were missing some Earth Science curriculum for our junior high school students.  We have added that curriculum to both junior high science courses
  • ACT Prep – some teachers have added activities in their course work specifically designed to help students with the ACT tests, e.g. how to read and outline a question so that they can most efficiently tackle the questions.
  • Math – revamped many areas of our approach to math: converted to Saxon math for grades 3-6; added a math readiness assessment test for those entering junior high; adjusted high school curriculum paths to meet needs of students with varying abilities and interest in math.
  • Uncovered a reading comprehension opportunity that could help our students score better on standardized tests.  A task force for exploring this opportunity will investigate how our approach to reading from Elementary through High School could change to better equip our students.

The final part of the discussion centered on how MCA can support students who are outside the normal distribution of learning abilities whether having learning challenges or are gifted in learning.  With the increased ability to diagnose different challenges, we are more aware of these students with exceptionalities.  It is time for the Academy to relook at this need, so the committee charged with examining academics as part of the re-accreditation effort will work to define the Academy’s approach including admission policies and support structures.  Experts, parents, our teachers will all have an opportunity to shape our approach.

My next blog will summarize the content of the Eagle Update session.


First Notice – Survey and Eagle Update

For those of you who follow me on this blog, I want to thank you for reading and keeping current on the things at MCA.

A quick note to you who are invested in MCA.  We are planning to invite parents to come to a conversation about results from the parent engagement survey at 5:45pm in the South Campus Eagle Eatery on March 29th in advance of the 6:30pm Eagle Update session.  I hope you will plan on coming.  We will review the results of the survey and discuss “Academics – how to gauge effectiveness?”  I hope to hear how parents gauge the effectiveness of academics, and share how we are currently doing so.  We want to make sure our communication is providing complete and appropriate information on this critical topic.

Hope to see you there.


40 Days of Prayer – Worship

I want to express my appreciation for those who came out to join in the celebration worship service this past Monday (March 7).  With Ms. Westerfeld, Ms. Mills, student Zeru Fitsum and the Select Choir leading us, we had a wonderful time praising God in song.  Then board vice-chair, Brian Howell, led devotional thoughts on joy and MCA.  Students Rebekah Fitsum and Gracie Neland reminded us of the value and purpose of prayer.  Senior Brooke Bowlin shared her heart concerning the impact MCA has made on her life through the 15 years she has been here.  Parent Bob O’Keith challenged us concerning prayer from the perspective of a pastor, dad, and co-laborer in Christ.  Secondary principal wrapped up the comments to pray specifically for God to work through us and around us, and to not let the fact that the 40 Days of Prayer have ended stop us from praying faithfully for each other and for MCA.

I came away from the event feeling refreshed and encouraged in the work God is doing with at MCA.  Thank you for praying faithfully through the 40 Days and as we go forward.  We want to honor God in all we do.


You Spoke – We Are Listening

Thank you!

Parents, we sent out an email in January asking you to provide some feedback on a few areas of the Academy.  This survey was specifically targeted at understanding parent engagement, so we asked some questions about tenure at MCA, alignment with Vision, and a lot about how you would like to interact with MCA.  We will have another all Academy survey a little later in the year that will ask for your insight into spiritual development, academic excellence, and other important programs.

Thank you to the 166 people who started the survey and the 102 who completed it.  This amount of participation will let us have some indication of how all 250+ families view the Academy, but it will require us to follow up with some validation efforts.

I would like to share with you some themes and observations from the results:

  • 83% of parents chose biblical worldview as one of their top 3 most important educational efforts for their children.
  • 68% of the families responding have been with MCA for more than 3 years.
  • Top reasons for choosing MCA: 1) Christian education, 2) did not want public school and 3) superior academics.
  • Stressful issues that parents would like help dealing with include social media, work ethic and time management.
  • 79% of respondents said that MCA does a good job communicating, however some areas were pointed out that still need some work such as calendar consistency, teacher communication, and urgent updates.
  • 48 of the respondents asked to be plugged into volunteer opportunities that aligned with their abilities and interests.
  • Office 365 implementation has improved communication but there is still work to be done to help everyone use it effectively.
  • The next highest ranked important educational effort was academic high achievement.
  • Many parents indicated interest in volunteering.  Work needs to be done to communicate opportunities.  Since 56% of families have both parents working, it is difficult for parents to commit time, and they are not available during school hours.

The leadership team will be reviewing this feedback next week.  We will also be reaching out to parents to ask them to dialogue about how MCA can build on strengths that were identified, and shore up those areas that need attention.  Additionally, this input will also be shared with accreditation committees for consideration in the school improvement plan.

If you want to participate in discussions and planning, please contact the school office and let us know of your interest.


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