Midwestern Christian Academy has been recommended for accreditation with the commission of the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) by the accreditation team that visited our campus November I4-I7. We give all the glory to God for this recognition of our school, and are very grateful to be a part of this ministry. The recommendation represents more than three years of work on improving the quality of education at MCA in accordance with a set of 8 standards and over I50 different indicators.
The preliminary report, released to the administration and school board on Wednesday, November I7, included four commendations and four major recommendations, the latter of which will be formed into a Continuous School Improvement Plan. Recommendations include completing documentation of the school’s curriculum objectives in all core subject areas at all grade levels, improving the availability of professional development for the staff and documenting all activity related to the school’s academic program and operations.
The visiting team commended the school for its distinctively Christian atmosphere, which they observed in classrooms, the lunchroom, the playground, and in all aspects of the school’s operation. They also noted the thorough integration of Biblical truth in all aspects of the school’s operation and especially in the relationships between students, teachers and parents. They paid us a tremendous compliment by commending our school as distinctively Christian in its ministry. They also commended the elders and members of Midwest Bible Church for what they called “outstanding” support for the school’s ministry in sustaining its operations during difficult times over the past few years. They noted that it is rare for a church to step up and provide this kind of support for Christian schools. It is so rare, than no standard actually exists in the accreditation protocol to recognize church support for a Christian school ministry. We were also commended for our emergency procedures and crisis management plans.
We give the glory to God and thank him for the presence of his Holy Spirit in our school, inspiring and strengthening us.
I love the Lord because he hears and answers my prayers, because he bends down and listens. I will pray as long as I have breath. Psalm II6:I-2
Accreditation is a recognition of the school’s excellence. The school has met or exceeded a specific set of standards which measure its spiritual life and Christian distinctiveness, the academic program and its organization of the scope and sequence, objectives and instructional strategies of the curriculum, its provision for the health and safety of its students and the allocation of its resources in a way that achieves its goals.
Accreditation is a recognition that falls entirely within the scope of the educational community. It does not dictate or require any specific content to be included in the curriculum objectives. It examines a school’s stated philosophy of education and compares that to the objectives and instructional strategies it uses in the classroom to determine if it is meeting a specific standard. In the ACSI commission, the school’s Christian distinctiveness and the inclusion of Biblical truth in all course objectives is a requirement. Accreditation has nothing to do with state standards or state-required objectives. It is based on a school’s own self-study of its operation.
One of the unique aspects of an ACSI accreditation is their recognition of the spiritual gift of teaching as a qualification for those who become teachers in the classroom. Yes, that’s a “church” qualification, but Christian schools are in the unique position of providing discipleship as well as basic skill instruction to students.
“Accredited schools are excellent schools, and excellent schools seek accreditation”–source unknown.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does ACSI accreditation compare to commissions like Cognia-Advanced Ed, North Central Association-CASI, Middle States (MSACS) or one of the “big” commissions?
ACSI’s accreditation commission is recognized by the same standards and in the same category as the regional associations. In fact, schools that complete the ACSI protocol and hold membership in one of the other regional associations can get a dual accreditation by simply applying for membership in the association. We’ve opted not to get dual accreditation as a practical matter, since ACSI accreditation is a recognized commission, the expense of membership in another organization that doesn’t recognize our distinctive Christian identity is not necessary.
So what does being accredited mean for MCA?
It means that our educational program adheres to a set of standards for student achievement that is capable of providing quality instruction to students, leading to their annual advancement to the next grade level. It means that our claims to being “distinctively Christian” are supported by evidence which indicates that we are, indeed, distinctively Christian. It means that our school facilities are adequate to provide for our school’s needs, that our staff has been trained and certified as professionals and that when your child comes to our school, they are protected by safety standards including the fire code, health department codes and requirements and building codes and regulations.
But aren’t you letting the state tell you want you have to teach when you are accredited?
Accreditation, even of public schools, has nothing to do with the state. In Illinois, the state department of education has a set of standards to “recognize” schools, but those involve adherence to safety standards, health codes, fire codes, building safety, and overall instruction and extra-curricular activities. We are Illinois Recognized but we are not required to teach state mandated curriculum objectives and the state does not dictate our curriculum, though we use its academic standards in comparison to our own. Our student performance measurably exceeds the state minimums because our curriculum does not add additional social and philosophical elements beyond our Biblical integration.
Nor does accreditation have anything to do with control. Our school is independent, autonomous and can teach whatever we choose. Having a set of standards lets parents know that the school is of good quality, the instructional program is valid and students who apply themselves tend to do very well when they leave here.
Comparatively, recent test and assessment data confirms that students at MCA far out-perform their counterparts in the local public schools in surrounding neighborhoods, some of which have an academic or “scholastic” emphasis. Our students also out-perform their peers in the charter schools in our part of the city. They also compare favorably to their counterparts in nearby religious-based private schools, including two Catholic schools and two Lutheran schools in this part of Chicago. While the other religious-based private schools in our area are Illinois Recognized, we are not aware of any other that is fully accredited.