And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17, NRSV
In December, 2021, following the recommendation of the visiting team from ACSI in November, the ACSI Central Region Accreditation Commission granted full accreditation to MCA. This was our first time being accredited and doing so during a period of time when the school was in recovery mode, and through the pandemic, was quite an accomplishment. The accreditation was for five years, with an interim visit to occur along with a specific set of benchmarks to be achieved during the first year.
Our visiting team chair and assistant chair reviewed the benchmarks and the documentation of their completion that we submitted during the first week of November of this year. There were four goals from the major recommendations made by the committee during their visit which needed to be completed during this first year, the main one being to complete the revision of our curriculum maps, which is a very big, detailed job involving having a set of written objectives, expected student outcomes, instructional plans and Biblical integration for every core course taught in the school, on every grade level. That’s the equivalent of having every teacher write their lesson plans for every subject for a year.
I am very pleased to report that the commission approved the work we have achieved on the benchmarks, and our initial accreditation report to the Central Region Accreditation Commission of ACSI, and has declared MCA to be an accredited school in good standing. We have, in just one year, completed all of the major recommendations left by the accrediting team in our initial report. We can spend the time we have over the next four years before our next accreditation visit working on the recommendations left in each of the eight domains of school operation that are part of the accreditation protocol.
How Midwestern Christian Academy is Viewed Through the Eyes of Its Peers
Accreditation, for private, Christian schools, is a recognition that the school is meeting or exceeding certain expected standards of educational excellence and in the case of Christian schools, spiritual life and development of students. We were very pleased that the visiting team recognized the spiritual atmosphere of Midwestern Christian Academy by commending us for the spiritual life which they observed among our staff, students and parent community. By achieving the goal of meeting all of the major recommendations within the first year of our accreditation, we have also demonstrated that our school provides a quality academic program and that students are kept safe and their needs are met through their enrollment here.
In addition to the spiritual life and academic excellence, the examination of the school’s enrollment and finances led to the conclusion that the school has achieved its goal of financial stability, reflected in the cash flow and budget reports, and enrollment growth, which includes the addition of 51 new students during the 2022-23 school term, and the retention of over 93% of currently enrolled students from the 2021-22 school term. The goal of enrolling at least 200 students in the 2022-23 school year was achieved. MCA also met the requirement of having at least 80% of its instructional staff certified by either ACSI or by state certification, starting the school year with 93% of the teaching staff for grades K-8 holding either ACSI or Illinois certification.
Where We Go From Here
God has blessed the ministry of Midwestern Christian Academy since it was first established in 1954. We are approaching 70 years of ministry service to the people of Chicago’s northwest side. The school has continued to exist through demographic changes in the neighborhood that have led to our school being one of the most racially and ethnically diverse Christian schools in ACSI, and one of the few Christian schools in the country where students who are members of racial and ethnic minorities constitute the majority of the student body. We have continued to provide ministry through significant demographic changes in the surrounding neighborhoods, through crisis and through economic difficulties. Our recent growth and development is something we interpret as being a signal from God that it is his desire for this ministry to continue.
Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish, but happy are those that keep the law.” MCA has achieved most of the goals that it has set in place over the past five years, has been recognized by its peers for being an excellent educational ministry, and is looking at the future to catch a vision of where we go from here. Much of what has been accomplished, including complete renovation of the school’s campus, enrollment growth, financial stability and accreditation, looked like impossible tasks before they were started. And they were God-sized jobs, which required prayer and being faithful to achieve. What lies ahead also has the appearance of being God-sized.
Chicago is the nation’s third largest city, a teeming, densely populated metropolis that has shown some population growth after a couple of censuses of decline. The neighborhoods around us are visibly changing, as new residential construction dominates the skyline. The Six-Points area identified by the intersection of Milwaukee, Irving Park and Cicero Avenues, is diversifying and gentrifying in population, with changing demographics that can be both challenging to address and provide an opportunity for a school like MCA. Within this huge city, we are one of just eight schools with a Christian mission and purpose from an Evangelical Christian perspective and our geographic location leaves us separated by greater distances from the other schools, three of which offer high school programs, only one of which serves students who are “diverse learners.” There are needs which we need to consider meeting with the resources we have been given.
So the challenge for us is to formulate and develop a vision for the future that will carry the school into the future, meeting the needs of the population around us. This kind of discernment starts with prayer. It is God that has been the sustainer and supporter of the school, and who has provided the vision for it to minister as it has done in the past, and dependence on God is necessary for the future.