Greetings Berks Christian School Community,
In our state of the school address last spring, I announced that we would be clarifying our discipline policy to enhance communication and clarify our procedures. After a period of six months of collaboration between faculty, board, and the administrative team, that process is complete.
First, if you have not already, watch my six-minute video explanation here.
Then, I encourage you as a family to review our policy together. (PDF format)
In brief, we have created what we call the 3CR discipline policy. It is designed to bring our discipline firmly in line with our goals of discipleship and mentoring and to make our system clear for all stakeholders. This new policy is for all students K-12, we no longer have a separate system for elementary and secondary students.
Finally, we have differentiated between regular discipline, which will follow the systems discussed above and procedural discipline. Procedural discipline includes regulations on cell phone use, dress code, technology use, tardiness, and homework.
Again, for all of the details, please watch my video and read the full policy. If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
I am thankful for all of the people that contributed to this project for the benefit of our student body. Discipline is not always a pleasant topic, but a necessary one. Our goal at BCS is not merely obedience, which of course we do desire, but flourishing. Flourishing is much more than only following the rules: it is experiencing the freedom we have as we mature in Christ.
GK Chesterton wrote, “The more I found that while Christianity had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.” It is our heart’s desire that our students would do much more than obey to avoid punishment, but that they would find abundant and flourishing life as the obediently follow Christ.
Grace and Peace,
And now for something a little bit different. For this blog post, I’ll be answering a few of the questions that were submitted by parents for last week’s town hall meeting. It is my strong desire to keep parents updated and connected to the school, our mission, and our program. I’m glad to engage in some of these questions today and will answer a few more next blog post. If you have more questions, feel free to leave them in the comments!
Can accreditation be explained, and where are we exactly in that process. What are the positives of accreditation, and the negatives for not yet being accredited?
Accreditation can be explained, and I will be more than glad to do so. Accreditation is a tool that challenges us toward self-improvement and creates internal and external accountability so that we fulfill our ministries with excellence. In our case, we are pursuing accreditation with ACSI and Middle States. Of course, even without accreditation, we are constantly self-evaluating and improving our programs. However, accreditation, developed by experienced professionals outside of our organization, serves as a fixed reference point helping us to better facilitate effective self-evaluation.
The ACSI program is a three year program that we began in October with our formal application. We have met with our regional director to outline a plan and a strategy. After a few pieces of preparatory work, we will begin the two year self-study this Spring. The self-study leads us through evaluating and improving 92 indicators of school excellence. After the self-study is complete, an accreditation team visits the school to do a final evaluation.
I will keep the school family updated on the process as we go. The bottom line is this - this significant investment will help to improve our school in a systematically proven way from top to bottom. We appreciate your prayer as we enter into this rigorous program.
The positive points of accreditation are primarily that we have a formalized program for school improvement, have comparison benchmarks outside of our school, and have stronger marketing with broader approval through a recognized organization. It essentially ensures the quality of our program. The major negative of being thus far unaccredited is that some of our credits are not recognized by out of state Boards of Education for transferring students. (They are recognized everywhere in PA.) Once we are accredited, our credits will be recognized everywhere in the US. This only affects students transferring to other high schools, not to colleges..
How does the new model for class selection work for high school students? I would like to know how that can be done more effectively so when students are given options of what they want to take that they are able to then take those classes.
I understand the concern of this parent regarding our new class selection model for the high school. Historically, we did not offer many choices for our high school students. If you were in 10th grade, the schedule was set and all of your classmates took the same classes as you. As we have expanded our options, we have focused on adding both diversity in class offerings and honors level courses.
With more options, students sometimes will need to choose. Certain classes have to be offered at the same time and so students may not be able to take both and will have to decide between two appealing options. We create the schedule carefully so that each student gets the classes they need and has as many options as possible. In many cases, if a class is not available, a student can take the same course in a future year.
Can you provide a curriculum update?
Curriculum is on all of our minds right now as a staff - because it is the first item that we have to tackle on our road to accreditation. Right now, all of our curriculum is being updated and evaluated on all levels and in all subject areas to prepare for the accreditation self-study. (See more on accreditation in the first question.) This directly benefits the classroom as we evaluate the tools and processes we use in each class. Time is also spent on reviewing biblical integration, assessment tools, and instructional materials. This process ensures we are using current resources and the best educational techniques. Once this process is complete, we will enter a cycle where a few curriculums will be evaluated every year so that each area is assessed on a 5 year rotation. Curriculum essentially works as an evaluative tool for teachers in a few areas. It helps us create unit plans, select appropriate textbooks and materials, and provide benchmarks of success for each subject area.
How does this school encourage and monitor students' progress toward meeting grade-level standards?
The most important issue in monitoring student achievement is quality and consistent assessment by the classroom teachers. There is a two-pronged approach to this issue. The first is to ensure that we have the highest quality curriculum in place being taught by qualified and expert teachers. These two items are guided by curriculum review processes and our teacher professional growth and development plans. The second is to carefully assess each student against our curriculum, in a consistent manner, with informal and formal assessments. This gives us the data we need to track each student.
We also use standardized testing scores as an outside source to aid in tracking student progress. BCS gives the Terra-Nova standardized test to most of our grade levels and also uses PSAT and SAT scores as benchmarks for our older students.
What is Berks Christian School?
This is, on some level, a silly question. One could safely say that the answer is found right in the question itself. Or, as my calculus teacher used to be famous for saying, "the answer is intuitively obvious to the casual observer." (as a side note, this was highly irritating to students like myself struggling through his limits and derivatives.)
Of course, Berks Christian is a school. We have teachers, students, books, and bells. Lessons are presented, homework is assigned, and tests are crammed for. (Well, I am a realist after all.) We learn to read, recite, and reason. We practice multiplication, musical scales, and scripture memorization. We create timelines, compile book reports, and code webpages. But for all of this (and much more), it seems a surface definition of who we are. Webster may be happy but my heart finds it wanting.
I think a better description of Berks Christian is a learning community. The word community speaks to some deeper truths of who we are: an interacting population with a shared history, and unified motivations. We are people who have joint ownership and participation, sharing a like goal and fellowship. In this model, we are not just our roles (teachers, students, parents) but we are participants in a shared community centered around what brings us together - Christian education.
But perhaps best of all, we are a learning family. In this model, we are not just a community circled around a common goal, but we are members of a family centered around a common leader - Jesus Christ. And that's what a family is: a group of individuals with a common ancestry, under one head, and unified by our shared characteristics. We don't necessarily always agree (or get along) but we do share a familial bond. This bond is the love of Christ and the fellowship of the Spirit. From this springs our learning, exploring, growing and discipling.
As many times as I can put put pen to paper (er, that is... fingers to keyboard) I will say it: BCS is all about Jesus, because everything is about Jesus! He is the head of our learning community.
Since we are best described as family, I now have a question to pose to you: Do you treat BCS like a hotel or like a home? Are we on vacation, or are we caring for our living space in the rhythms of daily life?
You know how it goes at a hotel. You've paid for the room and you have certain expectations. But the only expectation for yourself is that you've paid, and you are there to enjoy the experience. You don't bother to make the bed or hang up the towels. Someone else will pick up that wrapper on the floor. If something breaks, just dial the front desk. And your food can be brought to the door while you flip through the channels. Any mess isn't your problem and you might even just make one for the fun of it, because we've got no intention of staying past checkout time.
At home of course, it's a different ballgame. Not only do we clean up after ourselves, but we train our children to do the same. We take careful assessment of our home and prioritize projects to take care of. We'll spend some of our spare time making improvements and upgrades because we know this where we spend most of our time and we want it to be nice. We'll even pull out the fridge every once and a while to clean the dust that has accumulated. (Well, some of us do.) The point is, we value our home - we take care of it. There's a sense of ownership and responsibility.
I think the application of the analogy is fairly intuitive. Being part of BCS is an investment, and not just a financial one. We've got common goals and shared responsibilities. If BCS is truly going to be a family, we must choose to treat BCS like our educational home, not educational hotel.
So Berks Christian School family, I challenge you. Will you treat BCS like your educational home? Will you commit your family to be a fully engaged part of the BCS family? For God's glory, will you take ownership in the school that is yours - the families, the stakeholders? Dig in - pick up some towels off the floor, start on that new deck expansion, patch the hole in the wall, or just help to put the dishes away after dinner. Each of us have a part to play, what's yours?
To make sure that I give credit where it is due, I owe the metaphor of "Hotel and Home" to Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church.
Grace and Peace my friends! (and welcome home!),
New to the reading recommendations this week (see links above)
Philip S. Warner, administrator of Berks Christian School.