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GCS Core Values - Part 2

November 29, 2017
By John Morrison

Last week, I shared the first of four core values established by our Board of Trustees that we believe make GCS distinct in its ministry and vision.  Indeed, that first value -- our emphasis upon the spiritual development of our students -- is by far the most important.  

Following on the heels of that first value is our emphasis upon academic quality, summarized as follows:

Academic

We cannot overstate our concern about the general decline of academic standards in our larger culture, nor can we over-emphasize our sense before God that the School must maintain a strong academic standard.  Furthermore, we emphasize that the benchmark for the School’s standard must be greater than simply maintaining a relatively higher level of student achievement than the sliding public standard.  In this context, we charge the administration with diligently working to ensure the following:

  1. Grace Christian School stands for a fundamentally sound academic standard (as evidenced by its standardized achievement and related scores).  We expect the School administration to maintain a healthy academic standard at all levels of the program.  In addition to thorough instruction in the fundamentals of our Christian faith, we emphasize the following:

a. Elementary students will be given a solid foundation in fundamental language arts and arithmetic skills, with science, social studies and technology becoming increasingly emphasized as the students progress through the grades.  We also appreciate the present emphasis being given to art, music, and physical education and expect that this emphasis will continue.

b. The middle school will serve as a strategic transition from elementary to high school, with a continued emphasis on core academic classes, along with the priority of students developing sound independent work and study skills necessary for high school courses.

c. High school must represent a strong academic curriculum that will prepare students for success in college and/or the workplace.  We support the diversity of courses being offered, but want to stress that those students best prepared for both college and the work place are those who are sound in the fundamental academic disciplines (language arts, mathematics, science, social studies).  This standard in core academics must be not only continued, but strengthened wherever administration discovers any “weak links” in the program.  Diversity of course offerings is desirable, but the higher goal is mastery of fundamental skills in core academic courses.

d. At all levels of instruction, we want to emphasize the teaching of critical thinking skills as an essential element in achieving our over-all mission.  An authentic Christian liberal arts education goes beyond teaching mere content, emphasizing the development of higher order thinking skills (see number eight under “Appendix B – Model of Expected Grace Christian School Student Outcomes”).  The administration will give high priority to training instructional staff in how to effectively teach these critical thinking skills in an age appropriate manner at all levels, as well as holding teachers accountable to incorporate such an emphasis in their on-going instruction.  

2. The administration will ensure that strong standards are maintained with the attitude that students who exert appropriate effort will be rewarded with appropriate grades and a sense of accomplishment, while those who do not (especially at the middle and high school levels) will have their lack of achievement reflected in lower grades.  While no parent wants to see his or her child fail, we must have the courage as a school community to teach our children the vital lessons of responsibility and hard work in achieving at a level commensurate to each one’s God-given ability.  

3. The Administration will ensure that the staff consistently and uniformly follow and apply all academic policies as stated in the School’s handbooks. Furthermore, all such policies should be periodically evaluated and revised based on the School’s on-going experience.

4. As one of their highest administrative priorities, the administration will systematically and carefully observe, on a professional basis, individual teachers and staff in their classroom and extra-curricular settings (including sports) in order to ensure the School’s distinctive educational standards are being effectively administered.  Other administrative duties must not preclude this all-important priority.

5. We are quick to recognize that some students enrolled in the School need special considerations in the context of their unique, individual learning needs.  The School has a long history of working with individual students in such cases and, as reasonably possible, we affirm our desire that the administration and staff continue to do all possible to help such students succeed in the context of the larger school program.  Our experience shows us that, as a general rule, students with special learning needs are most benefited by virtue of being in a classroom with a strong academic standard, even when their own academic requirements have been modified or they are given special accommodations.  As God provides the means, we will continue to carefully address the needs of such students.

Maintaining this core value is, sadly, increasingly a challenge as our larger culture’s standards continue to decline. We are encouraged, though, as we follow our graduates, that they continue to express to us their gratitude for being well prepared both for college and the workplace.  

If you would like to respond to my blog, please email me at grace@gcswarriors.org.