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Accreditation Update

May 16, 2024
By Donald M. Larson, PhD., Head of School

Thank you to everyone who has participated in the accreditation process–from taking the Flourishing School Cultural Index survey to those who have led and participated in the Domain Committees. This is an important process that will help GCS become a better school.

There are three parts to accreditation. We are almost finished with the first phase, which is the Self-Study. We have six committees which are made up of parents, students, teachers, and staff. Each committee is responsible for one domain: Purpose, Relationship, Teaching & Experience, Expertise, Resources, or Well-Being. These committees have collected evidence and rated each Indicator within the domains. We are in the process of completing the write-ups for each domain which identifies the strengths and areas for improvement. In the beginning of the new school year, we will have to update a few of the evidence files which must be dated for the year of the visit. Other than these few updates, we should be finished with the Self-Study this summer.

The next step in the process is the team visit which will take place in November. They will interview different stakeholders and confirm the evidence submitted in the Self-Study. They will write a report which identifies Major Commendations and Areas for Improvement

The last step will be an Action Plan, created by GCS, to address the identified Areas for Improvement. We will submit an annual update that provides the progress GCS has made in achieving the areas of improvement.

Flourishing School Culture Instrument Results

May 02, 2024
By Donald M. Larson, PhD., Head of School

The Flourishing School Culture Instrument (FSCI) is built on the Flourishing School Culture Model developed by ACSI. The model has five major domains: Purpose, Relationship, Teaching & Learning, Expertise & Resources, and Well-Being. Each of these domains has a number of specific constructs.

Last fall, we opened up the FSCI to our stakeholders, including parents, students (6th-12th), alumni, faculty, staff, administrators, and trustees. After meeting or exceeding the number of responses required, we closed the survey. This was the second time we have taken this survey which has helped us to identify areas that we can address. It also provides information for accreditation next fall, since the domains align.

Purpose Domain
This is our strongest domain. Our strongest scores were the following:

  • God’s Story - Students believe they are a part of God’s bigger plan and can be used by Him to “make a difference.”
  • Holistic Teaching - Helping students develop spiritually and emotionally (teaching the heart and soul as well as the mind).
  • Integrated Worldview - Teaching that God is sovereign over all of the world versus dualistic thinking.
  • Responsibility - Leaders, teachers, and support staff feel a sense of shared ownership for school mission, success, and improvement.

Our greatest opportunity for improvement in this domain is one that we have in common with most Christian schools. It is a sign of our modern American cultural context. Our students have doubts about their faith, lack time to pray or study the Bible, and they feel that most Christians are too judgmental. This is an area for us, GCS and parents, to come together as we help our students walk through their life of faith.

Relationships Domain
Education is relational by nature, and the Christian faith is expressed through community and in discipleship. Our top strengths in this domain were the following:

  • Leadership Interdependence - Our Board of Trustees have diverse backgrounds, and are transparent about and rely on others to offset their weaknesses.
  • Supportive Leadership - School leaders are trusted and teachers believe that the leaders back them and empower them to make decisions.

The two areas of opportunity for improvement are:
Family Relationships - We are working on ways to increase the communication between teachers and families to facilitate positive relationships.
Prosocial Orientation - Students should enjoy helping each other and should be known for showing love and care for each other. In high school, this area is highly influenced by the senior class. They set the tone.

Teaching & Learning
In order for schools to flourish in this area, the faculty/staff must also engage in learning to become better teachers. Our highest scores in this area are the following:

  • Engaged Learning - Students engage in activities that nurture critical thinking, evaluating information, and problem solving. This construct is so important for young Christians as they enter into the modern culture.
  • Systems Thinking - When planning for change, the potential impact on the school, the classroom, students, and the overall system are considered. Decisions are not made in isolation. The impact on all areas are addressed.

Our weakest area in this construct is Individualized Instruction, which is also a weakness for most Christian schools. In this area, students are helped to figure out how they learn best and to identify their natural strengths. We do this in isolated pockets but must become better at helping students to understand their individualized learning styles so they can become advocates for themselves.

Expertise & Resources
Six years ago, GCS initiated a strategic-planning process. We now have a strategic financial plan and a master facilities plan as a part of our strategic plan. The school is looking to the future and being intentional about setting goals and plans for achieving them. This has contributed to our strength in the Resource Planning construct.

An area of growth identified by the survey is Qualified Staff. This construct states the new teacher hires are credentialed (licensed/certified) and have classroom experience. Many of our teachers are certified and have classroom experience, and many of our teachers are parents with life experience and subject expertise. We are accredited under the School-Based Professional Development Program. Our teachers receive more professional development than teachers in other schools. We also spend a lot of time with teachers who are new to the classroom. We currently have one of the best teams of teachers the school has ever had. We still have room to grow, but our teachers love being here and invest their hearts and souls into our students.

This domain only has three constructs which address both the faculty and students. We are within three points of the benchmark from other schools. 

  • Healthy Living - Students are happy with their physical health, including sufficient exercise and a healthy diet.
  • Resilience - Students handle stress effectively and respond well to/bounce back from difficult situations. Before COVID this was not as much of a challenge as since COVID. This is an area that we have addressed this year with our high school and middle school students, and we will continue to engage our students to help them become more resilient.
  • Stress - Constant feelings of stress and being overwhelmed accompany a lack of time to prepare for instruction (teachers) or to focus on physical health (leaders). This area has improved significantly the further we have moved from COVID. We have dedicated one Professional Development day a year to focus on the physical, mental, and spiritual wellness of our faculty/staff.

We will seek to complete the FSCI every two years to establish a baseline, This will help us identify opportunities for improvement and our strengths. Thank you for participating in the survey and helping Grace Christian School to become a more Christ-centered place for educating our students.


Virginia Values Act Case Settlement

April 18, 2024
By Donald M. Larson, PhD., Head of School

Most of you are aware that almost four years ago Grace Christian School, with Community Fellowship Church, joined with several other Christian ministries in a suit against the Commonwealth of Virginia for the Virginia Values Act. That legislation, enacted in July 2020, was intended to prevent discrimination against any individuals for employment and school enrollment including sexual orientation and identity.

This legislation would have forced Grace Christian School to hire individuals who do not hold Biblical positions concerning sexual identity and ethics issues. The legislation imposed a $100,000 fine for each violation as determined by the Attorney General’s office and as upheld by the courts. The purpose of the Virginia Values Act was to force Christian ministries to compromise clearly stated biblical values or be shut down. 

Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal ministry which defends against many such threats around the country, asked CFC and GCS to join several other ministries in this suit against the Commonwealth on the premise that the Virginia Values Act is unconstitutional. In the first hearing, the judge determined that the court did not have jurisdiction in hearing the complaint because no action had been brought against any of the ministries. During the last election, Jason Miyares, who is sympathetic to our cause, was elected as the Attorney General of Virginia. This enabled ADF to successfully negotiate a settlement. The press release linked below gives the details. 

We praise the LORD for this significant “victory” and legal relief from the very dangerous provisions of the Virginia Values Act. We also are thankful for the support we have received in the form of your prayers, as we have been privileged to participate in this strategic settlement that provides significant protections for our VA Christian churches and schools. 

Link to ADF Press Release


Why Christian Education?

November 09, 2023
By Donald M. Larson, PhD., Head of School

Why Christian Education?

This is a question that I am often asked, and there are many answers. I want to focus on only one of them today, and that is the curriculum, which is a controlling agent in any type of education. When I was working on my PhD, I took a course on curriculum development. It did not deal with any subject in particular. Curriculum development is primarily concerned with the undergirding philosophy or the presuppositions of the curriculum. It is the part of a curriculum that is not clearly seen, but it is absorbed by students to become a part of their basic belief system which guides their decisions.

Please take some time to watch this video from minute 37:40 to 46:40: Disrupting the Education System While Defending Truth with James Lindsay | PragerU

James Lindsay is not a follower of Christ but is very concerned about how education in the US has been hijacked. He is interviewed by the CEO of PragerU, Marissa Streit. He knows what he is talking about, because he has devoted his life to understanding how education and the world have gotten to where they are today. He has researched who is behind it and what their goals are.  

This is not a “conspiracy theory.” It’s all in print, if you know where to look. That’s what James Lindsay has been doing for the past couple of years—looking, discovering, and alerting.

He’s trying to “sound the alarm,” and we need to understand how Christ-centered thinking and the church are being attacked.

God Bless. 

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