Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A Message from the Book of Lamentations

"He has wrecked his temple as if it were merely a shack in a field, destroying his place of meeting.  The LORD has abolished appointed festivals and Sabbaths in Zion.  He has despised king and priest in his fierce anger.  Lamentations 2:7, CSB

It has been a long time since I read through a devotional book that systematically alternated between Old and New Testament, and spent a few chapters in the book of Lamentations.  Written by the Prophet Jeremiah, who was left in Jerusalem with a small remnant of the local population after the conquest and captivity at the hands of the Babylonians, it is not a book that you turn to for inspiration.  I guess that's why most devotional writers avoid it.  I remember a few years ago, participating in a public "read through the Bible" event on the courthouse square in Houston, when I took my turn, we were just starting Lamentations.  It wasn't an easy read.

And yet, it is part of the inspired scripture, and it is there for us to have for a reason.

When Jeremiah wrote it, it was in the aftermath of the destruction of the nation of Judah, the remnant of what was left after the Assyrian conquest of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  Judah was the much diminished Southern Kingdom, slightly more in tune with God's purpose for his chosen people than those who separated themselves into the Northern Kingdom after Solomon's rule.  Surrounded by enemies, it was a small state, with ten of the original tribes completely gone, and under the thumb of the surrounding militaristic empire builders.  It owed its preservation and continued existence to God, but its last few kings are described in 2 Chronicles as having done evil in the eyes of the Lord.  Josiah, the last king of Judah to be obedient, credited for restoring the Temple and finding, and following the Book of Law, died.  Between the neighboring Egyptians, and the dominant Babylonians, Jerusalem fell, and the kingdom was lost. 

There is a lot of practical symbolism for us in that historical event. The loss of the spiritual institution of the Temple, and all of the celebrations associated with the worship of God was devastating.  It required a 180 degree shift in what that looked like for the Jews who were carried off into captivity in Babylon.  Daniel gives some insights into that.  For others, the effect was earth shattering.  Without the Temple, and the celebrations, festivals and ceremonies, the spiritual life of a people that had been struggling for several generations disappeared.  And so the question became, "Where is God?" 

It can be very easy, in our culture, and even in the place where we are every day in a Christian school, to walk in a spiritual void, where everything around you seems to be devastated, and creates the kind of feelings expressed by the words in Lamentations.  It can happen pretty easily.  I've seen people who, while they're in the middle of an experience surrounded by Christian people and Christian events, aren't connected and are walking in a spiritual void.  It is visible in behavior, it appears in social media posts, it can be heard in gossip that is so prevalently passed around  It is easy to ignore, and it is hard to be motivated to step up, and be the person who ministers.  Sometimes, that's not always met with acceptance. Ministry is never easy. 

Because of he Lord's faiathful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!  I say, the Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in him.  The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the person who seeks him.  It is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.  

Those words are also found in Lamentations, the source of several hymns and songs that the church has used in worship over generations.  They are part of just a couple of short paragraphs in this same vein.  Jeremiah, who had delivered the word of the Lord to Judah, and had suffered for doing it, and was now left in the city along with a small, suffering remnant of Israelites who were under the control of the Babylonian empire.  The things that oppress and discourage us are proportionately bad as far as we are concerned, and it sometimes seems that the landscape is bleak and desolate.  But if we put our hope in the Lord, regardless of the circumstances, we are blessed.  There is always a promise of change, and the key is in those words, "The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the person who seeks him."  Seeking comes first.  I know all of this from experience.

So I'll read the book of Lamentations, and it will be the focus of my devotions for about a week.  Apparently, that is what God thought I needed to read at this time, and I felt led to share it with you. 

Monday, May 28, 2018

Financial Support for Christian Education: News From the Past Two Weeks

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity in Pennsylvania regarding school choice.  The events may have seemed to be at odds with each other, but the outcome has been good so far. 

First, we received word from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), which administers the EITC and OSTC tax credit scholarship programs, that no organization would be allowed to receive funds unless it certified that it did not discriminate on any basis in hiring, including religious background, sexual orientation or gender identity.  Of course, the major recipients of these privately funded programs are religious-based private schools, like us.  Since our Christian identity and theological perspective are critical to the education we provide, our ability to hire people based on their Christian testimony is a key element of our mission and purpose, and is exempt from the non-discrimination clause under the first amendment's guarantee of religious liberty.  Likewise, since we have a stated position related to our Christian beliefs regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, our position on those issues is also protected by first amendment religious liberty  Nevertheless, DCED came out with their stated policy, which placed our scholarship programs at risk of not being funded. 

Second, the Educational Savings Account bill that has been introduced into the Pennsylvania legislaure by Senator John DiSanto, passed its first vote.  This is technically a "voucher: bill that would enable parents who live in school districts labelled as "low performing" under the bill's criteria, to take the money designated for their children by federal and state sources, and apply it to tuition and fees at a school of their own choosing.  These funds would be placed in an educational "savings account" in the student's name, and could be drawn out as needed for tuition at a private school, to equalize tuition at another public school, or to supplement fees at a charter school.  In addition to low performing school districts, parents of students with special needs could also set up an account with their state and federal money.  The ACSIPA legislative advocacy committee, of which the current PCS administrator is a member, has been encouraging the passage of this legislation for a long time. 

As expected, there was quite an uproar over DCED's announcement of its policy.  During the course of the discussion, DCED's director recognized that previous precedent set by the state courts recognized the first amendment rights of religious-based organizations to hire employees based on their religious beliefs and church affiliation.  They removed the language regarding the gender identity and sexual orientation requirements, also recognizing the first amendment rights of religious-based organizations to interpret these issues in a manner consistent with their faith and practice.  So the EITC and OSTC programs, which largely benefit students in Catholic and Christian schools across the state, and which are funded by private contributions, not tax dollars, will continue as they have in the past.  The change was brought about by the influence of groups like ACSIPA's Legislative Advocacy Committee, Catholic Conference, and the members of PACAPE, the Pennsylvania chapter of the Council on American Private Education. 

The passage of the ESA bill is the first step of several, including passage of the state house in identical form, and getting the governor's signature to put into law.  The bill has bi-partisan support, which will be vitally important in getting it passed.  While it is not the comprehensive voucher bill that most school choice supporters have been hoping for, it is one big step on the way toward the realization that the "one size fits all" monopoly on education currently held by the public school system, is not the best way to educate children.  Some of the research that has been done in advance of this legislation shows that the level of satisfaction with public school performance across the state is low, and that more than half of the parents of students in public schools would consider a viable alternative if it were available.  

Philosophical Considerations

Accessing scholarship programs and voucher programs through the state government requires some deliberation and consideration for Christian schools.  In spite of politician support and rhetoric, there will never be any kind of program or support that comes through the state legislature, either by way of tax credits or tax funding, that will not have regulations and strings attached to it.  The requirement that schools receiving these funds meet an academic standard measured by specific tests or assessments is reasonable, and one which most Christian schools will gladly comply, since, for the most part, our students exceed their peers in public schools by wide margins on most assessments.  But there is concern that requirements related to what the state refers to as "discrimination" such as the policy attempted by DCED, may be much more intrusive.  While we have insisted that any school choice bill contain language that prioritizes a school's religious liberty under the first amendment, there may not always be enough legislators willing to include those provisions, or who even understand why sexual orientation and gender identity have anything to do with our Christian beliefs and faith practice.

One of the main reasons Christian school communities have proposed voucher programs, and have turned to the state is that a portion of their tax dollars are going to support schools that they aren't using by choice.  It becomes too expensive for over 80% of the families in our churches to consider providing a Christian education for their children, because they are also paying taxes to public education.

The Role of the Church in Christian School Education

Christian school families have more or less been left alone to figure out how to come up with the resources to educate their children in a Christian environment.  While there are many churches and religious groups that support and undergird the work of schools as a Christian educaiton ministry, the vast majority don't support schools.  Sometimes, that's because there's resistance from the public school teachers and employees in the church.  Sometimes it is because the church cannot see the value of Christian schools, nor do they have a sense of all that Christian schools are contributing to the advancement of their ministry. 

From a personal perspective, I believe that the church, collectively, needs to be educated in the value of Christian school education to its ministry, as well as to the philosophical incompatibility with Christian doctrine and theology inherent in the curriculum objectives mandated by the public education system.  They are not supporting and undergirding the church with a Biblical foundation!  But every Christian school is doing exactly that.  If the church would support a system of Christian schools that made it possible for all of its constituency to place their children in that kind of environment, we would not need the tax dollars and credits of the state.

Christian schools, for the most part, represent the only segment of the conservative, Evangelical Christian community where people from a wide variety of denominational and doctrinal backgrounds come together, and work together in a unified purpose to advance the cause of Christ.  We get out from behind out denominational walls, and theological battlefields, prioritize the teaching of the word in the lives of children, and that has an impact on the church and the world.  Why can't conservative Evangelicals come together and find a way to financially support the schools that are contributing pastors, missionaries and teachers to their ministries?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Goodbye, PCS and Thanks for Eight Great Years

The first time I walked through the door of Portersville Christian School, it was June of 2010.  I was in the process of searching for my first head of school position, after more than 20 years of teaching, coaching, being an athletic director and a middle school principal.  Serving as a head of school in a Christian school setting is a ministry calling as much as it is a career goal, and I had been searching for an opportunity for several months when the search committee from PCS got in touch with me.  Though it was a long way from home, as it turned out, both the committee and I agreed it would be a good fit, and sensed that God was leading to the same conclusion.  After eight years, as it turns out, it was.

The school was emerging from several years of economic downturn, staff and parent conflict, and some moral issues.  Enrollment had taken a hit, from over 260 at one point to 186 on the roll for the beginning of the 2010-11 school year, and the re-enrollment of eligible students was under 80%.  There were eight vacant staff positions which occurred over the summer, seven of which still needed to be filled, and the office staff was one person short, with two new employees who had worked less than a month.  The initial year of preparation for the upcoming re-accreditation visit was on the doorstep.  It might have been easy to just say "no," but God said "yes," and that's always enough.

God gets the glory for all that has happened here.  It has been a privilege for me to have been called to serve at Portersville Christian School as head of school through its recovery and restoration from some rough years in its history, and to be its leader as it achieved new heights in its accomplishment and service to its constituency.  The Portersville Christian School that exists today is one that has an optimistic outlook on the future.

The key to what has occurred at PCS has been putting together a team of teachers and staff members who share a common vision for the mission and purpose of a Christian school, and are committed to those principles.  While some might see eight vacant staff positions as a problem, for us it was an opportunity.  Rather than seeing a job here as something for which one is "hired," the Biblical approach to ministry, in which individuals are given spiritual gifts to serve, and are called by God to their position, was used to develop a team of staff and teachers who worked together to accomplish the school's vision for Christian education. 

Many of those who came the first year I did are still here, while others have been called elsewhere, but those who have come since all share the same commitment to Christian school, and the success we have achieved is due to their being free to exercise their gifts, and use the talents God gave them in a way that is unique to them, and beneficial to the students.  Over time, I have been given the privilege of having brought most of the current staff on board, and it has been a real blessing to have walked beside you and support you as you worked each day. The staff conflict, which had been so crippling to the effectiveness of the school, has evaporated.

It is a blessing to celebrate some of the milestones PCS has passed during the past eight years. 

  • Enrollment has recovered by more than 20%, and the re-enrollment percentage of eligible students, which is the most tangible measurement of parent satisfaction for a Christian school, has exceeded 95% for each of the past six years.  
  • The number of new student applications has doubled since 2010.  The school has engaged in a program called "Try Christian Schools" with WORD-FM for the past four years that has provided thousands of dollars in advertising on the radio, and is responsible for getting word out about PCS to the community. 
  • Eight students have been recognized as either commended scholars, National Merit Scholarship semi-finalists, or finalists since 2010, among the top 1% of the nation's high school students.  This is more than at any other time in the school's history. 
  • The class average SAT scores at PCS have shown an upward trend since 2010.  The class of 2012 set a new record, as did the classes of 2014 and 2015.  The class of 2019 has an opportunity to become the highest achievers in school history. 
  • The school established a resource education program.  In 2010, there were 9 students involved in resource-based education, mostly using personnel from the IU.  In 2018, there are over 50 students involved, and the availability of resource instruction has been a major contributor to school growth, retention of students, and stability. 
  • PCS has been innovative in expanding academic offerings for students, with a limited scope of resources and facilities.  We have extended the ability of students to earn dual credit that will directly transfer to colleges and universities.  Through a partnership with the Canyon Christian School Consortium of Grand Canyon University, in combination with on-campus courses from Butler County Community College, PCS can offer students the opportunity to complete their freshman year of college prior to graduating from high school.  
  • At the initiation of the administrator, a development committee was activated in 2011, and trained by a consultant from GraceWorks.  The Warrior Legacy Fund was established for the purpose of supplementing the school's financial aid and scholarship program.  
  • The number of students involved in extra-curricular activities has increased with the addition of competitive archery to the athletic department five years ago.   The athletic program has improved and grown with full administrative support.  Portersville Christian School has become the top athletic program in the SWCAC league, which is an achievement among colleagues in an equitable partnership.  
  • The fine arts department has reached a pinnacle in performances of dramas, plays and musicals.  A stage was added to the gym three summers ago, making the facility one of the nicest and most practical multi-purpose buildings on a Christian school campus in the entire region.  The school has produced some excellent musical productions, including some recent Mancini award nominees and winners.   
  • The school successfully completed a re-accreditation process in 2014, being commended for the Christian atmosphere that the visiting team observed as permeating the campus and all of its activities, and for its academic excellence.  It is this accomplishment, particularly earning the accolades of colleagues for our spiritual atmosphere and academic achievement, of which I am most proud in which to have been involved. 
There are some things I wish we could have achieved along with these wonderful accomplishments.  It would have been nice to have had the ability to renovate and upgrade our facility, or perhaps have established a satellite campus in Cranberry or Mars to expand the school's ability to grow and reach students.  I wish we could have seriously invested much more in the way of technology and advancement.  Though we did expand the current system, enabling wifi to penetrate the school and be used in a variety of ways, I wish we could have invested in a complete refitting and a full, one to one program.  Those dreams will become someone else's dreams to fulfill.

I love this school, and committed myself to take responsibility for its leadership and serve its constituency.  I believe I have fulfilled my mission and purpose here, and the goals which were put in place when I arrived have been accomplished.  I pray God's blessings on the school and its ministry, along with his hand of protection.  There are new goals to be set, and new achievements to be accomplished.   

Monday, February 26, 2018

Portersville Christian School Wins SWCAC Boys, Girls Varsity Basketball Titles

For the first time in school history, varsity boys and girls basketball teams from Portersville Christian School won the SWCAC championships during the same season.

Lady Warriors Top Off Undefeated Conference Season with SWCAC Title
The Lady Warriors got off to a 17-0 start and never looked back enroute to a 38-14 victory over Plants and Pillars Homeschoolers of Beaver Falls in the Southwestern Christian Athletic Conference tournament championship game Saturday at the Beaver Falls school district gym.   PCS finished its conference season with a perfect 14-0 record and capped off an overall 24-3 mark that included a Tri-County conference championship, and two previous wins over Plants and Pillars, who finished as Tri-County runner-up.

The Lady Warriors made good use of a strong defense, holding the Mighty Oaks scoreless until the 1:35 mark in the second quarter, and continued to hold them to just 5 points until midway through the fourth quarter.  The Oaks also played a strong defense that caused eight turnovers in the first half, and held the Warriors below their normal scoring threshold.  In the long run, the Warriors were able to capitalize on Oaks turnovers, and used their height advantage in rebounding and scoring provided by tournament MVP Abby Green, and league MVP Julia Mangiapane to force the Oaks to shoot from outside, and picked up 14 second half points in the paint.  Senior Melynn Dickson was also named to the all-conference team. 

This was Portersville's third straight appearance in the SWCAC title game, and was their first tournament title since 2012.

Warriors Win Third Straight SWCAC Tournament Championship
In spite of a slow start to the regular season, the Portersville Christian School Warriors won a string of conference games to close out the season, and picked up their third straight SWCAC title and trophy with a 43-32 win over The Neighborhood Academy of Pittsburgh at Beaver Falls school district gym on Saturday.  It was the fourth straight appearance for PCS in the SWCAC championship game, and it came on the heels of a string of conference wins during the last two weeks of the regular season which gave the Warriors the Tri-County East conference title, and the number two seed.

The Neighborhood Academy overcame adversity from last year, after being ruled ineligible for the playoffs due to a paperwork technicality, and finished their conference season unbeaten, winning the championship of the Tri-County West, and the Tri-County number one seed.  The Bulldogs defeated the Warriors 41-31 in an earlier meeting this season at home.

The Warriors had to overcome a blistering full court press by the Bulldogs during the entire first half of the game.  In spite of several turnovers, PCS was able to build a lead that they never relenquished.  Foul trouble and shooting problems plagued the Bulldogs throughout the second half, and the Warriors capitalized on some hot outside shooting to extend their lead to as much as 20 points in the early part of the fourth quarter.  After the Bulldogs passed the bonus, the Warriors sealed the 43-32 win with free throws and key offensive rebounds.

The two teams have a great relationship with each other, and met under the basket after the game to pose for a joint photograph.  Following their earlier meeting in the season, The Neighborhood Academy hosted a fellowship dinner for both teams.

Sweep of SWCAC Championships
The two basketball titles are added to previous SWCAC championships this school year in soccer and volleyball.  It is the first time in school history that PCS won all of the SWCAC tournament titles at the high school level.  This is a great accomplishment, and a credit to the coaches, parents, and especially to the student athletes.  We've been in SWCAC for many years, and this is a first for us.  Learning how to be gracious in victory requires being cheerful in the face of defeat, and I hope that our graciousness is visible.  SWCAC provides a great opportunity for all students to enjoy the opportunity to play a sport they might not otherwise try in a larger, public school environment, so a championship represents the contribution of every athlete and coach in the league, whether they win it or not.   

National Christian School Athletic Association National Tournaments
Both Warriors varsity teams will be participating in the NCSAA National Tournament at Mt. Vernon Nazarene University in Mt. Vernon, Ohio this week, beginning March 1.  The boys are two-time defending National champions, and the girls will be looking for their first title since 2012.  The girls play at 12:00 noon March 1, against Shenandoah Valley Christian School from Virginia, while the boys play at 1:30, also against Shenandoah Valley. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Insights into School Cancellations and Delays

My Mother grew up in Doddridge County, West Virginia, during the depression.  She had stories, as most parents of that generation did, of long walks to school, regardless of the weather, sometimes in rain, sometimes in freezing cold or deep snow.  It wasn't "uphill both ways" of course, in fact, the road from their house to the four-room school building followed a creek, though they could take a shorter route on a cow path over a small hill.  She was the second youngest of eight, one of three girls and her older brothers had the job of making sure the furnace was stocked with coal and properly lit before school on winter mornings, so most of the time, in addition to a cold walk to school, she and her sisters waited in a cold building until the furnace could warm it up.  If she were still living, she'd probably smile if I told her we delayed school for two hours because of wind chill, or snow, or that we cancel when the roads are bad, or when the wind chill gets below zero. 

But, she would be very appreciative and grateful for the way we treat school students today, and very understanding, because of her own experiences, of many things we take for granted.  Her school experiences were not necessarily pleasant ones, and for her and most of her siblings, including her older sister, were part of the reason that she didn't finish grade school.  That was a decision she regretted for the rest of her life.

Most of our decisions to delay or cancel here at PCS are based on the rules and policies of the school districts with whom we contract to pay for our bus service.  As a small private school, we are blessed to be able to operate our own busses, hire our own drivers, and transport our own students.  Most private schools depend on the contract carriers hired by the school districts that fall within the 10 mile limit required by the state to provide transportation to parochial and private school students.  Operating our own bus system allows us to have a measure of control over the routes, and we have transportation available whenever we need it.  We have high expectations for the care and safety of our students. 

We'd rather not cancel or delay.  Our calendar is carefully planned, and there isn't much room for re-scheduling events.  Instructional time is valuable and interruptions can be counterproductive.  We know that most of our parents work, so a cancellation or delay causes problems with finding someone to watch kids during the day.  But the health, safety and security of our students is a high priority, and those are not things in which there is room for error. Sure, things happen, but the inconvenience of a two hour delay is worth it, if it provides enough time for the bus ride to be much safer. 

Pennsylvanians have been bundling up and dealing with sub zero temperatures and wind chills for a long time.  Everyone has their story of driving in heavy snow, or sliding off the road, or getting stuck.  When you're responsible for students, who are other people's precious cargo, you're more careful than you might be on your own.  A couple of weeks ago, driving back home from Buffalo, I ran into a lake-effect blizzard on I-90 just before I got to Fredonia.  It took almost three hours to drive from there to Erie, at 10-15 MPH in almost zero visibility, on a road where the snow was coming down at a rate of 4 inches an hour.  It was a tough drive, and I had thoughts of times when I'd been told about the experiences of people being stalled for hours, and even days, on the highway in a blizzard somewhere.  If I'd known how bad it was going to be, I'm not sure I'd have risked the trip myself, but I'd never put students in a situation like that.  We can always make up the class time if necessary.

Our decisions to delay or cancel are based on the safety of our students.  They're your kids, and they're our responsibility when they are in our care.  

Monday, December 18, 2017

Merry Christmas! And Thank You!

The snow that fell last week, and cancelled classes one day, makes it feel like the Christmas season is here.  Churches are doing cantatas and programs, and the elementary school here got their music presentation completed in spite of the flu and colds.  Pastors are turning to familiar passages in Luke, but my favorite scripture for Christmas actually comes from the Old Testament--

"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feed of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God Reigns."  Isaiah 52:7, ESV

Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday this year, and it really sets the tone for the celebration of the day that we honor the birth of our savior, that time when, according to the scripture, the good news of salvation was published.  My home church always did "Carols and Candlelight" on Christmas Eve, you could set your watch by the 6:00 p.m. start time.  At the church we attended in Texas for many years, the congregation, with lighted candles, would process out of the church door and down the stairwell along with the orchestra while singing "Silent Night" to proclaim the birth of the savior to the community.  I hope that whenever and wherever you find yourself this Christmas Eve, it is in the Lord's house, in a time of worship and celebration.

Thank You!  

The generosity of our school community is always shown at Christmas in the offering you give for the staff Christmas bonuses.  This gift is deeply appreciated, and it is a demonstration of your appreciation for the work that is done by our teachers and staff.  As most of you know, the salaries and benefits provided to our staff are not comparable to those of similarly employed professionals in the education business.  It is a sacrifice that our staff is willing to make which keeps the cost of attending a Christian school reasonable, and when it is matched with the sacrifice parents make to send their children here, it causes great things to work together to happen.

Thank you for this gift, especially at this time of the year.  It is deeply appreciated. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Terra Nova Test Results are in, and it's Good News!

Portersville Christian School uses the Terra Nova Achievement Test as one of the means available to produce student achievement data which allows us to evaluate the effectiveness of our educational program.  Along with the PSAT and SAT results for students in grades 9-12, the Terra Nova is administered to students in K-10.  We chose this particular test because it is updated regularly, based on research and results, and because it provides detailed insights into student mastery of specific curriculum objectives.  It allows us to evaluate the effectiveness of our educational program, and make adjustments in expected student outcomes.  It also allows us to see where individual students may be struggling with objectives and concepts so that we can provide some additional assistance.

Terra Nova provides individual student reports that are pretty easy to read.  When looking at an individual report, there is a bar graph that will show the student's progress based on their percentile rank for each section of the test.  The percentile rank tells you how that particular student did in comparison to all of the other students in the same grade across the country who took the same test at roughly the same time.  The mastery score tells you how the student did based on the expectations of the test objectives for a student in a particular subject on their grade level.  You can look at each section of the test, and see areas in the content where the student excelled, where they were meeting the averages and expectations, and where they may have some specific weaknesses.  Mathematics and Language Arts are broken down into specific concepts and areas of study. 

The bar graph on the home report is the key to understanding the test results.  If the bars for a student's performance extend into the gray areas, their test results indicate that they are performing at the expected standards for their grade level in each subject area.  The gray area is bisected by the 50th percentile line, is divided in to quarters, and reflects the spectrum of possible test scores.  If the bars extend beyond the top of the highest gray quarter, the student is most likely exceeding grade level expectations in that particular subject, and is performing at a level that is considerably higher than their peers in the same grade. Those rankings and scores reflect percentiles that are set in place nationally, by all students who took the test at that grade level.

PCS students generally perform well above the expected outcomes provided by the test, and have percentile ranks that exceed the national norms.  Students in grades 7-12 average in the 75th percentile in Reading and in Language Arts areas, and in the 72nd percentile in Mathematics.  Scores in Social Studies and Science vary, but the overall averages are in the 73rd to 78th percentile across the board.  Half of the students in those grades achieve percentile ranks in Mathematics and Reading which rank them in the top fourth of all students who take the test, and over 90% of our students rank in the top two percentile quarters in Mathematics and Reading. 

Elementary students average at the 70th percentile in Mathematics, and at the 75th percentile in Reading and Language.  Though we don't have major curriculum emphases in social studies or science until students are reading well, scores in those areas also exceed the national norms.  Generally, the scores reflect a curriculum and instruction that is accelerated and advanced.  

Parents should pay particular attention to the scores which show a percentile rank that is below the 25th percentile.  This could be an indicator of a student struggling with curriculum objectives or with difficulties in instruction and classroom performance.  This may be an indicator of a specific learning issue, a physiological problem like impaired vision or hearing, or it may be a developmental issue related to learning readiness. 

We evaluate the test results to make changes in the curriculum objectives.  If we see consistent scores in a particular area of instruction, we re-examine the expected student outcomes and objectives, and rewrite the curriculum guide to address the weakness.  We want to ensure that our students are getting everything they need to prepare them for the next level, and to make their educational experience a valuable asset to their life. 

The scores our students achieve are well above the averages earned by students in the public and charter education system, and rank in the upper half of Christian schools who administer the Terra Nova.  Since ACSI recommends the use of this particular test, the norms and percentile ranks tend to come out a little higher than an achievement test used primarily by public schools.  We are pleased with the results of this year's test.