Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Value of a Distinctively Christian Education

Apparently, having instruction in the scriptures every day, five days a week at school, makes a real difference in the lives of students.  One of our parents, watching the recent series about the Bible on the History Channel, made a comment on a social media site about how much her children knew.  I think that says a lot. 

We had a group of about 20 students, faculty and parents, who spent their spring break on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic.  Another group of about a dozen or so will spend a week this summer in Queens, helping people who were victims of Hurricane Sandy.  Over the course of the year, most of our high school students will volunteer in some capacity, either on a mission trip, working as staff at one of the local Bible camps, or in some other way to express their faith in Christ through service to others.  We're very proud of the work our students do, and it is one of the results that comes out of our committment to providing a well-rounded, distinctively Christian education. 

But the impact that students like this, going to a school like this, can have over a lifetime is immeasurable.  Let me share a very relevant example.

Are you surprised at the direction public opinion has shifted when it comes to the issue of same-sex marriage?  If you've followed the presentation of the cases in the Supreme Court, including the comments of attorneys on both sides, the justices themselves, and the whole group of people who have been called on to provide support and comment, you know that the argument is being made that marriage is exclusively a civil institution, and as such is not subject to the moral arguments brought into it by a Christian worldview.  There are church leaders who voice this opinion.  Public opinion has shifted, and a majority of Americans, upwards of 60% in most polls, now believe that the federal legislation known as the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as being between one man and one woman, is unconstitutional. 

I'm, frankly, not surprised that public opinion has shifted.  The public education system has, for more than two decades, incorporated objectives into its curriculum that consistently teach children that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality, including two people of the same gender getting married to each other, and raising children.  The emphasis on objectives related to this subject are emphasized and stressed, while views regarding traditional marriage are completely ignored.  The generations that have been systematically taught this view in the public schools have contributed to the shift in public opinion, and many of the people involved in making the arguments are also products of the same education system. 

How much different would things be if a majority of students graduating from high school came out of a school like ours, with hearts and minds like those of our students who spend their free time looking for ways to serve Jesus by serving others, and who understand that their work makes a big difference in people's lives?  How much different would "public opinion" on this issue be, if a majority of students in school had been in a distinctively Christian environment, where they were taught that marriage, between one man and one woman, forms the foundation of a family, which is the basic unit in God's design and plan for each person's life. 

I've been observing the outcome of Christian school education for something like 30 years, now, and while it is not a guarantee that every student who emerges from a Christian school environment will live their life under a Christian worldview, and in the light of Christ, the fact of the matter is that most will.  And most Christian school graduates will make a much bigger impact on the part of the world with which they come in contact than most other people.  They've had a lesson focused on a Biblical truth every day they've been in school here.  The desired outcome is that they will know what they believe, why they believe it, and how to use it to make that kind of impact in the world. 

As you consider where your kids are going to school next year, keep that in mind.  A lot of our families are making huge sacrifices to keep their kids in a Christian school, and down the road, God is going to bless that, probably by the impact their children have on their community or church.  Our teachers, and our staff, all make huge financial sacrifices to keep the tuition and fees here as reasonable as they are, in order to make it possible for your children to be here.  We're teaching our students how to be salt and light in the world, and how they can make a difference.  They need to be here. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Tuition, Re-enrollment, Admission and All That Stuff

We are back at that time of the year when planning ahead for the next one comes around to re-enrollment, or a new student application and families begin to consider and count the cost and value of continuing to provide a comprehensive, academically superior, distinctively Christian education for their children.  It should be a no-brainer, but, of course, circumstances being what they are, sometimes a little inspiration can go a long way.  If you need some foundational motivation for enrolling here, or returning, let me share a few things with you.

PCS Has a Distinctively Christian Atmosphere and Emphasis
I really, really hope that our students and families never take this aspect of our school life for granted.  The contrast between the education provided by the public system, and what is offered in a Christian school in general, including what we do here, has never been sharper, nor has it been easier to see in student outcomes.  We work hard to make sure that the atmosphere in our school is as distinctively Christian as it can be, and there are a number of elements involved in doing that on a daily basis.  There are no guarantees, but students can't leave here and say they didn't hear it or see it every day.

We Are a Quality Educational Bargain!
Comparatively, tuition and fees at Portersville Christian School are among the lowest in the entire metro area for the quality and kind of education that is provided here.  In making comparisons to other schools, you need to consider that PCS is fully accredited, offers comprehensive education for students from Pre-K to 12th grade, and has distinguished itself as a school of academic excellence.  Among the private, Christian schools in the area that have set themselves apart in those three areas, our tuition and fees are the most reasonable.

First of all, accreditation is of vital importance.  A Middle States/.ACSI accreditation says that our school has put time and effort into curriculum development, a quality academic program, and has invested in a fully trained and fully certified teaching staff.  It says that we have developed a vertically aligned curruculum that meets or exceeds the state's expectations in each subject area and on each grade level.  It tells you that our student achievement is objectively evaluated each year, and that their performance exceeded the expected standards.  It says that our teachers all have degrees in their field, and have credentials which state they have taken coursework necessary to learn how to present curriculum objectives to students, and are evaluated as doing so successfully.  It means that students who graduate from here have been through coursework which is designed to prepare them for college, and that what they have learned here has accomplished that goal.  Among the schools in the greater Pittsburgh area which offer Christian education to students from PK through the 12th grade that are fully accredited, our tuition and fees are the lowest. 

Our teachers are committed to their calling, and are willing to sacrifice when it comes to salary.  Sometimes, the tuition might look pretty good at an unaccredited school, but it has been achieved at the sactifice of quality instruction.  The involvement of ACSI in our accreditation process guarantees that the Christian principles you are looking for are included in a quality instructional program. 

Accreditation also means that our students can graduate from high school, fulfill the graduation requirements, and make a smooth, directly transferable transition to the college of their choice.  Students from unaccredited schools have a much harder time getting into the selective degree programs at the schools with more competetive admissions requirements.  Our students generally get into their first choice college without a problem.

College in High School Dual Credit Program
A student graduating from PCS has the opportunity to take as many as 21 hours of college credit, earned during his junior and senior year, with him when he enrolls.  That would involve the 15 hours of basic English and Social Studies courses we offer through dual credit with Butler County Community College, and six hours through advanced placement tests in Calculus and Statistics and Probability.  A number of our students have earned all 21 hours, which is not only an advantage in that it is more than half a  year's worth of credit, but it comes at a total cost of about $1,800, which is a substantial savings.  And because the dual credit course satisfies the high school as well as the college graduation requirement, the courses are taught from a Christian perspective.

Student Life
Somehow, the impression gets around that a Christian school isn't a "real school" because it doesn't have the same level of social life as a public school does.  But that's just not the case.  We do operate on a smaller level, which is a huge advantage when it comes to class size, and academic progress, but we also have ways for students to find social expression while they are here.  We offer competetive athletics in soccer, volleyball and boys and girls basketball beginning in fifth grade, with the chance for lower elementary students to also participate in Upward Basketball on our campus.  Our fine arts department includes both vocal and instrumental music instruction, and we do a fall play and a spring musical every year that is a high quality performance. 

Christian Community and Christian Cooperation
In a Christian school like ours, people can work together across denominational lines and other barriers, and pull together to provide a worthwhile and beneficial discipleship ministry for the local churches and the community.  Families have an alternative where they can choose to send their children, knowing they will be safe during the day, and that the instruction they receive will be compatible with their family values, beliefs and morals.  As our enrollment grows and the school prospers, we receive the benefit of financial stability, and we are able to provide higher quality education at a reasonable price. 

Most parents probably don't realize that the tuition and fees they pay doesn't cover the cost of education at PCS.  That's not a mistake, it is done by design.  If you paid for the product or service you received at face value, it would cost about $2,000 more than it does now.  But because people are generous, and because God's finance plans are always different than ours, we have people who are willing to give to make it happen.  God's plan is for his people to work together, and when we do that, he blesses us.