Photo by Ben White
I seriously thought about just leaving the picture all by itself. Nothing written. But it is a blog, so I will mention that praying for our students, teaching them why Christ is worthy of our worship and explaining to them why it is necessary to pray constantly is what we do best.
What we do second best, and dare I say, better than anyone in Arizona, is educate all of our students here at Maricopa Christian Academy, to their fullest potential in the subjects we offer. That all includes boys.
You might think, of course "all" includes boys. Not in this culture. Not for a long time. And not now. I am not alone in knowing this. Here is part of an article, the lead off, from the New York Post from a couple of days ago.
In New York, boys are now lagging behind girls in math and a full grade level behind in English. Similar patterns can be seen across the nation. Boys graduate high school at about the same rate as poor students, while girls account for two out of three high schoolers in the top 10% ranked by GPA. One in four black boys repeat a grade, and 60% of students on college campuses are now women. When almost one in four boys (23%) are categorized as having a “developmental disability,” it is fair to wonder if it is the boys — or the system — that is not functioning properly.
The article was titled "Why American boys are failing at school—and men are losing in life" and written by Richard Reeves.
I am not going to spend time harping on a public system I worked in for over twenty years. But I am going to spend time on how we at Maricopa Christian Academy have designed a school for boys to excel in.
We are Christ centered. In grades first through sixth, all Bible teaching is expository, meaning we read through a book of the Bible as we discuss what it teaches about Christ. In seventh through through twelfth grades we also add books for study by authors like MacArthur, Sproul and Keller.
We do not allow boys (and girls) to begin school before they are six years old. Why? In the short, short because I could speak about this for a long, long time, but the general gist is, for what our culture expects from kindergarten, I am able to instruct within a month of first grade and with the added benefit, within the context of what they will be learning with us through twelfth grade. Expectations such as how to place numbers when adding, finding the main idea, and building spelling skills. (No, we do not use weekly spelling tests.) We want the little guys playing for another year.
Labeling students is unnecessary and not allowed here at Maricopa Christian Academy. We do not need a label to tell us we are not doing a good job with a student who is having trouble learning a skill. Individualized goals built around each student's previous day's work is how we know if a child is successfully learning on a daily basis.
Often questions arise like, "Don't you have to label? " Or "How will my child get the help he needs?" Relax. Labels don't provide a road map on how to instruct a student having problems in school. Labels do provide a way to segregate students from the rest of their peers. Labels don't provide expertly trained teachers to assist in turning your child into a successful student. Labels do create an almost guaranteed expectation your child will be a lower performing student the rest of his school days.
Here is a quote from someone who is considered one of the eminent psychologist of the 21st century.
(ADHD) is an invention. Every child who’s not doing well in school is sent to see a pediatrician, and the pediatrician says: “It’s ADHD; here’s Ritalin.” In fact, 90 percent of these 5.4 million (ADHD-diagnosed) kids don’t have an abnormal dopamine metabolism. The problem is, if a drug is available to doctors, they’ll make the corresponding diagnosis.” – Jerome Kagan, Psychologist and Professor at Harvard University
He goes on to say in an article written for MHEP, that money is to blame for this. Not entirely true. It is mothers pressuring doctors for a quick fix for their son's behaviors at home and school. It is a rare doctor who is going to disagree with an angry mom.
The article does provide a very true statement at the end towards the solution for ADHD. "...those responsible for administering brain-altering drugs to children need to search a little deeper. Doesn’t seem like an unreasonable proposition."
There is a reason all of our students see great improvements. Those improvements include eventually seeing themselves differently as a person who can learn. Even to the point of forgetting what they use to be like as a student who was labeled or as always doing poorly in school, We expect each student to show respect and give respect from day one. And we expect they learn about the God of the Bible and hopefully God may use this in leading to salvation.
At this school, it is our responsibility to keep all children safe. We also expect them to be respectful to all - adults and to their fellow students. It follows that when a child, or anyone for that matter, feels safe and respected, learning and working are so much easier.
In our individualized approach, once a student gains in skills and realizes a confidence in learning, then the fun begins. More skills begat growing skills and run on into a growing excitement for learning. This usually happens at a faster pace for students with higher academic skills, but not always.
Our individualized system encourages boys to work towards educational goals. New goals are assigned allowing for greater skills. All students have the opportunity to master a skill and move on to a more advanced skill.
Technology is a good example of how this works. Most continuing fifth grade and new sixth through tenth grade students begin technology with the goal of properly typing at 40 words per minute without looking at the keyboard. Once that goal is met, students work through a basic mastery of Word. It is a process of demonstrating skills learned through projects. After mastery of Word, the same process is provided again for Excel. Computer programing in Scratch or another language comes after that.
Students at Maricopa are placed in technology where their skill level is at, not where a school board dictates. And this is the same for all subjects. A first grader testing in a placement test at a fourth grade skill level begins math at fourth grade material. A ninth grade testing at a second grade skill level begins at second grade.
The difference with the two students is the ninth grade student will be jumped through materials after mastery of second grade goals. Hopefully bringing him success and a reason for striving in math.
Sports are offered to allow boys to achieve physically and to be around Christian men to model after. Our sports are structured to accept all while setting expectations for improved skills each season.
A recent example is our first year cross-country team of three boys and five girls, junior high down to fourth grade. No runner had ever been on a cross country team before. As our season progresses, almost all our runners improve their times at each meet. Plus at the last meet, we had a second place medal for fourth grade girls and a nineteenth place medal for junior high boys.
Our boys develop a work ethic we hope will carry them through life. This work ethic comes from daily scholastic expectations, physical education and team sports, and volunteering.
In a world of labels and failure, Maricopa Christian Academy is a school of building on success and faith.