Academic excellence is a goal for which Friendship Christian School strives on a daily basis. Our mission statement is constantly before us to “provide an excellent educational experience from a biblical worldview in order to produce the next generation of well-rounded servant leaders.” But what exactly does it mean to provide “an excellent educational experience”? How can we be sure that we are progressing toward that goal and not becoming stagnant in our efforts? Are we keeping a balanced perspective as we challenge students?
As we desire to approach academic excellence from a biblical worldview, we understand that the pursuit of knowledge is certainly not an end all goal. Nor is this pursuit the highest goal of education. Instead, we recognize that our chief aim on this earth is to glorify our heavenly Father in all of our pursuits. Academics, fine arts, athletics, and community service are all vital parts of the educational experience. We desire to do our very best in all of those areas for God’s glory (1 Cor. 10:31). Within the context of evaluating academic excellence, four components are essential to consider: accreditation, qualified faculty, academic programs, and student growth.
Accountability is one key to corporate and personal success. While we maintain internal accountability for academics (and so much more), we recognize the importance of external input as well. For private schools, earning accreditation status is voluntary. In 2011 FCS decided to pursue the highest level of accreditation, regional accreditation, through Middle States Association. The process was a rigorous one in which education professionals poured through volumes of material (curriculum, course objectives, lesson plans, goals, qualifications, testing) to verify that FCS indeed meets and exceeds the educational expectations. Middle States Association granted accreditation status to us in May 2012, and we just renewed this accreditation in May 2017. On the individual level, our teachers are certified through the accreditation process. Teachers attend workshops and take post graduate classes to maintain their certification and give valuable input in their areas of expertise. Working together, we produce a school plan that demonstrates our pursuit of excellence.
Education professionals recognize that offering an excellent education begins with teachers who deliver and expect excellence. One characteristic that is held in high regard is the teachers’ qualifications. We are pleased that close to 70% of FCS teachers either hold Master’s degrees or are in the process of pursuing post-graduate degrees. Over half of our teachers have been teaching for ten years or more. When we combine the degrees with the experience, we are confident that we have solid, seasoned teachers who know how to meet the needs of their students. We recognize that we are lifelong learners, and we desire to instill this passion into our students as well. Our teachers evidence their commitment to lifelong learning by reading and sharing educational articles and journals, researching best practices, and taking courses and classes to refine content and pedagogy.
Our preschool and elementary classes are stepping stones of success. At each grade level we evaluate options and choose appropriate curriculum (much of which is from Christian publishers) to engage our students and to provide them with a strong foundation. We desire to emphasize critical thinking at every level so that our students will learn how to effectively evaluate, discern, and make judgments based upon the truths of God’s Word. We then build upon this learning year after year.
Offering a wide range of academic tracks (occupational, general, college preparatory, and honors) affords us the opportunity to meet students’ needs at various levels. Our core college preparatory program prepares our students for the challenges of college while providing them with a solid biblical reference point. Over the past several years we have been able to add dual credit courses for juniors and seniors. This has been a tremendous blessing to families as an affordable way to earn college credit in advance. The Lord has also blessed and expanded our efforts to meet the needs of the Raleigh community by sustaining the Specialized Learning Center (SLC). Students in the Focus Learning Center (a part of the SLC) are pursuing diplomas and certificates while preparing for post-high school classes and occupations. Students in the Academic Success Center (ASC, also part of the SLC) are receiving more individualized attention in a particular area of struggle. It is our joy to hear success stories from graduates who state that they are well-prepared for college because of the education they received right here at FCS. We truly believe God is going to continue to do great and mighty things through our graduates as we desire to affect our community for Christ.
Certainly, we expect to see academic (achievement) growth in our students. Each year we take the results from the standardized tests and evaluate how the class performed (as a whole) and then how the students performed (considered on an individual basis). This information helps us to evaluate our curriculum choices and instructional methods to make sure we are delivering a high quality education. Near the end of each school year teachers and administration reevaluate the curriculum to verify that each necessary component (based upon our learning objectives and standards) is present. We understand that achievement test results are just one factor to consider, however. Are the students able to defend answers in class? Can they articulate their opinions and thoughts? Are we developing good writers? These questions are pursued in the classroom daily and prayerfully developed in the lives of our students.
While the focus of this blog is on academics, it is imperative to note that the faculty and administration of FCS view students’ spiritual growth as a primary goal. While this area of growth will be discussed in a later blog, I would be remiss to not include this as part of academic excellence. It is our greatest joy and privilege to introduce our students to the saving work of Jesus, to assist students with daily struggles, to counsel them in time of need, to pray for them and with them, and to be a resource for them after they graduate.
Thank you for partnering with us on this mission.