Monday, February 3, 2020

FYI...ACSI...ESO...FOR...CCS

The name of this blog implies the foundational nature of topics we address here. Most home-owners have never seen the foundation of their house. It’s deep underground, and if all goes well--if it’s holding firm--you don’t think much about it. When building a house, you “begin with” that unseen foundation. The same is true with a school.

In Matthew 7, Jesus is wrapping up the “Sermon on the Mount,” which outlines foundational truths for Christ followers, and He reminds His large audience that heeding these truths will make them like the “wise man who built his house on the rock.” Later in the 22nd chapter of Matthew, Jesus is asked which is the greatest commandment (of the 10). His answer reflects first man’s need for a vertical relationship (love God) and second for lateral relationships (love people).

These thoughts came to mind last August (2019) when a committee met as part of our ACSI accreditation process. Shelley Watkins has played a key role in five accreditation and re-accreditation processes since 1998. She led the meeting. The topic? ACSI had asked us to outline ESO’s for CCS. Wait. What?

Like all industries, education thrives on cycles of jargon. ESO’s are Expected Student Outcomes. ACSI is asking its accredited schools to describe what their graduates would ideally “be like” after spending formative years in their program.

We looked at some samples from other ACSI schools, and we agreed with most of their “outcomes,” but our group also felt like the lists were a bit random and over-complicated. So we posed this question: Shouldn’t our ESO’s reflect the way Jesus himself summed up all His teachings? In other words, if Christian education is built upon “the solid Rock,” won’t our “outcomes” reflect first a spiritual/vertical relationship with God? And secondly, won’t it sharpen human interactions? In fact, don’t all other “learning” categories simply maximize the loving, respectful ways we interact with our world and those with whom we share it? (Science, language, math, the arts, etc.. Do not these disciplines help us better love and serve others?) Once we agreed on this foundational premise, the ESOs fell into two distinct categories.

Does having published ESO’s mean that all CCS graduates will be cookie-cutter models of those outcomes? Of course not. Education is a process not a product. CCS is a life-prep setting not an assembly line. This is especially true of spiritual matters, and much of the New Testament underscores the steps of spiritual maturation and the fact that we all fall short in that process. Those same pages, however, do tell us “by their fruits you will know them,” and what is fruit but the “expected outcome” of being part of the Vine. (John 15:5). Even so, we realize that Biblical ESO’s are not earned like merit badges; they are focal points that we strive toward in our K-12 program. We define success as helping each student to grow and make progress in the pursuit of God’s purpose for their lives. (Proverbs 27:17)

Click Here to see the full Expected Student Outcomes document.