Flourishing Schools (Part Three)

I have been writing lately about flourishing schools.  In my role as the Head of School, I try to use the research on flourishing schools to help me examine my role in addition to the school’s efficacy.  I have been using questions in the self-evaluation.  One such question a school should ask itself in determining its strength and value is, “Is there an extensive and adequate student activities program?” To answer this, we must first agree with the value of student activities and exactly what student activities encompasses.Student activities are anything that the student does in a school program outside of the classroom and the specific learning outcomes described in the curriculum maps.  This would include athletic and non-athletic activities such as, athletics, clubs, and other outlets for students to extend themselves beyond the classrooms lessons.The nagging question for any educational leader is, “Do they help the students achieve those important outcomes?”  Student activities have assumed an increasing and apparently permanent role in schools, yet they seem to escape the critical scrutiny of curricular review that is applied to academic areas. Great, but, do student activities contribute to the achievement of intended learning outcomes?Student activities have assumed an increasing and apparently permanent role in schools, yet they seem to escape the critical scrutiny of curricular review that is applied to academic areas. Great, but, do student activities contribute to the achievement of intended learning outcomes?Research only provides limited help. Because the nature, number, and quality of student activities varies greatly from school to school, the conclusions can only be made in regards to a particular school.   Conclusions and suggestions may be helpful for pro-grams in other schools, but do not necessarily apply.  However, even though they are not generalizable, they can give insight during a school’s self evaluation when answering the questions about a flourishing school. Thus, I use the research from other schools to glean as much insight that I can.Here are some pf the common applicable themes from the research:

  • student activities provide motivation and recognition for many students who do not find motivation or recognition in the classroom.
  • Student activities enhance the student/teacher school/home and many other relation-ships, all effecting the school climate.
  • Although some activities rated higher than others in the categories of thinking, communicating, and cooperating, there is a clear consensus that student activities do contribute to the achievement of the learning outcomes.
  • Cooperation is the most highly rated outcome in both athletic and nonathletic activities. Since cooperation is an important life skill and cooperative effort in academic disciplines is limited, student activities fill a critical void in this area.

Of course there are many more reasons the student activities (athletic and nonathletic) are important.  This is why Salem Christian School works at ensuring the student life component of our program is robust.  Almost every student at our school is engaged in some student activity. Subsequently, we have implemented a Director of Student Life.  He is responsible for student council, spelling bees, Math Olympics,  fine arts events, varied clubs,  and many other opportunities for students to become involved.   Of course, our Director of Athletics is responsible for Middle School and High School, Varsity and Junior Varsity, ACCAC and PIAA games.    I for one am looking forward to seeing what programs Mr. Ference will be bringing to the school in future years through his position as Student Life Director. Additionally, I am excited to here of the addition of a junior varsity boys basketball team.

We welcome people with the ability and passion to offer after-school clubs, student activities, and other ideas.  Beware, if you have a great idea, we may call on you to come alongside of the school to get it started!

Flourishing Schools (Part One)

Flourishing Schools (Part Two)

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Flourishing Schools (Part One)

Lately the Salem Christian School governance, administration, faculty, and staff have been discussing the indicators of a flourishing school.  The School Committee (school governance) has been systematically evaluating SCS and how this school matches the rubric of a flourishing school rather than just an effective school.  The administration and directors are reading a book on school change and have been having significant discussion on how we can most effective lead the areas of school that are under our responsibility.  The faculty has been researching aspects of the school that they are passionate about seeing get stronger.  It is exciting to see this continued self-examination blossom into programmatic growth.

Curran (1983), a leading researcher of effective schools, based upon his research as well as the wide body of research available has provided some questions a school could use in self-examination.  We are using asking these questions as we continue to look for areas to improve.  The answers testify to what an excellent school that SCS is.

The questions Curran (1983) asks, “Does your school have:

  1. … a principal who is an active leader?
  2. …a positive school climate?
  3. …agreeable and workable discipline procedures and policies?
  4. …teachers who have high expectations for students?
  5. ..parents who are involved in the educational process?
  6. …productive methods of evaluating curriculum?
  7. …effective methods of evaluating teacher performance?
  8. …consequential methods of determining and evaluating student growth?
  9. …a realistic philosophy of education?
  10. …an extensive and adequate student activities program?
  11. …significant student services?


Curran and the others research and write from a secular worldview.  Therefore, they are not expecting or infusing the spiritual component into the mix.  However, as believers, we know that this is an important ingredient in an excellent and flourishing school.


I look forward to expounding on each of these questions in future weekly blogs.  It provides an opportunity for self-reflection.  Additionally, the helps us to see what an exceptional program we have here at Salem Christian School.


Curran, T. J. (1983). Characteristics of the Effective School–A Starting Point for Self-Evaluation. NASSP Bulletin, 67(465), 71-73. doi:10.1177/019263658306746514

Flourishing Schools (Part Two)

Flourishing Schools (Part Three)


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Philosophy Of Our Christian Education

As we continue to look at Curran’s and other researchers signs of a flourishing school we are confronted with the question, “Does your school have an adequate and realistic philosophy of education?”   There are so many ideas on how to teach.  And, SCS continues to evolve and grow in its delivery of the program.  However, within the mix of methodology and other items, foundation underpinnings of the school’s philosophical approach needs to be present.  That fundamental philosophy is the characteristic that make a Christian school Christian.   The philosophy behind a Christian education is distinctive in itself and deserves to be specially noted.

Education has been defined as “the process by which children and youth develop knowledge, skills, and character, especially through formal instruction, training, and study.  Philosophy, according to Webster’s Dictionary is “a pursuit of wisdom; a search for truth through logical reasoning; an analysis of the grounds of and concepts expressing fundamental beliefs.” The Greek define philosophy as “the love and pursuit of knowledge and truth.”

Adding Christianity, the essential ingredient, our philosophy of Christian education is like an artist who steps back from his work to view the masterpiece in its entirety. How he relates the parts to each other and to the whole reveals the mastery and success of his work. The effectiveness and outreach of our ministries hinge upon the development of our philosophy of Christian education.

A common phrase among Christian educators is “Kingdom building”.  Christian education in a broader sense is a lifelong, Bible-based, Christ-centered process of leading a child to Christ, building a child up in Christ, and equipping a child to serve Christ. There are five pillars required in order to  be considered a true philosophy of Christian education: Bible-based, Christ-centered, Holy Spirit-controlled, pupil-related, and socially oriented.

A Bible-based philosophy of Christian education presents the Bible as the foundation of all knowledge. Every aspect of education must be integrated into God’s truth. This would imply that the scope of God’s truth is universal. God’s truth is not dependent upon what education does.  Education uncovers that Truth and then facilitates the learning of the Truth for the student.

A living union of all aspects of education must take place. The home, church, and school must establish their precepts upon the Bible. Their premise must be that all truth is God’s truth; their communication must speak the truth in love seasoned with grace; and their conduct must speak louder than words realizing the powerful influence of godly behavior.  The hope is that  the result will be children of integrity and honesty balanced by God’s Word.  As a Christian school it is imperative to integrate the Truth in every discipline. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16).

A Christ-centered philosophy of education recognizes that Jesus Christ is our authority and Lord of Truth. “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Jesus Christ is our foundation. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 3:11). “In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 3:3). Christ is to have the preeminence in all things.

Dr. Paul Kienel said:

“The purpose of Christian school education is to show children and young people how to face Christ and then with the vision of Christ in their hearts to face the present world and the world to come.” We should lead our students to salvation in Christ, build them up in their faith, and equip them to serve Him. The result will be a spiritual haven where Christ reigns and learning is paramount.

Oswald Chambers said it best:

“The sweet sign that God has done a work of grace in our hearts is that we love Jesus Christ best; not weakly and faintly, not intellectually, but passionately, personally, and devotedly, overwhelming every other love of our lives.”

This is the work of a Christ-centered philosophy of Christian education. A Holy Spirit-controlled philosophy of education acknowledges the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of parents, teachers, and students. The parents and teachers must have His guidance to impart the truth to their students effectively and appropriately. “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide in you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him; but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:16-17). Parents and teachers must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to think Christianly and to effectively communicate the truth in the education of their children. Students need the leadership of the Spirit to love him with all their being. Romans 12:2 tells us, “And be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” The Holy Spirit correctly focuses the student’s knowledge to bring about moral conformity and wisdom

A pupil-related philosophy of Christian education focuses on what God intends every child to be. Parents and teachers understand that each child is a special creation of God (Psalm 139) and made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Yet, due to sin, they are fallen and in need of a Savior. Without this circtical ingredient, the rest is for naught and hollow.   Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are you saved by faith, that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God.” Ephesians 2:10 shares that “we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus.” Christian education is to instill in a child the knowledge of God; guide him in the development of his personal faith; and help him in the establishment of his Christian worldview.

A socially-oriented philosophy of education teaches young people how to interact and relate with the world. The student understands that all of life is God’s. There is no secular and sacred. All truth is God’s truth. The parents and teachers integrate faith and Biblical values into a lifestyle reflecting a Christian worldview by example and instruction to their students. “And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him” (Colossians 3:17).

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Teach Them Intolerance

LET’S TEACH OUR CHILDREN TO BE INTOLERANT!  Yes, I do mean this without any reservations.  But, first, we must understand when and how to do so.  Why should we tolerate things that are harmful and wrong?  Why should we accept the political correctness that squashes the Gospel?  We shouldn’t, and we should teach our children not to be so tolerant to these ideologies.  But, we must teach them to be tolerant and accepting of the people who espouse those ideas.  Can it be done?  If the Bible is true, then yes.  It can.  After all, we are told to love the sinner and hate the sin.  Isn’t it the same?

I read a quote by Dr. Machen recently and was intrigued.  Beyond the heady intellectualism of the words I found a truth that haunted me for days.  I already admit that I am different in that sense.  Most people would move on and forget the quote quickly.  I could not.

“Involuntary organizations ought to be tolerant, but voluntary organizations, so far as the fundamental purpose of their existence is concerned, must be intolerant or else cease to exist.”
― J. Gresham MachenChristianity and Liberalism

I was haunted about the immense privilege and responsibility of Christian school students, parents, and educators.    We voluntarily choose this organization.  We choose to immerse ourselves in the Truth each day.  We are a voluntary organization of folks who choose to ensure that the truth is instilled into the next generation, equipping them to change their future trajectory towards a more sacred path.

If Dr. Machen is correct, then we as believers who choose to follow Christ must be intolerant to the offenses against God’s truth.  We must stand up boldly and bravely proclaiming the Gospel and his truth.  However, in order to do so, we must ourselves understand God has absolutes for us to follow.  We must transform our minds to think like Christ.   Then, we must teach our children so they can be intolerant.  Why should we ever accept the counterfeit that steals of us of our purpose?

Mind you, I am saying that we be intolerant of the things creeping into our voluntary organization of Christ followers. I am not saying we should be intolerant of the people who are selling them.  To them, we show love and compassion while pointing out their goods are rotten.  Perhaps, we can persuade them with the prodding of the Holy Spirit to see that our organization is necessary.

Now can you see why it haunted me?  I could not shake the weight of my calling as a follower of Christ and educator.   It impressed on me the importance of teaching intolerance of the worldly things that are pervasive in our thought.  Are you ready to be intolerant? So, let’s be intolerant! Furthermore, let’s teach our children to be intolerant of the secular ideologies that are swallowing their eternal hope all the while loving those that don’t understand the harm they cause.

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