What Are You Banking On?

School improvement in the United States generally takes the form of some external driver to bring about change.  By using the word “external,” I mean external to the individual members of the professional staff.

© 2009 Tracy Ruggles. Creative Commons. See image citations for full reference (#40).

© 2009 Tracy Ruggles. Creative Commons. See image citations for full reference (#40).

In my own career in education, now spanning more than half a century, I have seen state boards of education mandate increases in the requirements for a high school diploma, legislative committees increase standardized testing requirements in an effort to make schools more accountable, and the federal government offer a number of carrots to local school systems to improve student learning.  Such measures are individualistic in nature and they are meant to appraise, reward, and punish individuals who do not measure up, whether professional staff or students.  The result is that little improvement occurs.

Such efforts to improve schooling are structural in nature.  It is not that these measures are wrong and have no place in schooling.  Rather, they are needed.  But they are not effective as strategies to improve the quality of the school experience.  The education of children is first a matter of the heart.  Be reminded that the body of Christ, composed of individuals who have experienced a new birth, is an entirely new culture.  It is unique to this world.  The prophet Ezekiel (11:19) saId this:  “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you…”

The challenge for the leadership in a local Christian school is to work to bring about cultural change, not just structural change.  A group of people who give testimony of a new birth should be able to reflect the nature change that they have experienced in a new culture for the local Christian school.  Christian schooling should become a matter of the heart.

So, what are you banking on?  Is structural change the core of your school improvement program?  Or, are you willing to consider school improvement strategies that are designed to build the capacity of the school staff to make Christian schooling a matter of the heart, showing the passion of the Lord Himself for the children that are enrolled and for the ministry as a whole?

Are you willing to bank on the collaborative effort of the total staff to build a “system” of education that is something bigger than the many individuals involved?  Are you willing to build a system that will capture the heart of the professionals involved?  Are you willing to work toward a “shared mindset” among the adults that will result in a program of Christian schooling that will leave students with a Christian worldview and the academic capacity to succeed at whatever God plans for their individual lives?

Can we do any less?

  1. What hope do you have for improving the quality of the Christian schooling experience for the young people that are involved?
  2. Is the heart of this post merely “pie in the sky” thinking?
  3. What is the facet of Christian schooling that is the greatest need for improvement?

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Dr. Suiter taught in the School of Education at Marshall University. After leaving public education in 1980, Suiter has served in a variety of leadership roles within the Christian school movement both at state and national levels.