As we’ve gone through the parent-teacher meetings this week, several of you have asked questions over issues or comments made by folks in the community who have little or no knowledge of private schools. I want to help you answer some of these comments if I may.
L’Abris students must take get a GED after finishing high school. L’Abris diplomas are not worth anything. These two comments are related so I’ll deal with them together. No, L’Abris students do NOT have to take a GED course or get a GED*. L’Abris diplomas are worth the same as public school diplomas – the cost of the paper to print them. A diploma is only as good as the transcript it represents, no matter what school you attend. As for continuing your education in college or university, in my experience, the only thing that a college or university cares about is what your GPA was in high school, your transcript (list of courses) and how you perform on an entrance exam such as ACT, SAT, COMPASS or some similar test. This is true for L’Abris students and public school students. As long as I’ve been in education (over 26 years), I’ve never known a college or university to refuse admittance based on the name of your high school! In summary, L’Abris students must pass an ACT, SAT, COMPASS or similar test to be admitted to college or university – JUST LIKE KIDS FROM PUBLIC SCHOOLS.
To date, no L’Abris student has ever been denied admission to college or university based on the school they attended.
I contacted Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg and Black Hawk College in Moline in order to set up a relationship with them so L’Abris students can take dual-credits in their Junior/Senior years. Both colleges were happy to work with us. I have one student already taking advantage of this relationship this year at Carl Sandburg – our first!
It is illegal for L’Abris to switch to a four-day school week. This comment really shows the ignorance of the one making it! Over 120 school districts in 21 states already use a four-day week. There is much debate over the issue, as you can imagine. The state of Michigan is forcing some districts to return to a five-day week by 2015-2016, but their reasons for doing so are not valid, in my opinion. On the pro side, many districts have seen an improvement in attendance and graduation statistics with a four-day week. Also, several districts have seen an academic improvement that is attributed to better student & teacher morale.
At any rate, there are many public school districts in the country using a four-day week already. There is legislature currently before Illinois congress to allow four-day weeks for public school districts that choose to go that way, but we’ll see if it passes. Similar legislation failed to pass about 12 years ago.
The state of Illinois does not require private schools to go five days a week or even to hold classes so many hours a day. We are currently free to operate as we please. The only stipulation is that the course material be taught in English (unless a foreign language course) and be equivalent to national standards. When I started L’Abris Academy, I contacted the Regional Office of Education. They were very helpful and gave me a list of curriculum and academic publishers that they recognized for use in private/home schools. What do you know? Our curriculum was on that list! I’ve been in the field of education for over 26 years. I’ve learned a thing or two along the way and usually know what I’m doing!
The majority of the curriculum I use is designed to be self-guided or at least, to progress at the individual student’s pace. My students will certainly be able to work at home over the long weekends if they need to do so. My goal this summer is to get all of our videos and lectures uploaded to a cloud drive so students may access the videos and lectures at home as they need.
L’Abris is not accredited. No, it is not, and I’ll tell you why. Accreditation is about control. If I am accredited by the government, then I must do what the government says. That defeats the whole purpose of having a private, Christian school. I would not have the freedom to teach what I feel is best for the students. The government would tell me what to do because they have “accredited” me. No, thank you!!! I don’t believe the government has done a great job with the schools they currently accredit; so, why would I want their approval? I’ve looked into being accredited by one of the three nationally recognized accrediting agencies for private schools. I was sent paperwork (which is fine) and told to send in around $2,000 a year. What??? I cannot afford that. Again, accreditation is about money or control, not about quality of education.
Having said that, I’m not opposed to being evaluated or seeking approval for a specific reason. The Department of Defense did not recognize L’Abris Academy when a student applied to the military. So, the DOD asked if they could send an educational evaluator from Michigan who is on contract with the DOD. She came twice and grilled Cajun and I on a multitude of topics, and examined our curriculum and procedures. We passed with flying colors. We currently have Class 1 status with the DOD.
A few years ago, I wanted to offer the Stanford 10 tests to my students. Pearson Educational Company, who controls access to the Stanford 10 test, only allows certified schools to administer that test. Again, I submitted our credentials with a list of curriculum that we use and asked for an evaluation by their certification team. We were granted that certification so we can use the Stanford 10 test.
*I am aware of a few community colleges in the country who asked students from non-accredited high schools to get a GED so they could access federal grants or loans. This has been an ongoing issue for colleges for many decades. Again, it’s about control. In the cases that I’m referring to, the students simply passed the GED and were able to access federal funds. However, students not needing federal funds were granted admittance to the same schools from non-accredited high schools. I don’t know if this problem may arise here for our students or not. Again, I have no control over that, but when you want government money, you must do what the government says. I still will not seek accreditation, however, because I want the freedom to teach Biblical values to our students as well as to be able to choose whatever curriculum I feel is best.
L’Abris is not a “real” school because they do not have a gym or sports programs. Again, this comment makes me laugh. How many schools throughout the millennia operated without gymnasiums or sports programs? The last generation of Americans (often referred to as the great generation, that fought two world wars and brought this country to its greatest strength) was largely educated in one-room school houses with NO gyms or sports programs. Yet, I guarantee that current public school students in grade 8 could not pass the grade 8 exam of that time. So, let me ask: how have our beautiful gyms and fully-funded sports programs improved our quality of education? Is the environment of current public schools better because of their wonderful facilities? Do fancy facilities guarantee quality of education and character formation? Even a brief look at our high schools and colleges today show that the answer is NO! I find it sad that parents are actually ready to judge the quality of a school on whether or not they provide a program and place for students to throw or kick a leather sack of air around while running up and down a field or court. Yet, nearly every month, L’Abris Academy is ridiculed or dismissed on this fact alone!!!
I’ve been asked to answer these questions in a public forum such as the newspaper. I don’t plan to do that, however, because I’m not interested in getting into public debates or in bashing the public schools. There are a lot of good teachers trying to do their best every day in our local public schools and I’m sure that’s true nation-wide. I just feel the system itself is broken and want to take advantage of the freedom we currently enjoy to offer an alternative to like-minded families. L’Abris Academy is not for everyone. I’m very picky in considering who I allow to attend. I wasn’t as careful once as I should have been and a few students were not allowed to return. I’m determined to avoid that mistake again, if at all possible. I ask that you parents help me by not referring families to L’Abris who you know are not of the same mindset or share the same values.
I apologize for this lengthy email, but I thought that having more information may help you answer the questions or comments you hear from uninformed people in the community.