Friday, October 20, 2017

Buttoning Up Quarter One!

My! The first quarter of school is coming to a close today. I have enjoyed much of what I have observed inside and outside of classrooms at ACA. I have included photos to highlight some top events that have blessed me that I'd like to share with you!

On Wed. Oct. 4th, the ACA student body took part in the state walk for schools and businesses to exercise for 30 minutes. At our school we called it a Walk in the Spirit and children walked and prayed for our president, political leaders, those in the military helping to protect our freedom, fire fighters, police, pastors, teachers, students and those who yet do not know Jesus Christ personally. The students did a wonderful job on the walk and many shared that it was a great experience.

Kaylei Jacob in Mr.Gascho's 4th grade class and her father Kelsey were motivated after hearing in church about the need for food for the hungry in central Iowa and decided there were other needs that they felt could be met by the donations of shoes that could come from ACA students who wanted to share with others. The ACA Shoe Drive was launched Monday, Oct. 16th and will run until Nov. 16. Toddler - adult shoes can be brought to ACA and placed in one of three bins around the school.

Chapel is a special time each week when the students gather together to hear a speaker share God's Word. ACA's Elementary Chapel spotlights students who love to praise the Lord through instruments and voices. We are fortunate that Mrs. Mungons, our music teacher, has many students who enjoy worshiping the Lord as they lead the elementary student body. 

Friday Oct. 13 was a day when students did not attend school, however we held an all-day professional learning where teachers met first in the morning to praise the Lord in song and prayer. Later in the morning, all faculty in  three different groups completed a task for our Christian School International (CSI) accreditation. The educators needed to rank where ACA was in various areas and give evidence for the rankings. Before lunch break, faculty worked together reading various articles to put into a resource bank on Biblical Worldview that could sharpen their minds and enhance their teaching methods. The Biblical Worldview Task Force members include Johanna England, Melissa Hult, Jenny Anderson and Joel Willoughby. These individuals were chosen in the spring of 2016 by ACA's Board of Education after the recommendation by the Instructional Leadership Team: Steve Robinson, Joyce Hansen, Alex Coleman, Lisa Ihnen and Suzanne Sears. In the afternoon, two technology presentations were made available for ACA educators. The SMARTboard presentation was led by Mrs. Hartmann, Miss Brugioni and Mrs. Appell where teachers learned recent strategies for SMARTboard operation. Lisa Ihnen facilitated a Chromebook in-service informing teachers of various ways to incorporate them into a variety of classrooms. Our professional learning priority is teaching from a biblical worldview, infusing into the classrooms more use of technology and working on a variety of curriculum tasks like evaluating K-8 math materials for future recommendation to ACA's Board of Education for implementation in 2018-2019. 

It is a pleasure to watch older students share their knowledge with younger children. Below view photographs of Mrs.Rose' fourth graders sharing their insect collections with Begindergarten students form Monica Dickinson's class. The children were able to view up close the insects and ask the scientists about the insects that they collected. 

ACA in its 25th year continues to be a school where our mission is evident: Building Christian Character for Tomorrow's Leaders! We are thrilled to partner with you as parents/guardians and appreciated all who came out during conferences to talk about your student(s) progress so far this year. I am excited to share much more with you in my ACA Elementary Principal's Blog second quarter!

Friday, September 29, 2017

First Impressions - Fall Semester!

WOW! It will be October 1 this weekend! The first month of school flew by! Much learning from a Biblical World view was observed in various lessons as I stopped into classes these past 6 weeks to watch teaching and learning. It was a pleasure to hear in one room how children need to be good stewards of their room and assist the teacher in keeping it tidy. The instructor shared that God has given us our school and we need to take good care of it!  In another room I asked a new child who transferred from home education what he most liked about being at ACA. He answered, "Learning about God with all of my classmates in all of my classes!" 

I have eaten lunch with many new 4th -6th grade students who have transferred from other Christian schools or public schools to learn what they are finding as appreciations about ACAor ways we can improve.  Many have responded like this:

Students are friendly and kind here!

The teachers talk to me and I know that they see me as more than just a student!

I like the food here!

We get to pray in school!

I like the small school feel-people treat each other like family! 

Next week when parents/guardians come to conferences be prepared for the instructor to pray for you and your child(ren) at the start of the conference! ACA was built on prayer and we will continue to be a school of prayer. Read in  today's ACA's Announcement about the ACA's Spirit Walk that will take place during chapel times on Wed.Oct. 4, 2017

It is a privilege and pleasure to work with the preschool, childcare and elementary children at Ankeny Christian Academy and YOU as parents/guardians who chose a Christian education for them!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Kickoff to School

I love the start of school! Faculty and staff members with administration pray for the students and families who will call ACA their school. Carpets in rooms are freshly shampooed. The paint on walls have been touched up. The playground wood chips have been spread thick. Welcoming bulletin boards have been created by instructors.  Even with all of that preparation something, however is ALWAYS missing until the students enter the school, the classrooms and our lives as the adults who will minister and serve them at ACA

As we begin the 25th year Building Christian Character for Tomorrow's Leaders, as elementary principal I want you as parents/guardians to know what an honor it is for the teachers/staff and I to pray for each of  them and YOU-their PRIMARY teacher! God has given you the HUGE responsibility to be in charge of them and you are accountable before HIM for their education and training. We are blessed that you have chosen ACA to support you in your quest!

Should there be things that you feel we need to know about the child(ren) you have that we will work with this year, please communicate important information that will help us know them better and will help them best learn, progress and grow spiritually, academically, emotionally/socially, behaviorally and physically. We want you to know that the elementary team that God has created here at ACA is here to assist YOU. 

One change that we have made to better serve you is to provide only the important information that you will need. Our weekly newsletters have been streamlined so you only receive what is needed rather than a summary of content taught in each subject area each week. With your busy schedules and many families with multiple students, you can discover in the newsletters things such as spelling lists,sight words for practice, Bible verse for weekly memorization as well as timely info. such as upcoming field trips or community service events. We want to make what we communicate to be short and summarize what you truly need to know. We will continue the practice of: 
1. Having students in 3rd-6th grades fill out a planner or agenda so you can know whatt homework they have and when BIG project due dates and quizzes or tests will be coming. 
2. using student learning targets so if you are interested each day when you pick up your child(ren) or visit with them at home each evening you understand the intent from the teacher what they intend fo rthe learner to know or do. Ask your child(ren) what their subject target was for the day. Your son or daughter may reply with something like these statements:
1. In art, "I can list the elements of design." 
2. In Bible, "I can name two names for God using scripture."
3. In PE-"I can demonstrate an overhand throw."
4. In math-"I can solve for x.. If 3+ x =5 ...x  must = 2."
5. In reading-"I can state the key story elements from the reading."
6. In Science-" I can explain the way that igneous rock is formed."

Our instructors work hard on making learning tasks challenging, purposeful and FUN at ACA. We look forward to a GREAT school year educating the minds and the hearts of the students!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Summer Momentum

My! July 4th is soon approaching; before we know it half the summer will be gone! I trust that you are enjoying all that summer brings. Looking at the photos below, you can see that summer is not a slow or dull time at school for those of us who work year round. We are giving tours, testing new students, and interviewing families interested in attending ACA. In August elementary class rosters will be available via email, and students will learn the name of their teacher(s) for the coming year. Please note that many factors go into creating classes and much prayer and consideration is given as the class lists are being formed.

Next week Dr. Robinson will celebrate his one year anniversary at ACA. I am so blessed to work with him as ACA's Elementary Principal. The Lord brought Mr. and Mrs. Robinson to HIS school for such a time as this in the school's existence. As we enter our 25th year, we are encouraged, as it seems that our enrollment is increasing each week! We already have 32 kindergarten children enrolled, which is the school's record. 

Whether it be painting/rearranging the main office, cleaning bird's nests from the signage on the gym, resurfacing the playground, hanging soccer nets, adding parking spaces to the parking lot, or readying our computer lab and Chrome books for student use, Mr. Toppin, Mr. Coleman and our staff are diligently preparing for the new school year.  We are excited to welcome students, parents and guardians to our 25th year, where we have the privilege of educating students' hearts and minds while "Building Christian Character for Tomorrow's Leaders."

In May we celebrated both Mr. Toppin and Mr. Coleman's ten year anniversary of faithful service at ACA. Many praise God for the work they have done here at God's school. Mr. Toppin is our Maintenance Director who often states, "Working at ACA is job security!" There are countless daily tasks that need to be done, in order for us to be great stewards of the building that God has provided for us. Duane works joyfully as unto the Lord, while masterfully handling these many needs. Mr. Coleman not only teaches high school science and math courses during the school year, but he also assists with computer technology support year round. We are grateful for his expertise and how he uses the talents that the Lord has given him for God's glory!

As we approach the midpoint in summer, please spend time reading each day with your elementary child(ren) or having them read alone. Returning to school, it is easy to identify the students who read consistently in the summer months. Earlier I shared that as a school we did well in the area of reading during our first year of using Formative Assessment System for Teachers (FAST). I was praising the Lord and celebrating with the teachers for how our readers progressed during our first year of implementation in grades K-6. 

Readers were assessed three times throughout the year in their ability to read fluently and understand what they read. In October, January and May, we tested each reader's ability to read fluently, using a test called Curriculum Based Measure in Reading (CBMR). The reader's scores were median passage, based on the middle score they earned out of three, short, one-page stories. The reader had one minute to read orally as much of the story as possible in the time period, using his/her best reading-noting expression. We also provided online testing for children to complete in our computer lab called aReading. This was an untimed test, where the students answered questions from the reading passages until they reached their final level that was based on their correct answers.  

ACA's percentage progression in children meeting or surpassing the expected grade level benchmark is as follows:

aReading:   Fall-69%       Winter-76%       Spring-79%

CBMR:        Fall-81%       Winter-84%       Spring-89%

Using the composite score in reading, ACA's percentage of elementary students who were at or above benchmark was 88.51% compared to all schools located in the Heartland Area Education Association (70.87%) and schools in the state of Iowa using FAST reading assessments (66.26%).  I am thankful for the incredible work of our teachers, children and parents/guardians who helped us in our first full year of implementing FAST.

May God richly bless you as you celebrate the 4th of July. Let us thank those who have and continue to ensure that our nation is the land of the free and the home of the brave. Let us also be mindful of the free gift of salvation that Christ offers and how he sets the captives free of the chains of sin and guilt!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Moving Forward into Summer

Summer is a busy time for many families! I pray these past four weeks since school was ended for the year, you all have been enjoying some refreshment and relaxation in God's creation with family and friends.

The past four weeks have gone quickly. I celebrated our year and culminated student achievement in our Elementary Award's Ceremony with many of you who could attend. During the post-service week, faculty/ staff along with Dr. Robinson and the board of education members and I celebrated the successful school year praising the Lord for all that He accomplished through all of us and YOU.

Mrs. Quick has been busy conducting tours and the office staff have been answering many questions about ACA for various interested people who have called in or stopped by. 

I have been assessing potential students, conducting Q&A sessions, and meeting with families for enrollment. We praise God for the interest many people have shown in discovering more about HIS school. We have enrolled many new students preschool through high school so far this summer. 

We look forward to even more who will be added to our class rosters in July and August. We are blessed by all of you who continue your investment in Christian education for your child(ren). We are thrilled that THIS year we will celebrate our 25th year of providing education to our students using a biblical worldview!  

ACA alumni are gathering tomorrow evening for a 5:30 pm women's volleyball game and a 7:00 pm men's basketball game in the ACA gymnasium. It is a blessing to see how former students continue to show kinship with fellow ACA students who are now adults. Consider attending this event and supporting former Ankeny Christian Academy students. 

This week I was able to visit with a woman who lives out of state and was in the 2000 graduating class at ACA. She shared her amazement that the school had grown and changed greatly! She remembered when ACA learners had class in churches and the DZ Manufacturing building. For those of us who only know 1604 West First Street in Ankeny as the school's home, we have MUCH to learn in this 25th year of celebration as we flash back over the quarter century thanking the Lord for all HE has done to start, sustain and grow HIS school!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Reading Assessments

The spring ACA reading assessment screening is complete! This fall you learned in my blog about the FAST reading testing that replaced our former reading assessment Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) that was used since 2008. 

Teachers assessed their students in reading fluency using a one minute oral reading test that is called Curriculum Based Measurement in Reading (CBMR). Students in grades 1-6 read three stories. Their median score from the reading passages was recorded into the state's Iowa Reading Portal. The accuracy, speed, and expression of a child's reading ability often constitutes higher comprehension. 

A second type of reading measurement where children were tested was called aReading. This is a test children read online where they answer multiple questions based on a reading passage. When the reader earns an accurate answer to the various questions the student can continue to higher-level passages. Once the student reaches a certain inaccuracy level in reading the passage's comprehension questions the test ends. 

Each reader is tested in the fall, winter and spring.Teachers evaluate their students results and determine if they have read below, reached, or surpassed the benchmarks that have been identified for the expected trajectory for appropriate grade level reading progress. 

At ACA we had a wonderful percentage of our students who met or surpassed the expected benchmark in the Spring reading tests. Schools that have effective core literacy instruction will  have 80% or higher of their children meet benchmark. We praise God for the students who tried their best, the teachers who instructed them and parents/guardians who understand the importance of consistent reading progress. Have your child read daily during the summer so his/her reading ability will continue to increase and the promise of reaching their fall benchmark will be a reality! 

The table below shows the fall winter and spring benchmark for each grade level for the two reading tests:curriculum-based measure reading as well as aReading tests. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Wrapping up Another Year

It is hard to believe that our school year will be over on Wednesday, May 24, with its noon dismissal. Much learning and growing has been accomplished at ACA this year. I count it a privilege to work with you as parents/guardians as well as the students at ACA teaching them, with our devoted faculty, to build Christian character to be tomorrow's leaders!  It doesn't matter if I am in a class of 6th graders or with childcare/preschool children, I am amazed at the fun that takes place while learning in each classroom! 

It matters not whether:

1. Children review the in-door recess expectations or enjoy a game of Monkey in the Middle.

2. Students enter a coloring contest from Missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators and earn prizes from Peru.

3. Pupils create chalk drawings of the respiratory system in second grade.

4. Little ones attend the wedding in Begindergarten for the letters Q & U.

5. Youngsters sing at a childcare/preschool spring concert.

6. First-sixth graders complete reading tests in the computer lab to determine understanding of reading passages.

7. Third graders earn a Thrilling Thursday party for great behavior.

8. Siblings enjoy the love of reading.

9. Third graders discover through Instruction using Junior Achievement resources taught by parent volunteers.

10. Boys and girls enjoy lunch with classmates. 

As you can read and view from the top ten items listed above there is NEVER a dull moment at Ankeny Christian Academy. Working with your child(ren) as ACA's Elementary Principal is a pure joy. I thank you for your investment in Christian education this past year!