Defining College Preparatory
At first glance, college preparatory appears to be a straightforward term meaning “being ready for college.” However, due to the diversity of colleges and educational styles present in today’s society, the term is harder to define and differs between individuals including educators and parents.
At CCA, we have intentionally included “college preparatory” in our Mission Statement, “By God’s grace, CCA exists to provide a Christ-centered, Classical and college preparatory education firmly rooted in Biblical truth… ”. The intent is that all students who graduate from CCA should be prepared to go on to college should they choose to go. This means that each student should have received instruction in the basic areas of studies needed to form a strong foundation of knowledge, each student should have obtained the tools for learning and each student should have received instruction and practice with eloquent communication.
A strong educational foundation is formed through all three stages of the Trivium. The foundation is further built with the Quadrivium and the Four Sciences (please see Defining a Classical Education). The liberal arts are emphasized early in the student’s education with frequent reinforcement during the whole process. Students get to discover the sciences and history with an intentional curriculum that covers the subjects in a spiraling or scaffolding method that involves repetition of previously learned material as new topics are introduced. History and Bible are covered multiple times through the K to 12 years. Each repetition goes into a deeper understanding and discussion as the children are developmentally ready. The Rhetoric students are exposed to higher math, sciences, and literary works. They participate in the Great Conversation and gain a further understanding of Great Books, including the Bible, also learning other foreign languages. All of this would not be possible if they did not receive a solid foundation in the Grammar and Logic stages.
We expect that each student should have obtained the tools for learning. These include memorization, penmanship, phonetic decoding, reading, comprehension, computation, critical thinking, analysis, problem solving, research, synthesis, effective writing, public speaking, and sound moral judgment (Wisdom and Eloquence). They will have learned how to study, how to take notes, how to ask questions and most of all they should possess a love of learning with a quest for continuing their education throughout their lives.
We expect that each student will have received instruction and practice in eloquent communication. During the Grammar stage, students present their projects to the class, they perform presentations for larger audiences (Chapel, Fall and Spring Presentations) and participate in speech meets. During Logic and Rhetoric stages, students have more in-class conversation (Socratic questioning), receive formal tools for Logic, and participate in multi-school debates, writing competitions, theatrical plays and film composition, which continue to refine their skills. In the final stages of Rhetoric, they learn how to formulate persuasive communication.
We understand that being prepared to go to college does not mean that we have failed if a graduate chooses not to go to college. We strive for academic excellence realizing that this is a different measure for each child. Children with learning challenges can present a challenge for our school. While we are a school which does not intend to teach special education to these students, some of these students with mild difficulties may be able to be educated at our school. The responsibility is on the parent and student to work with the teacher and administration to find workable solutions. The student must be able to master the standards for a grade prior to advancing to the next grade and they must comply with the school’s discipline policy. Teachers will assist parents and students with learning challenges if possible but it must not adversely affect the education of the other students in the classroom. It may be necessary for the parents of an affected child to be present in the classroom (teacher’s aide) and/or outside tutoring may be required. A Classical model of teaching can be a useful tool for educating those with difficulties since it should engage multiple styles of learning (visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic). Littlejohn and Evans wrote in Wisdom and Eloquence, “… the curriculum and pedagogical methods we will propose shortly (Classical education) have long proven successful in imparting wisdom and eloquence to students with diverse learning styles and even to those with certain learning difficulties. …, a liberal arts education is for everyone.” If the minor modifications are unsuccessful or the child requires more help than we are able to support, then it is necessary for that family to find an alternative form of education for their child.
We will use standardized testing to help assess our students and our educational process and the student’s basic foundation of knowledge. Currently, there are limitations of standardized tests to assess a Classical education. These tests cover only the content of multiple subjects. They are not as useful in a liberal arts education due to the integration of disciplines. Nor are these tests helpful in determining the ability of the mind to analyze and draw conclusions or how well a student can communicate persuasively. Despite these limitations, we will use them as a benchmark in the basic areas of study until a better assessment tool is available. We will set goals for our students’ performance on these tests that are comparable to or better than other schools similar to ourselves. We also have standards that each ongoing child should master prior to advancing to the next grade and for entering students that allow for proper placement in a particular grade. These will be objective tests administered at the completion of the school year. This testing allows the teachers to teach at the necessary level for each grade since the students will have a mastery of the material from previous years.
We expect our graduates to have SAT and ACT scores that will allow for college entrance and will use these scores to also assess the results of our educational process. Our classes in the Rhetoric Stage (10-12) are not intended to be college level classes. We are committed to building the foundation that will take the students to the next level of instruction, which to us is more important than teaching at a college level prematurely. While it may seem that the level of instruction in the Rhetoric Stage is at a college level, it is the means by which we instruct, including Socratic questioning and Mimetic (Didactic) teaching, that give the students the ability to master the material. We understand that some students may wish to test out of some entry level college courses (CLEP, AP) but this is not our primary goal to offer these courses. These courses tend to teach to a test, not to cover the material in ways that allow the students to have in-depth discussions. We do, however, encourage our students to take these tests and potentially obtain college credit. When colleges are asked what they are looking for in a freshmen, they have reported a desire for students who have a good foundation of knowledge but more importantly who are able to learn at this next level (capable of taking good notes, able to converse intelligently with the professor and other students, thinking logically on his/her feet). These are reasons that many colleges have been willing to use dual enrollment to entice high school level students who plan to go on to college after graduation. The colleges believe they can provide a better education than AP classes that many schools offer. With a well taught classical education at our school, our students will not only be capable of learning at the next level with a well-trained mind, but will also have Christ-likeness, biblical wisdom, character and a heart for service (see Portrait of a Graduate).
We expect that each student and family get some assistance with guidance counseling for college. CCA provides this service and we plan to continue to support these opportunities by them as much as possible in the future.
The overall goal is that each student has a well-trained mind that prepares them for further, in-depth study at an academic institution of higher learning. Being prepared with a strong foundation of knowledge and having the ability to communicate well with excellent reasoning skills will allow these graduates to have “Wisdom and Eloquence” which will allow them to serve Christ with distinction in society.