Journey to Excellence

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The Journey Continue

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Since the initial rollout of the Journey to Excellence 2.0 report at ASDASA 2021, work has continued developing resources, materials, and programs related to Journey to Excellence. In the coming months, there will be many additions to this website related to Standards Based Education, Mental Health, Accreditation, Leadership, and Continuous Improvement.

One of the most significant points learned during this extended development time is that education was never meant to be a point of arrival but a description of an eternal exploration and expansion of understanding. An Educators participation in learning is ultimately a story that started in Genesis, and its continuation is described at the end of Revelation as we continue learning more about the Creator and His creation forever.

Components of Accountability

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The North American Division Office of Education has voted to work collaboratively on a researched-based, meaningful accountability model. This accountability model is framed in this document to provide a systematic process to guide continuous improvement. The conceptual framework is based on a review of research on effective education accountability systems (Bae, 2018; Jimenez & Sargrad, 2017; Marion, 2016; Martin, Sargrad & Batel , 2016; Woods, 2018).

Accountability models can serve many purposes, including sharing information, measuring progress toward shared goals and supporting greater educational equity. This conceptual framework is built on an accountability system that is designed to be meaningful for our schools. It includes measures for student success, accountability of leadership, a development of systems for supporting schools and administrators; tools for assessment and accountability; standards for engagement of stakeholders and goals for continuous improvement.

Curriculum, instruction, assessment and professional learning are critical success indicators for school systems. All levels of system operation have to link back to improvement of student achievement. High expectations must be in place for school system leaders, principals, teachers, students and their parents.

The NAD recognizes that not every school will have unique goals and timelines for implementing this framework. The goal of this accountability outline is to create a common language, similar expectations, and a standardized sample priority reporting system.

Guth et al., adroitly puts it this way, “assessment in and of itself does not constitute a standards-based accountability system. Assessments must be aligned with content standards and designed to measure progress toward them. Moreover, a strong accountability system must work to build the capacity of teachers to implement content standards at the classroom level and should include incentives for the continuous improvement of performance not only at the level of the individual student but also at the level of the school”.

This framework is designed to create an effective accountability system where the components are not standing alone but are connected and work together to produce the desired outcome – the highest levels of excellence in our schools, while engaging in an ongoing relationship with Jesus.

“The source of [true] education is brought to view in these inspired words that point to the Infinte One: In Him “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:3. The world has had its great teachers, men and women of giant intellect and extensive research, people who have stimulated thought and opened to view vast fields of knowledge. But there is One who stands higher than they. As heavenly bodies in our solar system shine by the reflected light of the sun, so, as far as their teaching is true, do the world’s great thinkers reflect the rays of the Sun of Righteousness. Every gleam of thought, every flash of the intellect, is from the Light of the World.” Education p. 14

Central to this conceptual framework is the mission and purpose of Adventist Education. Adventist education strives to combine spiritual growth, academic excellence and to prepare students for the demands of an innovative educational vision that provides the intellectual agility, flexibility, and creativity needed to succeed across various social and professional settings.

“It is his [the true teacher] ambition to inspire them with principles of truth, obedience, honor, integrity, and purity—principles that will make them a positive force for the stability and uplifting of society. He desires them, above all else, to learn life’s great lesson of unselfish service.” Education, p. 29-30.

This conceptual framework has six broad categories to outline the NAD concept for accountability. The categories are:

1: Alignment of NAD content standards.
The foundation for any accountability system is a set of clearly defined content standards that spell out what students should know and be able to do.

2: Student performance standards and assessments.
Performance standards (proficiency scales) and assessments to measure students are meeting the standards are established and implemented.

3: Ongoing data analyses and accreditation.
Performance standards for schools are established and become the basis for evaluation, support and intervention. Schools should be encouraged to analyze school, teacher and student assessment data in the accreditation cycle.

4: Continuous improvement.
Schools continue to self-evaluate and grow with the support of stakeholders and through consistent evaluation of action plans and meeting stated goals and benchmarks in the CI process.

5. Stakeholder involvement and engagement.
Establish and cultivate broad-based support with stakeholders. This will include involving school boards, administrators, teachers, parents, students, churches and the wider school community in all stages of CI as appropriate.

6. Continuous improvement of the accountability system.
A final critical element of an effective accountability system is a periodic, systematic checking on the effectiveness of the accountability system.

Transactional vs. Transformational Education

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Learning is a spiritual and evangelistic endeavor described in the book Education. “It is the harmonious development of the physical, the mental, and the spiritual powers. It prepares the student for the joy of service in this world and the higher joy of wider service in the world to come.” Ellen White, Education, 13 God, while visiting Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, used their curiosity to reveal more of the wonder of His character. Even before the fall, God didn’t assume anything about the relationship with His creation. He actively revealed Himself and His love so that His love would willingly b reciprocated. “In this communion is found the highest education. It is God’s own method of development.” Ellen White, Education 14 With this picture of learning, we must consider the methods we use to encourage classroom learning. “They (students) need the best instruction and religious training. They need that virtue that comes from God, added to knowledge, which will qualify them for trying and responsible positions. The intellectual and spiritual growth should be as marked as the development of the physical powers.” Ellen White Sabbath-School Workers January 1, 1889

Because education influences our understanding of the world and the Creator, it has been the constant battleground in the Great Controversy. Over the centuries, educational systems’ methods and motives have been shifted subtly and obviously to influence the worldview and values of generations. Often education is one of the first shifts leaders and governments make when they want to change or control their society. Luther and Melanchthon recognized this as they sought to break the control and abuse they found in the church of their day. “To neglect the young in our schools is just like taking the spring out of the year. They indeed take away the spring from the year who permit the schools to decline because religion cannot be maintained without them.” Martin Luther

They identified the transactional nature of the predominant educational institutions of the day as fundamentally broken and dangerous. “The memory was cultivated as a means of keeping down free activity of thought and clearness of judgment. In the place of self-government mutual distrust, espionage and informing. Implicit obedience relieved the pupils from all responsibility as to the moral justification of their deeds.” E.A. Sutherland, Studies in Christian Education, 16-17. Students were encouraged to place a higher value on arbitrary titles, pomp, and circumstance, using grades to measure themselves competitively to other students rather than focusing on their growth and understanding of the natural world and its Creator. The system Luther and Melanchthon fought against was designed for control and uniformity, in direct defiance of God’s education system in Eden. Transactional education emphasizes learning from discovery and wonders to an abstract and mundane action devoid of a greater calling. It becomes a method to numb and holds down the very nature of our Creators’ intent for us now and into eternity. Transactional education cheapens learning to a transaction of knowledge alone in the place of meaningful growth and development of a relationship. In a transactional model, the statement, “My students are grade motivated.” is acceptable. But it should be as upsetting as hearing an educator say, “My students are candy motivated.” “The true teacher is not satisfied with second-rate work. He is not satisfied with directing his students to a standard lower than the highest which it is possible for them to attain. He cannot be content with imparting to them only technical knowledge, with making them merely clever accountants, skillful artisans, successful tradesmen. It is his ambition to inspire them with principles of truth, obedience, honor, integrity, and purity—principles that will make them a positive force for the stability and uplifting of society. He desires them, above all else, to learn life’s great lesson of unselfish service.”Education, 29, 30 (1903).

When viewed as an eternal and primarily spiritual endeavor, education reveals it to be a beautiful combination of the practical, spiritual, and natural relationship with a loving and wondrous Creator. Such an education system should seek something different; originality and independence of mind, love of truth, and the power of reflecting and forming correct judgments. The Adventist system was built to recognize the needs of the individual, creating an education customized and differentiated to the learner. “Permitting the student in council with teachers, to select subjects according to their future needs.E.A. Sutherland, April 21, 1919. In this context, education is ecstatic, filled with wonder and discovery, a delightful unfolding of a relationship with the Creator. His nature is revealed in some new understanding as our curiosity spurs us on to grow. Creating an individual, “in the image of God, endowed with a power akin to that of the Creator-- individuality, power to think and to do. The student in whom this power is developed is the students who bear responsibilities, who are leaders in enterprise, and who influence character. It is the work of true education to develop this power, to train the youth to be thinkers, and not mere reflectors of other’s thoughts.” Ellen White, Education, 12 “For teachers to carry out this program, making a successful combination of classroom work and experimentation, or demonstration, the course of study must be reduced to essentials, not only must unimportant subjects be weeded out, but minor details and non-essential portions must be eliminated from those subjects that are retained. This will reduce that academic corpulence to normal proportions.” E.A. Sutherland April 21, 1919

In the final chapter of the book Education, Ellen White describes the return of the Eden school to a recreated earth. “There we shall know even as also we are known. There the loves and sympathies that God has planted in the soul will find truest and sweetest exercise.” Ellen White, Education 306 But throughout her writings, she seeks to remind us of what the Bible tells us: Adventists are not to sit around waiting for the return of His perfection. Instead, we are to take up the ministry He calls us to and actively seek, to the best of our ability, to build Heaven’s ideals now. Our role is to equip students to learn for eternity, even more, to love learning for eternity, and to be transformative!

Education is Heaven or it should be...

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Learning is change. Education is a process that changes the learner. Ellen White reminds us of this on page 281 of the book Education: “The teacher is not merely to accomplish the daily tasks, to please their employers, to maintain the standing of the school; they must consider the highest good of their pupils as individuals, the duties that life lay upon them, the service it requires, and the preparation demanded.”

As she describes, education is about more than content, memory, compliance, grades, or even employment; it’s preparation for eternal fulfillment and purpose.

In George Leonard’s book “Education and Ecstasy,” he describes it like this: “Education, at best, is ecstatic. At its best, its most effective, its most unfettered; the moment of learning is a moment of delight. This essential and obvious truth is demonstrated for us every day by the baby and the preschool child, by the class of the artist-teacher, by learners of all ages interacting with new learning programs that are designed for success.“

Doesn’t this attitude of joy, curiosity, and wonder describe heaven? At the end of the book Education, page 301, the school of Eden, our work here on earth now, and the new school of Eden at Christ’s return are described as one. “Heaven is a school; its field of study, the universe; its teacher, the Infinite One. A branch of this school was established in Eden; and, the plan of redemption accomplished, education will again be taken up in the Eden school.”