Should Church School Students Be Tested? : LUSENET : A.M.E. Today Discussion : One Thread

One of the "reforms" I have implemented since assuming the duties as Superintendent of the Church School is the adoption of a formal Quarterly Test. Testing represents one part of my five-fold strategy designed to raise the Theological IQs of our members. The test is administered at the end of the Quarter and is designed to serve as an evaluation instrument to see how effective students are grasping key Biblical concepts. The subliminal message that testing communicates is the high degree of importance I place on studying and applying the Sacred Text. Testing is not unique to just "secular schooling". Jesus gave periodic pop quizzes to make sure His Disciples were staying on their toes. In order to satisfy requirements by local Board of Examiners, AME clergy are tested on important subject matter. If the work of the Church School is to be considered important it requires that our faculty and students abandon the cavalier and indifferent attitudes we have about understanding and knowing our Church School Lessons. Too often the promotion policy we use to determine how our children migrate to the next Church School class is based strictly on age or grade considerations without any Biblical expectation or pre-requisite. This laissez-faire, more specifically LAZY, approach to promotion only fosters a "dumbing-down" mentality and encourages an anti-intellectual atmosphere. God calls us to excellence, not mediocrity!!! Testing is not the definitve panacea, but we must communicate better signals about the degree of importance we are applying to the work of Christian Education. QED

-- Anonymous, June 16, 2003


Mr. Dickens, your testing process is most interesting. I have a few questions regarding your implemtation of testing in your Church School: First, how does your plan include teacher training? Are your Church School teachers certified through Christian Education or is that not a necessary requirement? Second, have you adopted a certian text or curriculum that your Church School must utilize in order to effectively test for required information necessary to be promoted? And does this text or curriculum incorporate information about the AME Church in its quest to teach biblical application and information? Third, is there a placement test in order to "place" a student in their appropriate class? (Age doesn't equate to biblical and spiritual maturity and/ -or understanding). Currently our Church School uses booklets from the United Methodist Church and we promote children based on age not on certain criteria based on learned information. I emphasize critical thinking skills to my 1st and 2nd graders in hopes that they do more than regurgitate information. I figure they will hear the same biblical stories and information numerous times before they become adults. My concern is that my students have the ability to comprehend biblical stories at a basic level in the larger context of their everyday lives rather than learn scripture and major/minor characters. A lesson about talents leads to my teaching the importance and honor of being an acolyte in the AME Church even if I'm told, "my mom said I had to do it." I have a child in my class who is supposed to be in the preschool class, but feels too "grown-up" among "the little kids." He is boderline for my class (i.e., not able to read yet and a bit too antsy), but we let him in because he could bond more with his 1st and 2nd grade friends and can think very critically about issues once introduced to him. That leads to my final question, how does child development play a role in your plan? Social promotion is based on age because of maturity and self esteem issues. What do you do with a person (esp., child), who can't pass the test and therefore not be promoted? Your proposal implies a total reorganization of the typical Church School process. Your ideas open up a lot paths by which we can reasses our current learning and teaching processes and restructure our current format. How exciting! With the Church in the spirit of doing new and innovative things, I think that your ideas are quite timely. I would like to hear your thoughts regarding my inquiries.

Take care!

-- Anonymous, June 17, 2003

Brother have presented an interesting scenario. Within our local church, we do have a "watered down" version of testing concerning promotion of the students. Candidates are tested verbally at the end of the conference year, and there is a celebration at the close of the service. Additionally, Students are introduced to their new instructors and given a small taste of will be expected of them. Within the 4th District, a great deal of emphasis has been placed upon church school instructors to learn material and better teaching methods. Numerous seminars have been instituted, and persons are required to attend.

-- Anonymous, June 17, 2003

Sis. Terry:

Many thanks for your comments and questions. This is precisely the type of feedback and dialogue the AMEC needs IF we truly desire to allow professionalism to permeate throughout all of our Christian Ed ministries. Let me tackle each question one at a time.

Q #1 - "How does your plan include teacher training?"

A #1 - My first act as Superintendent was asking all teachers and staff to submit a copy of their resume to me so that I can assess our collective strengths and weaknesses. Teacher Training is fundamental to the testing program. I emphasize for all of my staff to be trained in all aspects of pedagogy, Biblical literacy and AME Fundamentals. Before a test is administered it is incumbent upon the teacher to demonstrate mastery of the subject matter. If teachers are not willing to be masters of the subject matter they are kindly asked to reconsider this ministry and step aside.

Q #2 - "Have you adopted a certian text or curriculum that your Church School must utilize in order to effectively test for required information necessary to be promoted? And does this text or curriculum incorporate information about the AME Church in its quest to teach biblical application and information?

A #2 - Yes. The Church School materials are obtained from the AME Publishing House (Sunday School Union) in Nashville, TN. The literature from our Nashville office is more than adequate for my testing purposes since it combines Christian Ed basics with our AME catechism.

Q #3 - "Is there a placement test in order to "place" a student in their appropriate class?"

A #3 - No. This is a very intriguing question. My testing strategy is based on "ex-post" evaluations. To be honest I never thought about it until you raised the point. This gives me something to consider before the start of the next Conference Year. Thanks a bunch!!!

Q #4 - "How does child development play a role in your plan? What do you do with a person (esp., child), who can't pass the test and therefore not be promoted?"

A #4 - Both Adult and Child development are important. I apply a form of spiritual Keritsu in my Church School. Keritsu is a Japanese term which translates into English as "continuous improvement". The test is one instrument where I can measure how succesful we are developing in our Christian Ed journey. If a child doesn't pass the test he/she is not held back but the student is expected to understand that more and better is expected when he/she is tested in the future.

My testing model is in its infancy form of development. There are several areas for improvement (i.e. keritsu) in the process. Hopefully future feedback of this type will continue. Thanks again for your interest. QED

-- Anonymous, June 17, 2003

Bro. Dicken's

This a most interesting concept and one I am very interested in. In training your teachers what have you found to be the general attitude of those teachers who you are training. Do you find a sense of pride or accomplishment from those who successfully complete the training process? What is the response of those who do not successfully complete the training? Thank you very much for this subject and sharing your practices.

-- Anonymous, June 19, 2003

Bro. Dickens: Thank you very much for your answers to my inquiries. I wish you much success in implemeting your program. Your expectations of your staff are refreshing. High expectations usually produce high results. I commend those teachers who took on the challenge to work in your innovative program. I pray for those who stepped down. Maybe in time they will do what is necessary to become part of the team. I particularly want to comment on your implentation of the Keritsu piece in your Church School. Being an educatior, I truly believe in lifelong learning. This idea of Keritsu, I believe, can help your Church School rethink how they view Christian learning and education. It won't be just a series of promotions, but a developmental process that helps with spiritual and intellecutual growth. The focus is about people, not just fancy programs. (Sometimes in our quest to do innovative things we forget the people for the program). Maybe you could consider doing motivational workshops, retreats, group activities, etc, to assist with self-esteem issues and bonding amoug the Church School. The desire to continually improve oneself, I believe, comes from within. If we are motivated and feel a loving bond among others, we are more apt to push forward and become the best we can be. These activities (workshops, retreats, etc.,), could probably be helpful for those who don't pass the criteria the first time around or who are nervous about testing in the future. Study groups/sessions could also be helpful before the test too. Something fun and interesting, not dull and boring. It could help everyone have a better attitude about the "test" and retain individuals in your Church School. As for placement strategies, I don't have any ideas thus far. Since this concept is so new to me, I'll have to think about that a bit. I am sure there are some educators or persons in the AME Church who specialize in such things as placement tests who could assist you.

I have another question, how do you think that Church Schools can better serve people with cogniative disabilities (i.e., autism, ADD, etc)? Your Keritsu idea has really made me ask a lot of questions, as I think it's philosophy creates (at least in me) a paradigm shift in regard to how we go about implementing Christian Education programs and curricula.

Please keep me posted about your Church School. Maybe our Church School could adopt some of your strategies in the future.

-- Anonymous, June 19, 2003

Nicole/Tam -

I adopted the idea of Keritsu in my Church School Strategic Planning Model in order for the faculty and staff to understand the importance of lifelong learning. True Kingdom Building demands that we don't confuse "terminal degrees" with terminal thinking. Many of our problems are self-inflicted. Nicole raises an important point by asking, "In training your teachers what have you found to be the general attitude of those teachers who you are training?" I found the general attitude to be complacency mixed with fear. Many of us resist change because we are uncomfortable with what change creates. I counter this attitude by stressing that change (positive) can be a catalyst in helping you and your students reach your creative potential. Those teachers who sucessfully completed the training program did see and understand the benefits of the program. Now Tam raises a very interesting point about special needs students (ADD, autistic, etc.). I have a student who is in this category and I must admit I have neglected to address it properly. By you raising this point it has caused me to reassess and retool my strategy. As the occupant of the Oval Office says, no child should be left behind. Thank you both for these insightful points. QED

-- Anonymous, June 19, 2003

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