Very often, schools with high expectations are also schools where students must fall within a narrow range of interests and abilities to be successful. Not so at CCHS. The slogan, these days, is that everyone can learn. Teachers may believe it, but their schools must be planned to allow them to practice that belief for it to matter. CCHS has an impressive level of direct individual support planned into its program. CCHS teachers know their students well, and the school’s program gives them meaningful opportunities to use what they know.
A genuine sense of community, evidence of sustained engagement, work at deeper levels of understanding, and success for many kinds of students—these are only four indicators that show how well CCHS is serving its students. Yet, the school’s impressive work would mean little if its only purpose was to produce clever graduates. The school has a vision for a Christian way of being in the world and a strong set of goals for what students should believe, understand, know, and be able to do in order to live by it. Unlike the big picture goals of so many schools, at CCHS, these goals actually matter. When I asked a student to explain her portfolio to me, she pulled out her copy of the school’s goals, saying that her portfolio would show how she had met them. To me, the most impressive characteristic of CCHS students is their awareness that their learning is aimed at a Christian life.
Some people might walk into CCHS and conclude that its excellence came about spontaneously. Nothing could be further from the truth. The school’s quality comes from beliefs that have been carefully developed into plans, and plans that have been improved to meet students’ needs. The students’ responses matter too; they must rise to meet a school’s vision. The teachers and students at CCHS both deserve congratulations for the learning community that they have built together.
Teacher educators sometimes do a reality check on the quality of a learning environment by asking themselves, “Is this a place where I would want my own child to be?” When it comes to CCHS, I would have no reservations about answering, “Yes.”
Lloyd Den Boer
Graduate Student in Secondary Administration
School of Education
University of South Dakota