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Ascent and Beyond; Enriching the Lives of Our Students

As our students are getting ready to participate in state mandated testing and parents and students alike are making plans for next school year, it seemed like an appropriate time to communicate about the purposes of education, the effects of educational choices, and how Ascent Classical Academy supports students in their pursuit of the true, the good, and the beautiful.

While the upcoming CMAS testing is the culmination of a yearlong emphasis for most schools, our mission at Ascent is different. Other schools focus their curriculum around these state-mandated tests, the results of which do nothing but enhance their own school profile. We instead, focus on teaching a curriculum that benefits our students, not the school, through its emphasis on timeless principles and virtue which also happens to produce scores that matter to our students – namely, PSAT, ACT, SAT, and AP test scores. This focus yields
more college acceptances, scholarships, and success in life after high school. Even though we do not teach to the test (and probably because we don’t), we still outperform surrounding schools on these state- mandated tests.

From our school’s founding, our purpose has been to enrich the lives of students by providing the best educational experience while setting them up for success in college and life. To that end, we designed the size of our school very intentionally – large enough to provide robust programs and small enough to offer opportunities to the most students possible. This is born out of the desire to help develop well-rounded young men and women, not only because being well-rounded is good for them, but because students who are versatile, accomplished, and well-educated are attractive to colleges and universities. This has allowed our students to engage in a wide variety of extracurricular activities to the extent that would not be available to them in a much larger or smaller program. The larger the school and the more “opportunities” that a school offers its student body can, actually, limit opportunity for the individual student. While larger schools with two, three or four thousand students may offer more opportunities on paper and in total, in how many of those will your child be able to participate? What most students experience when attending larger schools is that they must dedicate themselves to one sport, activity, or club to be able to participate. As I have dealt with college admissions officers over the past several years, one thing they consistently tell us is that past actions are the best indicator of future success – if a student is not involved at a high school level, they will not be involved at a college level. We will be able to provide these opportunities to our students and they will be the beneficiaries, not only through college admissions successes and also
scholarship offers, but life success.

Colleges are looking for students that do not simply meet the bare minimum requirements; therefore, the elective courses your child selects plays an important role in college acceptance and scholarships. Colleges want students who take a third year of a foreign language, a fourth year of science, or participate in a fine arts program for multiple years. In short, the most sought-after students for college admissions are those that treat their electives as opportunities for academic growth rather than merely checking a box – their elective choices enrich their high school transcript and show true academic curiosity. The curriculum at Ascent, including elective choices, has been structured with this end in mind, giving our students the most robust high school educational experience and placing them in the most advantageous position when looking toward higher education.

Not only does a student’s performance in high school matter – but the school where they achieve their success is very important to college admissions and scholarships. Along with every transcript, colleges receive a school profile and a reading list. This allows those
making difficult admissions decisions a chance to see what kind of school a student attended and what they have read. Our school profile is widely respected and shows a course of study which prepares our students for higher education. Our curriculum is recognized as one that prepares students to successfully get into college, to enjoy success while attending college, and to live successful lives now and
in the future.

A classical, liberal arts education in high school is not only important for the students that are seeking a four-year university, but also for our students that may be pursuing a two-year associates, technical, or vocational degree. The classes taken at Ascent are just as relative for those students that may be entrepreneurial types, plan to travel, or choose to stay at home and begin to raise a family. For these students, a quality high school education is even more necessary as the foundation obtained during this time will be sustaining them as
they pursue the next phase of adulthood.

A common refrain heard in the office is, “My child needs to attend a larger school so he/she can be attractive for an athletic scholarship.” If college athletics are in your student’s plans, your high school education is paramount to making that a reality. There is a level of college sports for nearly EVERY high school athlete. Between junior colleges, the NAIA, NCAA Division I, II, and III, there is somewhere that would love to have your student-athlete on their team. What people do not realize is that one’s athletic ability is NOT the primary factor
in getting onto a collegiate team! Students with a solid high school education are more likely to qualify for academic money in college. A high
school athlete who has qualified for an academic scholarship is always more attractive to recruiters than another athlete with equal ability that has not qualified for an academic scholarship. Your choice of high school academics will make an enormous difference in getting on a collegiate team. Conversely, those student-athletes who are not well-educated in high school will find college admittance difficult no matter
their skill level.

All of this is to say that we are very proud of the principles upon which our school was founded, excited about where we are today, and hopeful about our future. Students will spend roughly 6,500 hours in class during their 7th – 12th grade career. These are formative hours in the life of a human being. Where you choose to send your child to school matters! It matters not only as to the quality of education children will receive, but goes a long way in shaping the kind of people they will become. We appreciate the faith that has been shown to us through the entrustment of your most cherished treasure to our care – we take this responsibility seriously and fervently strive every day to do our best by our students.

Mark McAfee,  Headmaster