Strengthening Christian Schools – The Power of Assessment – Part 1 of 3


By Ron Gordon – Executive Vice President & COO of Renewanation


Organizations across all industries have long focused on employee performance to meet their objectives. Routine evaluations of performance are certainly commonplace. However, many organizations, especially those in the nonprofit world, have ignored the power of overall organizational assessment. Failing to assess processes from an aerial view prevents the discovery of underlying root causes, thus hampering healthy growth.


Leading management consultants, such as the late Dr. W. Edwards Deming, stressed the importance for leaders to focus their attention on the organization as a whole as opposed to the performance of specific individuals. Due to the devastation Japan experienced during World War II, General Douglas MacArthur requested that Deming travel to Japan and aid the reconstruction effort. Deming’s philosophies reshaped Japan’s thinking and ultimately revolutionized the world of manufacturing. One of his core principles was the need to focus on the overall management system. He indicated 94% of all the challenges and opportunities faced in an organization were attributed to the systems, not the individuals. He further emphasized that these systems were the responsibility of leadership. Leaders of thriving organizations have realized that assessment plays a critical role in identifying these system gaps and strengthening their key processes.


The same holds true in the world of education. While performance assessments for faculty, staff, students, and board members have become routine and are certainly necessary, Christian schools miss an even greater opportunity to improve their impact when they fail to additionally include overall system assessments. Although various accrediting entities gear their assessment in this fashion, schools typically become so singularly focused on meeting the detailed guidelines established during the accrediting process that they often miss key success factors specific to their school. The accreditation/reaccreditation audit is then viewed as the pinnacle event which rewards the desired certificate of achievement. With said “stamp of approval” in hand, school personnel breath a collective sigh of relief and carry on with the day to day. Like a student who studied and aced a huge test simply to generally retain the knowledge, rather than seek deeper understanding for futuristic growth and understanding, schools operate similarly. With common sense operational processes implemented and signed off by the accreditation auditor, the risk of complacency looms with key internal factors being ignored. Accreditation is extremely critical to legitimacy and public perception of a Christian school; however, it alone does not provide for the robust assessment needed to evaluate and measure the wholistic factors that are key to a thriving, forward thinking institution.


A truly objective and thorough assessment process can be extraordinarily powerful to a Christian school in numerous ways. First and foremost, assessment conducted by a third party entity can better aid in the identification of blind spots. Renewanation serves to partner with schools in this way. The ebb and flow of day to day school life is extremely varied and oftentimes riddled with ongoing troubleshooting. Many times, the struggles at hand are a result of weak processes. Such an environment understandably lends itself to “fix it” strategies that address symptoms, while unfortunately ignoring the often obvious root causes. Impartial, in-depth appraisal serves to identify and equip with best practices to achieve foundationally solid methods of operation. This model of assessment also provides a Christian school with the opportunity to benchmark against other similar entities, further helping to identify their relative core strengths and weaknesses. Renewanation assessments conducted over the past two years have often yielded appreciated astonishment from headmasters and board chairs who are learning of critical issues that have never been communicated or identified. An essential element of Renewanation’s methodology is providing respondents an outside party for candid communication without fear of retribution, creating an atmosphere of honest evaluation.


As a school board and headmaster prepare for strategic planning, a solid baseline from an independent perspective is critical before launching into the development of a path for the future. Engaging multiple stakeholders such as the administrative team, faculty, parents, students, donors, and even community leaders in this assessment process will allow for a rich, meaningful data set, which will in turn provide a strong understanding of the current state. When conducted with a broad reach, this data gathering process provides stakeholders with an avenue to express their concerns in a non-threatening way and results in the fortuitous benefit of increased morale. School boards find that constituents connected to their Christian school will be more aligned with and supportive of the resulting strategic plan when they are included in the developmental process. Christian school stakeholders engaged with Renewanation assessments have experienced newfound fervor through this process. In fact, several former donors and supporters have reconnected with their local Christian schools upon discovering that an outside professional organization had been sought out to assist with system development and strategic deployment planning.


Lastly, a comprehensive assessment serves to distinctly evaluate team dynamics. God’s gifting of our various personalities and inherent communication styles plays a significant role in both team dynamics and the organization’s ability to effectively address challenges and leverage opportunities. The culture and spiritual vitality of a school is generally cultivated by purposeful and inspiring leadership. As a result, both the leadership team and faculty will be well positioned and aligned to meet the mission and vision of their Christian school, reaching and discipling the next generation for Christ.


For more information about the Renewanation Christian School Revitalization Program, please contact Ron Gordon at ron@renewanation.org.


Volume 9 Issue 2 - The Renewanation Review