The debate grew contentious in the 1980s and 90s. But by the 2000s, parent-centric education had taken its rightful place as a viable and successful alternative to a traditional classroom education.
Then in 1992, Grace Preparatory Academy, the first University-Model school in the country, began to redefine how communities thought about education. A University-Model school (UMS) is a Christian, college- preparatory school which blends aspects of private and home schooling. The model allows students to meet on campus two or three days per week, and complete lessons at home on alternate days, under the direction of professional teachers, with parents serving as the first teacher, shepherd, and government in the life of the student. Today there are more than 70 University-Model schools across the country with Grace Prep serving as the flagship school.
It all started with a group of parents who desired to be active in carrying out the unique responsibility a parent has in the total education of their children. Grace Prep was the first school to marry two proven elements of educational success, 1) professional classroom instruction of a teacher and 2) caring at-home mentoring of a parent, that combined into a single, unified, college-simulated program. Their theory was this: place any child in a warm, secure, inviting environment with professionals who care, parents who are engaged, and a viable plan for success, and they will thrive. And thrive they do. “After five years of serving here at GPA, what has amazed me the most is how the extra time that’s returned to the parents pays such huge dividends,” said Head of School, Dr. Marc Evans. “Bonds are strengthened, relationships deepen, and the outcomes are lifelong, versus temporary.”
“At Grace Prep, we strive to close the gap,” said Chris Harper, Director of School Advancement. “We strengthen families by affording them more time. We partner with parents in educating their children so that the institution takes a backseat to the home. We’re literally redefining how Texas does ‘school’. For instance, it takes public and charter schools in Texas nearly 12,000 hours to educate a single child. At Grace Prep, we do it in half the time but with twice the results. And we do it with excellence resulting in 21 National Merit scholars since 1992, 19 state championships, and a Biblical worldview. That’s the Grace Prep way—half the time, twice the result.”
On average, it takes a five-day-a-week school 1,100 hours every year to educate a single child. Grace Prep does it in 550 hours, which means by the time the child graduates high school Grace Prep has given parents back more than three years of their child’s life. And parents love it. So much so that the school is growing exponentially. As the school experiences that growth, it has transitioned to an all-inclusive tuition schedule. “As many private schools continue to nickel and dime their parents to death, we’ve transitioned into a no-fee school,” Dr. Evans said.“We never want our families to have to choose between attending or not attending functions, based upon costs. Our newest tuition structure includes all technology, extra-curricular activities, class trips, etc. Once you’re in, there are no additional costs for the experience. Every student has the option to fully engage in all that we offer.”
More families have inquired into Grace Prep’s success and model in the last two years than in the previous five years combined. This growth has prompted Grace Prep to enlarge its footprint. “We’re excited about our brand-new student activity center which allows us to expand our programs and to do so without leaving our campus,” Dr. Evans said. “With 30,000 square feet under the roof, our new building includes a new café/student union, new state-of-the-art math and science labs, a new art studio with a pottery kiln, a collegiate gymnasium with two full high school courts, and a new strength and conditioning room for our student athletes and trainers. There are also collegiate-level locker rooms and a new admissions office with administrative offices. “We’re proud of the quality and usefulness of our new center. It’s certainly one of the best within the state in comparison to other private Christian schools,” Dr. Evans said. “Students in our primary grades can put their artistic skills, scientific skills, and physical education skills to good use there. Not to mention it will be family-centric with an area where their parents can sit and share a cup of coffee together.”
As more and more families seek to have an invested role in the educational life of their children, the future looks bright for Grace Prep and university-model schools as a whole. And it appears that Dr. Evans has his finger on the pulse: “Positive growth in a UMS school is most dependent on strong parental involvement in conjunction with loving personnel and teachers who are bright, engaged, and above all, committed to the Lord in all they say and do. Individually we contribute, but together we transform.”
Transforming students, families, and communities, Grace Prep has a lot of people rethinking how education should be done in America.