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Archive for the ‘collaboration’ Category

Celebrating NWCSI Schools – 2

The Evergreen Campus of Lynden Christian Schools 

Evergreen is offering a Spanish Immersion Program preschool through grade one. Here’s what they say:evergreen

“Along with our excellent traditional Christian education, Evergreen Christian offers a Spanish Immersion program in our Threes & Fours Preschool, Kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms. The program will grow by adding a grade each year. In middle school students will take some of their content courses in Spanish, to maintain their Spanish language skills, while still rotating classes with their traditional English classmates. This program is designed to immerse students in the Spanish language while maintaining a high-quality, Christ-centered education.

What is Immersion?

  • A research-based, proven method of educating children by immersing them in a second or “target” language so they become fully bilingual.
  • The classroom environment becomes the setting for language acquisition through core subject content instruction, educational discourse, and social interactions.

How does it work?

  • Students begin their immersion experience in preschool, kindergarten, or first grade. . .” Read more

You can view a video about immersion programs here.


Ellensburg Christian School

Ellensburg Christian students are practicing the virtue – the liturgy – of praying for the larger Christian education community. This is what I received during the Thanksgiving season.


Thank you ECS third grade students!


Mount Vernon Christian School           

On Nov 6, the Superintendent of Mount Vernon Christian tweeted:

 MVC worship team @cornwallchurch Skagit great message on forgiving and forgiveness #allaude #asweforgivedebtors


To lean more about the activities of MVCS as well as some highlights of the October teachers’ Convention follow the Superintendent.


Sunnyside Christian School             

 “Our Jr High Choir sang at Sunnyside’s First Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony last night! Thanks for sharing your talents with our community!”

sunnyside To see this post as well as others go Sunnyside’s Facebook page.


Oak Harbor Christian School

Read the Wednesday Note to see what is going on at OHCS.ohcs

Among many other things you will learn about – “Caroling at Harbor Towers:  K-6th grades will be walking to Harbor Towers to share much of our Christmas program with the residents on December 8th at 10 am.”



elaine brouwer, Alta Vista, NWCSI




Celebrating NWCSI Schools-1

Even as I write, two NWCSI teachers are attending the first Christian School Educators Science Academy – a joint effort of Christian Schools International, science-academythe Association of Christian Schools International, and the Van Andel Education Institute. Rebecca Swier and Darlene VanStaalduine, both from Ebenezer Christian School, Lynden WA, are two among 50 educators chosen from a large pool of applicants that are engaging in two days of instruction in the Van Andel Education Institute’s Community of Practice model, designed to support transformation of science teaching and learning to a practice-based culture. Click here for more information about the institute and the participants.

Congratulations Rebecca and Darlene! We look forward to hearing about your experience.


Shoreline Christian School:

Andrea Grafmiller, SCS School Counselor, is teaching students skills for coping with problems at school or at home. In her blog post she writes:

“As the school counselor, I think it is important to interact with students in the classroom and teach them skills for coping with problems at school or at home. This year, I visited each of the elementary classrooms to teach the students about Kelso’s Choices. Kelso is a frog puppetkelso that helps me teach the students about how to solve their own small problems. First, I help students understand the difference between small problems and big problems. A big problem is when a student feels scared or there is a risk of someone getting hurt. They are instructed to tell a grown up if they have a big problem and the grown up will help. A small problem is something that a student is strong enough and smart enough to solve themselves. Examples of small problems are: someone cutting in line, someone taking a pencil without asking, someone refusing to share a ball at recess, or . . .” read more


Everett Christian School Weekly News – From the Principal – Joel Alberts


A few years ago an Everett Christian School theme verse was Micah 6:8, which states, “He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  In this verse we have a clear picture of what the people of Israel’s relationship is to be with God. He has showed them what is good, and, because of this he requires that His people seek justice and mercy while they continue a relationship with Him.  Though Micah wrote to the people of Judah around 700 B.C., his message applies to Christians in the 21st century as God showed his goodness to us by sending Christ into the world to live, to die and to rise and give us salvation.  Even though grace is freely given, God still requires His followers to be in a relationship with Him and to seek justice and mercy.  “Justice-seeking” is a discipleship characteristic and a way in which a person acts as a hero.

At Everett Christian School, “justice-seeking” means that “students will act as agents of change by identifying and responding to injustices.”  This starts with a recognition that we live in a fallen and broken world. Yet because of God’s sovereignty in over the whole earth and the fact that He has called us to bring forth His Kingdom on earth, we are called to actively pursue that kingdom.  This means that we need to recognize that there are issues of injustice, that our relationships between other humans, God, ourselves and nature are not as they should be. . . read more


Monroe Christian School

Thanksgiving Feast for Students

Next Tuesday, November 22, we will have a traditional Thanksgiving Feast for students during lunch, Kindergarten-8th grade! The students (and staff) always look forward to this wonderful time together.


You are invited to join the 6th grade in being Christ’s hands and feet this Christmas. We are working with Matthew House to help families who have a loved one in prison. Many of these moms have never received a gift from their children, so please consider blessing these families by putting together a small gift bag that the children can give to their moms at Christmas.


Bellevue Christian School

Superintendent’s Blog – A Few Good Minutes:

One of today’s leading thinkers about Christian education is Dr. James K. A. Smith who believes that “The primary goal of Christian education is the formation of a peculiar people, a people who desire the kingdom of God and thus undertake their life’s expression of that desire.

In a nutshell, that describes the foundation of Teaching for Transformation (TfT). What makes TfT different than traditional Christian education are three core practices:servant-worker

First, every Christian classroom must have a powerful and compelling vision of the Kingdom that creates a longing and a desire within every student to play their part in God’s unfolding story of creation-fall-redemption and restoration.

Second, every classroom must have an articulate and inspiring student profile that invites every student to imagine how to play their part in God’s story.

And third, every Christian classroom must provide authenticity, that is, real work with real problems and real people; authentic opportunities for students to practice living the Kingdom story.       Read more


elaine brouwer, Alta Vista


Cultivating a Spirit of Celebration

“Celebration is to the culture of a school ‘what the movie is to the script, the concert to the score, and the dance is to the values that are difficult to express in any other way.’”[i]

We all know how important good communication is in a school community. And we know how difficult achieving it can be. We all have the stories. The authors of Learning by Doing suggest that one powerful tool for communication is often overlooked and underutilized. The tool? Celebration – regular public recognition.


To celebrate is to extol, honor, commend, praise, show gratitude or appreciation, remember, or recognize through the use of rites or ceremonies, formal or informal, planned or spontaneous. Recognize comes from the Latin “to know again.” Public recognition reminds the learning community what they value. Engaging in joyful or playful or solemn celebrations has the potential of weaving members of the learning community together around shared purpose and growth toward fulfilling that purpose.


“When admiration and appreciation are repeatedly expressed, organizations create a culture of ongoing regard that sustains effort because such language is “like pumping oxygen into the system.”” [i]


What is celebrated is, in part, context specific. Each learning community must identify their values and common commitments and keep track of progress toward fulfilling them. Public recognition can be a powerful tool for marking and even making progress. Celebrating short-terms wins has the potential of undermining the resistors and “building momentum that turns neutral people into supporters and reluctant supporters into active helpers.”[iii]

Actions, practices, or behaviors related to common commitments regarding student learning should be the primary focus of celebrations. To be effective, it is important to make a clear link between the act of recognizing and what is being recognized. Generic praise is an ineffective communication tool. While there may be appropriate times to recognize individuals, where possible, that individual’s contributions should be linked to team efforts. The learning that we are most concerned with is that of the young people in our learning spaces, but teachers need to be continuous learners as well in order to facilitate student growth. When we celebrate teacher learning it should always be linked to its contribution to student learning.

While school leaders may take the lead in creating space for celebration, they should not be the only ones deciding what to recognize. A positive impact on student growth is the responsibility of the whole community so the whole community should be alert to recognizing and identifying those practices, actions or behaviors that contribute to student growth. Celebration is the responsibility of every member of the learning community.

The ways we can celebrate are only limited by our collective imagination. The point is to keep purpose in mind and to be intentional. Everyone may agree that celebrating is an important tool in building and sustaining a collaborative culture, but it will likely not become an integral part of the way the community works together without a plan. Learning communities need to be intentional about creating space for regular celebrations.


[i] Terrence Deal and Allen Kennedy in Corporate Cultures quoted in “Encouraging a Spirit of Celebration” in “The Learning System” NSDC Vol. 3, No. 8, May 2008, p. 5.

[ii] Kegan & Lahey, 2001, p. 102 as quoted in Learning by doing: a handbook for professional communities at work 2nd edition. Solution Tree Press:Bloominton, IN. P. 37

[iii] Kotter, J. “The eight step process.” quoted in Tools for learning schools, p. 3. Fall 2013, Vol 17, No. 1 Learning Forward: Oxford, OH.


Sources used:

Armstrong, A. “Celebrate professional transitions and successes to drive and sustain implementation” in Tools for learning schools. Fall 2013. Vol.17, No. 1. Learning Forward:Oxford, OH.

DuFour, R.,DuFour, R.,Eaker, R. & Many, T. Learning by doing: a handbook for professional communities at work 2nd edition. Solution Tree Press:Bloominton, IN. P. 37-41.

“Encouraging a Spirit of Celebration” in The Learning System. Vol. 3, No. 8, May 2008, p. 5. NSDC :Oxford, OH. P. 4-5.


elaine brouwer, alta vista

Avoiding Pitfalls in Answering the 4 Essential Questions of Learning-Focused Collaboration

In an earlier post – “Framing the 4 Questions of Learning-focused Collaboration” – I attempted to situate the Questions squarely in a Biblical frame.  As I continue to think about how we can use these questions to fulfill our mission and visions as Christian schools, I am particularly concerned about avoiding pitfalls that could lead to a reductionistic (and nonbiblical) approach to answering these questions.


The 4 Questions are very helpful in focusing the messy work of schooling on our central task – student learning. We do need to define what it is that we want students to learn, think through convincing and credible evidence of what and how well students are learning, and plan effective and engaging ways to help all students learn. This is our work.


So what could lead to a reductionistic approach? What pitfalls should we plan to avoid? One pitfall is to under emphasize the ‘we’ in these questions. While individual educators can apply these questions to their units or lessons, it takes collaborative effort of the whole professional learning community to make sure that the learners’ journey through school is one that will lead them to the kind of lives for which we want to equip them. How can we work together effectively as a community of educators to ensure that each student experiences an essential curriculum?


Another pitfall is to focus on achievement versus learning. While there is a subtle difference between the two, it is possible for students to achieve – to reach or attain – a goal without having learned much new or come to understand more deeply. Prior learning and skill might enable them to demonstrate understanding of learning targets without having added any new learning or understanding. We can avoid this pitfall if we focus on growth. How can we help all students grow in their understanding of important skills and concepts? This requires that we find out what learners already know and can do and that we continuously monitor their growth and help them to do the same.


Perhaps the worst pitfall is to reduce the answers to the 4 Questions to academic learning. This is clearly not our intention as Christian educators, but the tendency is built into the questions particularly as used in various sectors. Question 1 is a curriculum question. Question 2 focuses on assessment and Question 3 and 4 lead us to crafting learning plans and adjustment thereof. Curriculum, assessment, and learning plans – this is what we do, but how do we avoid giving primarily academic, thus reductionistic, answers to the questions? How do we avoid the ‘brains on tripods’ approach?


Perhaps the most effective corrective is anchoring our work with these questions in the larger biblical STORY of which we are a part. Answering the questions biblically requires knowing the STORY, locating where we are in the STORY, and reflecting on our role in that STORY.4Qspitfalls


Answering Question 1 is rooted in understanding God’s agenda for His world and for us, his people. What do we need to know, understand, and be able to do to fit into God’s agenda? What kind of people are we called to be and what does it take to become that kind of people? The answer to this question is an act of imagination because we are not given scripts to live by nor can we give our students scripts for their lives. We do know that we are called to partner with God in his agenda of restoration, reconciliation and transformation. Knowing that, our answers to Question 1 will certainly address important ‘standards’ but will include so much more.


Our role in the biblical STORY involves giving witness to God’s kingdom that was inaugurated by Jesus but is not yet fully realized. Others should be able to witness God’s work in the world by the way we live our lives. How do we give learners the opportunity to be witnesses of God’s agenda and how can we witness their growth in this regard? Building on the STORY-formed answers to Question 1, Question 2 is really a question of witness. How can we give learners the opportunity to give witness to their learning and growth and how can we prepare ourselves to witness that growth? Yes, learners need to give witness to their growth in the acquisition of important content and skills, but the answer to Question 2 becomes much richer and weightier in the context of the STORY and our part in it.


Living out our role in God’s STORY requires passionate engagement. If we are not fully engaged in understanding and becoming the kind people God calls us to be, we are not committed to His agenda nor will we effectively further it. In fact, we may get in the way of God’s agenda. Without engagement, we go through the motions making learning/growth dry, disconnected and routine. In the context of the STORY, which requires passionate engagement, Question 3 expands exponentially beyond the question of how we can craft engaging and effective ways for learners to meet learning targets. The Question becomes how we can craft an engaging and effective journey for learners to be and become the kind of people they are called to be. Will we plan engaging and effective ways for learners to master important content and skills? Yes. But there is so much more at stake in a biblical answer to Question 3.


Living out our role in the biblical STORY is not an individualistic endeavor. God addresses himself to a people. Together we are to grow into the people he calls us to be. Together we are to witness to and further God’s agenda for his world. Together we are to encourage, redirect, support, and equip each other as we navigate the messy, sometimes confusing journey to becoming the people we are called to be. We don’t have the same gifts, the same understanding, the same resolve. Yet, the STORY binds us to each other as we are bound to God. Question 4 is really about being bound to each other, teacher to student and student to student, so every one grows and thrives. Will we teachers adjust and intervene to help learners learn important concepts and skills? Yes. But in the context of the STORY, the answer to Question 4 means so much more.

elaine brouwer, Alta Vista



By What Standards? (Tim Visser, Shoreline Christian School)

David Coleman, President of the College Board, has announced that the class of 2016 will see some changes to their Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT).  While I believe the SAT is long overdue for some changes, I find it interesting that the SAT will join the American College Testing (ACT) in aligning themselves with the Common Core Standards.  I guess I should not be surprised since Mr. Coleman was one of primary designers of the Common Core.  Like it or not, this move makes the Common Core something worthy of our attention.


By way of some background information, we need to remember that education standards are the responsibility of each state.  Fifty states plus the District of Columbia means fifty one different discussions on what defines competency within a grade or discipline.  During the 1990s, education moved to a more discussions on standards.  By 2009, the Common Core was born out of state governors and their education specialists recognizing that the discussion on standards could be strengthened if they worked together–a noble idea that had the potential of elevating the impact of education on our nation’s children.


It should be no surprise that the discussions on the Common Core were derailed.  California and Texas control the textbook market, but they operate on opposite ends of the political spectrum.  Implementation proved more of a challenge with fifty-one ways of funding education, fifty-one teacher groups involved in the mix, and fifty-one governors flexing their political muscle.  On top of this, we have the College Board and ACT acting as the gatekeepers to college admissions.  Their  tests and their standards for Advanced Placement (AP) Tests were used to determine who was getting into what college and with how many credits.  Growing dissatisfaction with the tests being accurate predictors of success began to surface a few years ago.  Over eight hundred colleges are no longer requiring the SAT or ACT as part of their admissions process.  Colleges are also expressing concerns as to how poorly students with AP credits were prepared for college level courses.  Dartmouth College, an Ivy League school in the Northeast, announced it would no longer accept AP courses for credit.  The children in our own state are the latest casualties when the state and federal government could not agree on standards of accountability.  As a result, the state loses 40 million dollars in federal support.  Do we really need more reasons why education in the United States is in trouble?


Shoreline Christian School stays above this fracas by staying true to our Mission Statement:

Shoreline Christian School works in partnership with Christian families and their church to challenge students in preschool through high school: 

To celebrate that all of creation belongs to God

To respond to God by developing their unique gifts and abilities 

To live as dynamic and transforming influences for the glory of God


We are in a partnership that is focused on the child.  Our role4Q2 is to defined by four questions:


  • What do we want students to learn?

With so much confusion over what standards to use, this question gets to the heart of the matter.  At our school, we pull from a myriad of resources, the skills of our teachers, and the expectations of our community.  Our curriculum maps are linked to Christian schools across the nation so that we can compare and contrast.  We have access to the college admission offices, to the Common Core, to the SAT, to the ACT, to the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS), and to national organizations that represent the disciplines we teach.  No single text book publisher or imposed state standards will dictate what our students will learn.


  • How will we know what and how well students are learning?

    Again, no single source offers a completed picture.  Assessment of student learning needs to be both process (formative) and completion (summative) oriented.  Portfolios, test quizzes, papers, projects, presentations, and the list goes on.  We offer access to SAT, ACT, PSAT, PLAN, and ITBS.  When the data is collected, we listen to the students to validate the accuracy of the data we collected.  Finally, we ask the graduates and parents tell us their stories about how well the students are learning.


  • How do we engage students in relevant learning?

    We need to ask ourselves constantly, why do we need them to learn this stuff?  Where does this learning fit in a plan?  If it is just the next page in the textbook, we are not doing our jobs.  The answer must be reflected in our curriculum maps.  The learning must have purpose and compliment the overall plan for learning.  When it is all said and done, I take a graduate out for lunch and ask the same question.


  • How will we respond when some students learn quickly or don’t learn well?

    The size of our school, the dedication of the staff, and the support of our parents allows us to make adjustments.  Curriculum is only a plan and plans have to change to reflect the standards they seek to attain.  We learn what works, and we adjust to replicate the results.  When learning does not happen the way we plan, we adjust according to what we learn.  The best teachers at SCS are the best learners.  The more we learn about what works and what doesn’t work, the better we can work with our impact our student learners.


Watson Groen/Shoreline Christian has stayed above the confusion and stayed focused on the learner created in the image of God.  Elements like the Common Core and the alphabet soup of tests are akin to the lenses that help sharpen the discussion, but the lenses do not define the image.   For sixty-plus years, this focus has been tested and proven by the graduates and the stories they tell of how they were equipped “To live as a dynamic and transforming influence for the glory of God.”


Tim Visser, Principal of Shoreline Christian School

Integrating Technology & the Benefits of becoming a Connected Educator

Every other year I teach a semester long World Issues course. Each year it  takes a different  shape based on the students I have and the world events going on. Once again this summer I thought about the form I wanted to take on. Firstly, as a “flipped” teacher I wanted to make sure the students were actively pursuing information and not just listening to me tell them everything I know. Secondly, I contemplated how a course on world issues could reflect the world around us: a world where information is at your fingertips, shared with social media, and commented on.

A few years ago I attended the Alta Vista-NWCSI August Event entitled “Becoming Students of our Students’ Work-Together.” There a Mount Vernon Christian Social Studies Teacher shared with me his framework for a similar course, having each student follow a country through the various issues and ending with a Model United Nations.

For each “issue” students researched its status in their own country. It was interesting to see the searching methods of students and organically, we could discuss how to vary search terms and how to evaluate the credibility of a source. Students also became efficient at citing their sources.

With the information they gathered, they had to “present” the information using technology. Educational Technology is a passion of mine so various blogs and Twitter posts have helped me build an arsenal of tools. Students used LiveBinders, Screencast-O-Matic,, Padlet, and Google Drive. Students experienced a range of emotions using all of these tools. They were frustrated, nervous, and excited. I was surprised by how uncomfortable students were using these technologies for learning. They are accustomed to entertaining themselves with technology, but creating educational products was not so easy for them. I am thrilled that they “survived” these technologies and have even used them again in other classes. Furthermore, it will be important in their future careers to feel confident trying new technologies that they must use.

The final piece of learning each issue was to share their knowledge. Not only does sharing reflect 21st Century learning, it also allowed students to see each issue from the perspective of multiple countries, not just the one they studied. Students would post their products on Edmodo and then comment on each other’s posts. In the future, I hope they will be able to share to a wider audience with Twitter and/or blog posts.

Much of this model was influenced by the C4 Framework for Social Studies education: collect, collaborate, create, and communicate. This structure is a great way to integrate technology in a regular way, it allows students to get out of stagnant textbooks and dig dynamic, relevant content.


Kaelyn Bullock, High School Social Studies teacher, Shoreline Christian School

Attributes of a Healthy Learner

Our junior and senior high students have expressed concern over their workloads and subsequent stress levels. To address this, the staff has implemented a homeroom at the end of the day. The students place homework they have received in each class on the board. This allows every student to review their planner and gives a staff member the opportunity to intervene should workloads appear excessive. We also have a test and project calendar that we share in the hopes that we can spread out more high stakes work.

The system still does not address individual student learners. As a result, we have gone back to the drawing board. Using the LCC model, we are attempting to identify the attributes of a healthy learner in our school. Data is being collected in homerooms, and each class at the end of block days collects individual student responses to frustration levels in that class. Our goal is to identify the attributes of a “healthy” learner, use the data we have collected to see how it matches up against the attributes we have identified, determine adjustments for those who struggle with their “health” and maintain those who are “healthy.” Finally we will retest to see if the changes we make stick.

Tim Visser – Shoreline Christian

Submitted on 2013/11/11 at 3:51 pm


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