Student Tools for Leading Their Learning

How does this look? I mean, how does it look when a student is using tools to lead their own learning. It happens regularly throughout the days of school. But, an example is when the elementary-grade teacher, leans in and listens intently as her student reads aloud. The teacher is listening for greater fluency in student’s oral reading, a skill they have been working on for several weeks. As she listens, she hears greater rhythm, ease, and confidence in the child’s voice. The teacher keeps a record and carefully notes hesitation, miscues, errors, and the length of time it takes the student to read the passage. During the daily five time the student and teacher can have a follow-up discussion by reviewing the student’s previous goals and successes and reviewing a chart that shows the growth in her reading level. The student and teacher have an opportunity to focus in on fluency and the word substitutions in addition to other phonetic or comprehension goals. The teacher has the opportunity to engage in a conversation about vocabulary. Statements such as,”Let’s take a look at this word,” can be heard throughout the language arts instruction time. “Read it back to me.” The student struggles at first, but calls out the word. The coaching from the teacher and the student use of the feedback has enabled the child to correctly read the word or passage that was troublesome before. The teacher is likely to share with the student while she reads it aloud. The teacher shares the word that was read in place of the actual written text. Then she shares with the student, “we call that a substitution. Meaning, you substituted a more familiar word in the place of another word. Sometimes that works; but, often it does not. Do you think you know what happened as you were reading?” This provides the student the opportunity to share and explain the thought process.

This dialogue is essential in a healthy classroom. And it is even more healthier when the students need to use the information and learn from it. Salem Christian School has been incorporating processes like this into our program. That is why we have adopted the Daily Five Method among other advancements that we have made over the past few years. We look forward to using this data to help students and teachers take teaching and learning to the next level.


Leaders of Their Own Learning: Transforming Schools Through Student-Engaged Assessment,” by Ron Berger, Leah Rugen, and Libby Woodfin.

Head of School Blog


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3D rendering of a compass with a excellence icon

Models of Excellence

Some people travel the world to bask in the sun on warm beaches, others to see historical monuments or cultural centers. Others travel to new places just for special events. I have relatives that travel in order to attend a game at every major league baseball stadium. I love to travel. One of the things that I really enjoy is when I get an opportunity to visit other schools. I learn so much each time I make the visit. Schools are microcosms of the communities they serve. Although they each have their niche within the local community, they still reflect the societal culture in which they exist. When observing the school, you can see the struggles of the past and the tensions of the present but also a glimpse of hope for the future. In the 21st century, the desire of families and governments everywhere, poor as well as rich, is for children to get a good education and become positive citizenry. Schools come in all shapes and sizes. They come with nuances of mission and vision.  In many parts of the world, especially in rural Africa and South Asia, school buildings are very basic— simple buildings and roofs with mud or concrete floors and battered secondhand desks, if there are desks at all. At the other extreme, you’ll find schools that feature gleaming new buildings and look more like colleges, full of the latest technology, they are modern showpieces of pride and ambition. Inside the world’s school buildings, there is also enormous variety in the quality and style of education provided.


Around the United States and world, I have seen unimaginative rote learning where children sit in rows, copying from the blackboard or reciting from old books published for their grandparents. But I have also seen innovative programs where dedicated educators or philanthropists are introducing problem solving and project-based learning, or building science labs in elementary schools located in drug-infested and poverty stricken neighborhoods. I have seen heroic individuals who are making a difference in children’s lives everywhere. The challenge today is how do we cultivate effective classrooms and an effective school. How do we create an effective and high-quality education for the children in our charge and impact the world, one child at a time.


The global knowledge economy is a game changer. All over the world— from Australia to Cambodia, India to Finland, South Africa to Mexico— countries have been improving the education system as a pathway to participation in that economy. Our students compete against these students in the ever increasing global market. In the past, education systems, including Christian schools, tended to be inward looking. They were building systems and curriculum based on the teachers and what is most expedient for the schools. Schools and education systems considered themselves to be unique and thought that differences in culture and operating systems made policies and practices developed elsewhere irrelevant. But today, administrators and educators everywhere are looking for innovations and ideas for how to improve their systems from wherever they can find them. We recognize that no single nation has all the answers to the educational challenges produced by this new knowledge and innovation economy, and a new global marketplace of educational ideas is therefore developing. Many high-performing nations have, in fact, been systematically searching the world for improvement ideas for a long time. The United States has been an important source of these ideas because of its lead in world affairs and economic clout.


Perhaps because of the U.S. position as the world leader on education in the mid– 20th century, American K– 12 educators have not been very active participants in these international bench marking activities until recently. As a nation, we are feeling the economic pressures of rising powers of China, India, Brazil, and Europe. Now that it is crystal clear that other systems have moved ahead of the United States in important respects, there is growing interest in understanding more about how school systems in other parts of the world have raised their achievement.


If we are to pursue excellence, then we as a Christian school need to look outward. We need to see what is working around the world. How does this happen? Not by chance, that is for sure. The Christian school needs to connect with the booming Christian school movement in Africa, Asia, and South America. What are our Christian brothers and sisters doing in education? What are our secular colleagues doing for the betterment of teaching and learning? This discussion of data requires us, teachers and parents, to look out past the borders of campus to the local community, state, nation and beyond. What research out there can help us do a better job with our modern learners? I look forward to discussing excellence found in the schools around the world and here at home.


Stewart, Vivien. World-Class Education : Learning from International Models of Excellence and Innovation, ASCD, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central.

Head of School Blog


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A Legacy To Share

This past week at Grandparents Day I had the privilege to share a story. This story breaks through my tough exterior developed in my years growing up in the tough suburbs of a Detroit. I hope you enjoy it.I am fortunately from a multi-generational Christian family. It wasn’t until well into my adulthood did I appreciate this to its fullest. My family, not unlike every other, had some unsavory folks in its tree. But, overall from the Huguenot’s in France to the church builders of today, a significant amount of my family is involved in ministry. This history is so important. For this and other reasons I am compelled to share this story that I have come to know recently I was copied on a chapter of an upcoming book about a missionary’s life. In this chapter it discussed how paternal and maternal grandparents in addition to two of their friends chartered a church in the expanding urban suburbs of Detroit in its heyday. I learned that they sold their home in the very
upscale island of Grosse Isle and moved to the outer fast growing suburbs to help build a church with the proceeds from the sale. From this church start these grandmothers and grandfathers alongside of their best friend would go visit and welcome sharecroppers and recent arrivals looking for the rare job in 1941 to the community and invite them to come to this fledgling congregation. On one of these evangelistic outreaches the grandmother and her best friend met a young lady who was living in a home with a dirt floor fashioned out of an old chicken coop within a neighborhood that shared an outhouse and had no running water. The situation was tough. The mother was abusive and the father was an abusive alcoholic with much more to come to light later in life.

This girl’s name was Fran. Considering her circumstances, Fran had little prospects but follow in the footsteps of her mother’s poor choices. Without the supernatural changes the Gospel provides, Fran would be another poor lost soul. Fran, by her own account was a crusty, dirty, and very naughty young girl who was more street smart than any 12 year old should be, but for some reason Zaida was determined to reach this young girl. Zaida had her daughter who was the same age as Fran. Zaida would have her bring Fran home from school since they were in the same classroom and lived so close to the school. She fed her, made her shower, and shared the gospel with her. Soon her sister and brother followed suit. The one requirement was that they went to church on Sunday and the youth group of this new church. Zaida and her friends knew that this young girl had value and potential and that perhaps this intervention would not only change her life, but that of her family.IMG_2215

Fran grew to be an amazing young lady who understood that the Gospel changes everything. She felt the calling to be a missionary. She left to go to a mission board and training facility in Missouri, but in those days a single woman could not be a missionary on her own. They would not let her serve where she knew God was calling her. So, she left the missionary organization to forge a path on her own. That strength of determination and feisty-ness she learned as a child would serve her well.

Through a foundation set up in the 1950’s, Fran became a missionary in Mexico. She went to the Universidad de Saltillo, in Saltillo Mexico to learn her trade and secure a nursing degree. While achieving a bachelor’s degree in nursing in Spanish, while not knowing Spanish or anyone in Mexico, she befriended a single woman pediatric doctor who worked and taught at the university hospital. This woman would become a life-long friend, support, ministry partner, and sister.

Together Chalita (/Cha-lee-taa/), the pediatrician, and Fran established clinics in some of the poorest outlying villages all while maintaining their positions in the University health system. Fran rose to be the lead nurse at the hospital, she met dignitaries and had been requested specifically by a few governors.

When Fran and Chalita passed away a year ago this week, Chalita posthumously received an award from the state of Coahuila (/kwa-wee-la/) Mexico for her significant impact on the poor and needy through the decades of service. Fran who was living in Texas for her latter years worked at Rio Grande Bible Institute continuing her work with the poor and needy and incarcerated. Thousands have written, called and given testament to the impact that she has made.

The part of the story that makes me so emotional is that Fran is as much of an aunt to me as my father’s sister. You see, that was my grandmother, Zaida Louise Stanton who knew the gospel changes. I would spend many summers and holidays with Fran. The countless people changed in the villages, suburban Detroit, and in my family is because of the legacy my grandparents, their friends, and others leave. This is because of a grandparent who knew a legacy of a Christian education and charity was essential to the success. This grandparent knew that the Gospel changes everything. It surpasses the squalor of poverty and the socio-economic status label someone holds. It surpasses the hardship of giving up a home that was worked so hard to achieve. It surpasses the fear and anxiety of living in a strange place and seemingly all alone. This gospel changes everything.

This is my legacy of which I am the most pleased to share – How unsavory became delightful because of the Gospel. Thousands of lives impacted because of the commitment to follow the calling of God. Of course, I miss these people greatly, but what brings my emotions to the surface and moves me to tears is that they used their lives for what they were intended. They sacrificed so the Gospel was spread.

I ask that you come alongside of us and help us make an impact. We are a thriving Christian school in a region and a time that sees Christian schools closed or on the precipice of extinction. We need your help. We need you to impact the lives here at SCS.

I ask that you consider financially sacrificing so that we can complete the renovations, continue with our next project to renovate the gymnasium floor, walls, stage upgrades and bleachers so that our students can have the proper and safe equipment needed to flourish. I have a donor who specifically asked me to challenge you to meet their $50,0000 pledge before the year’s end.

Not everyone can afford to donate. However, you can pray for us. You can come in as an aid in the elementary classroom in the mornings, you can help monitor recess or lunch. You can download our school app on your android or apple smartphone. Or, if you have a great idea, then let us know. We want you to be involved and pass on the legacy of the Gospel from generation to generation. Help us develop students who love God with all their minds, bodies, and souls.

Head of School Blog


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Kid’s Deserve It

This week I have given a few tours of the school. That in itself is not that unusual. I have the privilege of escorting people around the school often. Many times the parents bring their children with them. This week a family considering moving to the area came in for a tour of the school. Dad, mom, an elementary student and a toddler followed me around the building sharing about who we are and what we do while answering questions that they had.

The elementary student greeted me by hiding behind his dad. That quickly faded to at least 10 questions in regards to clubs. “Do the clubs have a special room for them? Do I have a choir class? Do I have recess? What is for lunch today? What room is used for STEMM? Do I have homework?” Occasionally, an interjection of a statement would come. “I want to work with computers when I grow up! I enjoy art too.” I have to say, it was an interesting tour. Later the dad apologized for so many questions. There was no need to apologize. I loved the questions. I got to see what he was interested in and what he valued. This shy boy at first became an inquisitive and wondering child.

Children deserve to be given the time and respect to acknowledge their concerns and questions. Questions drive the wonder of the universe. Our wonder of how the universe works and what our purpose is, is at the heart of the Gospel. We are designed to ask questions. We are designed to wonder. Kids deserve adults and teachers who understand the miracle of our cognitive design.

The role of children’s questions in their cognitive (the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses) development has been largely overlooked. If questions are a force in cognitive development, the following must be true:

  1. Children must actually ask questions that gather information;
  2. Children must receive informative answers to their questions if they are able to be of use to cognitive development;
  3. Children must be motivated to get the information they request, rather than asking questions for other purposes such as attention;
  4. The questions children ask must be relevant and of potential use to their cognitive development;
  5. We must see evidence that children’s questions help them in some way-that is, that they can ask questions for a purpose, and use the information they receive purposefully to successfully achieve some change of knowledge state.

I know, by the time a parent has heard “why” 1,000 times before breakfast patience is a bit thin. However, it is important to allow them to ask and persevere through the onslaught of questions. Kids deserve to be heard and allowed to question in order to foster their brain’s development. The child’s mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses hinges on the questions they engage.


Preface. (1999). Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 64(2), Vii-Ix. doi:10.1111/1540-5834.00016

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