Category Archives: News

The Jury Is In on School Choice

On balance, school choice is a win. It makes sense. Consider the expenditures per student in the public system, the smaller expenditures per student in choice schools, and that the public system usually retains a portion of its funding while being freed from the responsibility to educate those students. When that happens, public school teachers shouldn’t lose anything, though fewer adminstrators and staff may be required and the union will enjoy less income. Unless, that is, the management in public school systems prioritizes administration above teachers.

School choice is also a win for students and families.

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Bethany Lutheran Church, CLS, and the Souls of our Community

This article describes a trend that has been noticed in many parts of American public and private life for some years. Several American generations have on the whole lost a deep appreciation for the value of faith, especially the most formative faith of western civilization: Christianity.

There has been a strong push toward multiculturalism on several fronts simultaneously, notably in the areas of religion, history, and social norms. This is linked to the trend mentioned above. For clarity in this article, we will distinguish between “cross-cultural” and “multicultural” points of view. The word “culture” is used to describe the traditions, language, and customs of a group of people. It often includes their native religion, but not necessarily. A person’s native religion depends on choices made by his father and mother that do not change their culture.

A “cross-cultural” view recognizes that various cultures each have their dignity and special value worth preserving, and that there can be communication and influence between cultures without damaging or eroding them. A culture is only wrong to the extent that it opposes universally-recognizable truth. One person can function and communicate in multiple cultures beyond his own native culture. An example of this is Christian missionary activity such as in the book of Acts when St. Paul traveled throughout the Roman empire, speaking in various languages and using the local customs to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It’s important to note that the gospel of Christ is not part of any specific earthly culture, but transcends culture just as the god worshipped by the ancient Jewish people is transcendent far beyond the local gods worshipped by heathen people throughout the world. While the gospel has been a powerful formative influence on western civilization and on America, it would be a mistake to think that it’s part of western or American civilization. The gospel, and therefore the Christian faith, exists outside the many earthly cultures and is truly cross-cultural. That’s why the Romans continued to be Romans whether Christianity was accepted among them or not. The gospel has influenced the cultures where it has been embraced, but it does not create a homogenous earthly culture in all parts of the world. Palestinian Christians have a culture distinct from African Christians, and together those cultures are distinct from that of American Christians. Yet they also share something with one another that runs deeper than the traditions in any culture. In this way, the gospel can unite people across many cultures without destroying their most valuable characteristics.

The “multicultural” point of view attempts to unite the people of many cultures, but without the gospel of Christ. Instead of providing a common thread, it attempts to uphold all elements of every culture, especially where they contradict each other. It relies on something like moral relativism or the Orwellian skill of believing two contradictory propositions at the same time. In the process, multiculturalism undermines the distinctive value of every culture. Even more problematic, it denies the value of the message that St. Paul was communicating in the book of Acts. It attempts to destroy the foundation of the gospel.

Unfortunately, the multicultural point of view has been spreading for many years, and dominates most education systems throughout the world. American public and higher education is exhibit A in the United States. The massive influence of this trend is behind the observations in the article linked above: a decline in religious faith, and the difficulty that Americans have when dealing with evil.

One of the serious spiritual problems with the multicultural approach is that it goes hand-in-hand with moral relativism. Moral relativism is the notion that the definitions of right and wrong have been constructed by people in their particular cultural situations. It would mean that there is no absolute definition of what is right and what is wrong that transcends all cultures. What is right or wrong for people in China would be in opposition to what is right or wrong for people in Uganda, and multiculturalism says that the opposition of the two doesn’t matter at all. It calls them both morally right and correct, regardless of whether they are compatible.

Moral relativism takes another step when people raised in a certain culture decide that they don’t agree with its morals. According to the multicultural point of view, they should be able to establish their own personal system of morality that may or may not be compatible with other systems. There is inevitable conflict when people try to live by opposing moral systems, but the multicultural point of view says that none of them is superior or inferior in any way.

The conflict that takes place joins multiculturalism and moral relativism with another destructive philosophy: social marxism. Karl Marx laid the foundation for the atheistic philosophy that drove the communist revolutions of the 20th Century. The basic doctrine of Marxism is the struggle between classes of people. With Marx, the classes were defined by their wealth and income, but today the struggling classes are defined in many different ways. For example: by sex (men vs. women), by ethnicity (such as white vs. others), and even by recently-imagined categories like “privilege” and the newly-defined fluid concept of “gender.” What they have in common is the Marxist struggle between classes of people. Thanks to moral relativism, there are no rules in these struggles, and they can be brutal. Journalism and propaganda become synonyms. There is hardly a distinction between lies and truth. Even clear words like “violence” and “murder” are twisted to serve one or another side of the Marxist struggle.

It’s no coincidence that “traditional religion” has suffered in this environment, because in a way Christianity has been the target all along. This explains the decline of religious faith among Americans. It also explains the difficulty when those who have been steeped and indoctrinated in multiculturalism, moral relativism, and social Marxism are confronted with something undeniably and objectively evil.

Bethany Lutheran Church is here as a witness to the culturally transcendent truth of the gospel. We all have one creator, and He has revealed himself in specific ways that are accessible to people of all cultures. He does not tolerate disobedience and other kinds of sin. Instead, He has provided a redeemer: His eternally-begotten Son, who became human to accomplish the redemption of all humanity. While sinners didn’t (and couldn’t!) ask for Him to do this, He did it anyway, as the only alternative to everlasting punishment in a place of torment. He did this because He loves us. He graciously restored us to eternal life, while remaining perfectly righteous himself. The only way for us to lose is to reject our Savior by closing our ears His word or rejecting the faith it gives. By faith, we stand before God in the righteousness He provides.

Columbia Lutheran School serves the mission of Bethany Lutheran Church by teaching what is needed for people to engage with the revelation of God and to critically distinguish between what is true and what is false, between what is good and what is evil, and between what is beautiful and what lacks beauty. Thanks be to God that our little congregation, together with Concordia in Hood River and with the indispensable assistance of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, stands against the forces of multiculturalism, moral relativism, and social Marxism. May Columbia Lutheran School continue boldly to carry that torch for the salvation of souls and for the good of our neighbors.

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Tuition Assistance: A Blessing for Our Families

It is CLS policy that our families see actual-cost tuition billing. The amount can vary from year to year, depending on enrollment. While this amount is comparable to other fine private schools in Oregon and elsewhere, it can still be surprising to those who have not previously considered the cost of a great education. We believe that it’s important that our families know this cost even if you don’t end up paying the full amount. Knowing the true price of something is an important part of knowing its value.

Columbia would like to make a high-quality Christian education affordable to families committed to providing this for their children. To that end, we encourage our families to participate in our tuition assistance program. This post is a report on most of the tuition assistance awarded to our participating families during the 2016-2017 school year.

The total credits and tuition assistance for this school year have been $21,932.50. This includes discounts for multiple students per family, a practically free tuition for a new student via the new student voucher won from last year’s radio auction, and $10,557 in directed and general tuition assistance. It does not include ShopWithScrip.com credit toward tuition, which is figured on an ongoing basis, as family scrip purchases are reported to the school treasurer.

For the upcoming school year, we are expecting our first year of proceeds from the Quinn/Klaviter endowment to provide the equivalent of 1-3 full tuition amounts. The intent is to split these funds as general tuition assistance among students participating in financial aid, according to the estimated need of the families.

Besides the endowment, tuition assistance money comes from special gifts and fundraising. Unlike some schools, CLS does not require that our families participate in tuition assistance or fundraising, though families receiving tuition assistance are encouraged to help with fundraising, if possible. The more help, the more assistance there can be.

To participate in CLS tuition assistance, families begin with the TADS financial aid assessment of your family’s financial need. This can be done online, but TADS has a customer service crew in the U.S. available to help by phone and email. The school and other families can also give advice and some kinds of help, if needed. TADS is a national company providing financial services with customer support for schools and their families. Their financial aid assessment process is designed to keep financial data secure and confidential.

For anyone reading this before April 1, 2017, remember that our per-family registration fee of $450 has been drastically (but temporarily) reduced since December. It will return to the full amount on April 1. Qualifying students must be registered for the next school year via TADS before April 1.

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New School Year Brings Fresh Opportunities

On August 1, area students will have an opportunity to try out the reading program at Columbia and get a leg up on the coming school year. While this is mostly geared toward younger students, some older students may also benefit. As of this writing, we have several new students planning to attend, as well as a few Columbia students returning for the program. It’s open to any families in the area, not just Columbia students. The Running Start for Reading will run on weekdays from August 1 through August 19, during the regular school-day hours (8 a.m. to 3 p.m.).

Thanks to The Dalles Christian Homeschool Band, students at Columbia who are ready may learn a band instrument and participate in regular rehearsals and two concerts each year. The student chorus also sings at those concerts, which take place just before Christmas and toward May. This year, there will be a beginning band and an advanced band, both of which will meet on Friday afternoons.

Beginning this year, parents of Columbia students can stay up-to-date with their children’s daily and weekly progress through a state-of-the-art online system called PowerSchool. This capability goes far beyond report cards, and helps parents to work with teachers for the good of the students.

Columbia continues to use the online, adaptive testing system called Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) to monitor the learning of each student through the school year. Test results provide objective guidance to teachers about areas of strength or concern in the core education of each student.

Pastor Jacobsen has a small class enrolling for the 5th-8th grade classroom. We have a capacity of 15, and there is still some room left. These grades will extend our studies in the Building Christian English series and the Saxon Math series. In math, our seventh-graders will take pre-algebra, and the eighth-graders will take algebra 1. We will also continue our Classical Composition series on the progymnasmata exercises for teaching rhetorical skills. These were developed and used from classical antiquity (think Aristotle) through the middle ages. New courses are included in computer-based practical logic for 5th and 6th graders, and traditional logic for 7th and 8th graders. We take Bible history up a notch in the 5th and 6th grades, culminating in a Christian catechesis course for the 7th and 8th grade. The historical period under study in world history and literature runs from 1600 through 1850, including a good deal of American history. Of course, we will continue teaching the Latin language, using a natural immersion approach that can be carried on through high school into college. Knowledge of Latin has many every-day benefits for budding scholars, while also connecting them with the authors of western civilization back to the Roman republic. See the school web site for more information about the subjects included.

Families in The Dalles and the central Columbia Gorge region have a classical alternative for these middle-school grades at Columbia, where students will experience a lot of individual attention, and enjoy vigorous academic and personal growth. We will continue to have chapel devotions daily, with a longer service on Wednesdays. But the Word of God is in the foundation of the entire program, which makes an important difference from the secular, public school alternatives. There, religious teaching is intentionally excluded, especially Christian teaching. At Columbia, a rational appreciation for the Christian faith, and a love for learning in that context is the reason we exist.

The regular school year at Columbia will begin on Monday, August 22. Along with the Running Start for Reading, students experience a school year that approaches the full-year schedule some have advocated. Less time off during the summer allows longer breaks during the school year, and reduces the loss of knowledge and academic habits that many students have experienced.

With Pastor Jacobsen as a full-time teacher and principal, we look forward to a great school year for our K-8 students and their families. In the meantime, the Bethany and Concordia congregations are continuing the process to fill their pastoral vacancy. At this time, Pastor Matthew Brooks of Parkersburg, Iowa holds the call, and we pray for him as he considers whether he will accept it and move here, or return it and continue serving in the midwest.

Thanks be to God for His gracious providence! May He continue to sustain this important ministry and outreach of His Church.

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New Photos in Our Virtual Tour

We’ve doubled the number of photos, updating the virtual tour on the Columbia web site. Why now? Well, the upper grades classroom is just about finished, and ready for students in August. If you know a family with a 5th, 6th, 7th, or 8th grader, let them know, so they can check us out. The virtual tour is a good place to start.

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Preparing for Columbia’s Future: Kindergarten through 8th Grade

Churches in the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) obtain their pastors through a formal calling process that involves the synod. Pastor Jacobsen was called in late 2005 to serve a parish of two congregations: Bethany in The Dalles, and Concordia in Hood River.

The two congregations decided on February 28, 2016 to extend two pastoral calls. One of the calls is to replace the call of Pastor Jacobsen. The replacement call was extended to Pastor Jacobsen to serve as senior pastor, but to focus his work on being the principal of Columbia Lutheran School and teaching the upper grades. A second call is also extended by the two churches for a new pastor to serve their pastoral needs full-time. The decision was to request a pastoral candidate from Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary in Mankato, Minnesota. That’s the seminary of the ELS, from which Pastor Jacobsen graduated in 1998.

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After prayerfully considering it for two weeks, Pastor Jacobsen decided to accept the new call extended to him. He is now preparing to teach full-time in the upper-grades classroom, and managing the school’s transition to serving students from kindergarten through 8th grade.

Columbia Lutheran School was started in 2014 with Mr. Doug Radliff (a Concordia member with his wife, Lilly) as the kindergarten-4th grade teacher. He came to Columbia with many prior years of teaching, most recently the first and second grades at Covenant Christian Academy. Bethany has always had the long-range intention of operating a school with the usual “elementary” grades for a Lutheran parochial school, which extend to the 8th grade. After researching the start of Columbia Lutheran School, there is also an intention to open an early learning center for pre-kindergarten students.

Lutheran parochial education has a long tradition in the United States and elsewhere. Unlike a public school education, it includes biblical teaching as the foundation of every subject. The greatest benefit of literacy, for example, is to read and write the timeless truths of God’s Word. This helps us to grow in our faith, to glorify God, and to further the spread of the Gospel. Likewise, the study of mathematics and science is the study of God’s creation and its design.

Columbia is also distinguished in being a classical school. This is a return to the principles of learning used for many centuries, rooted in the foundations of western civilization: the Greek and Roman worlds of antiquity. A classical school teaches the history, languages, and literature from the classical period of time together with later times, but it also applies the teaching philosophy and methods developed from that time until now. Its purpose is to help our students grow into their full God-given potential as human beings redeemed by Christ, with dual citizenship in heaven and on Earth. Columbia’s mission is “To provide a quality classical Christian education for the families of the Mid-Columbia area, preparing students for their current and future God-given roles and supporting parents in their vocation to educate and nurture their children.”

Now Pastor Jacobsen is fully engaged in the work of the school, especially in the first year of full-time classroom teaching. The school is an outreach ministry of Bethany, and benefits from the generosity of many people at Bethany, others in our fellowship, and even nationwide. The prayers of many ELS members are with us in this endeavor. Until the new pastor is installed, Pastor Jacobsen will also serve the two churches as a vacancy pastor. That means he will conduct services and help to meet basic ministerial needs, but most of his attention will be on the needs of the school. After the new pastor arrives, Pastor Jacobsen will continue to be involved in church services, but on a much more limited basis.

We will hear in the first half of May whether a seminary graduate is assigned to the parish. If there is one assigned, we can look forward to celebrating that with an ordination and installation service for both pastors over the summer months. If not, then the congregations will join together for another call meeting and extend the call for a second pastor to another qualified man.

Your prayers and generosity with your time, talents, and treasure are both appreciated and needed. Please continue to pray for God’s blessings upon the work of Pastor Jacobsen. Just as importantly, please remember to speak well of the work that God is doing among us, so that your neighbors, friends, and coworkers are aware of it in a positive light. This opens a door for you to help in the spread of the Gospel, the strengthening of our Lord’s Church, and the strengthening of our school.

Thanks be to God!

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Local Matching Donation Provided for Columbia Lutheran School

Columbia Lutheran School enrollment for 2015-2016 is up by 125%! Thanks be to God! If growth in that range continues next year, then the school will be near the sweet spot for cash flow, where tuition pays for school expenses with the lowest possible student:teacher ratio. But for now, we are very thankful that a local donor has again offered a $10,000 matching donation, which we are trying to match by Thanksgiving of this year. As of today, we’re about a quarter of the way there. With $10,000 raised, the matching money will make it $20,000. If there is anything over $10,000 raised, the excess will bolster our tuition assistance fund. As we are still in a growth or building mode, this generous donation is important for paying school expenses this year as we continue to pray for further growth next year.

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Limited-Time Opportunities for 2015-2016

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This year, the CLS School Board is offering an early registration incentive based upon the generous gifts we have received over the past year. All students registered for 2015-2016 before May 15th will have their registration fee later credited toward their tuition. This still allows the school to make needed purchases in anticipation of the next school year, while also effectively lowering the monthly cost for our families without any mandatory fundraising. Registrations after May 15th will not qualify for this incentive.

In addition to this, for a limited time, new student registrations will also qualify for a sponsored discount, due to a generous donor who believes in the principles of Christian education followed at CLS. The net result is a monthly tuition rate below $499 for next year, before any tuition assistance is provided. This combined discount is an opportunity that eligible families will not want to miss.

Besides these discounts for early registration, interested families will want to bid in this year’s Bicoastal Media Radio Auction on Saturday, March 14. Columbia Lutheran School has donated a new student enrollment for next year. Items donated for this auction often sell at an excellent price, so if you know of anyone who might be thinking about CLS for next year, now is the time to spread the word about this auction. It might be won for hundreds or even thousands less than its full value!

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Standardized Testing? How about Adaptive Testing!

Columbia Lutheran School is using the Measures of Academic Progress from the Northwest Evaluation Association for an objective measure of our students’ academic progress. Over the summer, we looked into using it as an independent school, but found that the cost that way was far beyond our reach in this first year. However, it turns out that the network of schools we are associated with in the ELS and the WELS has also been investigating MAP. The great news is that this has made MAP affordable for CLS, with the full array of benefits for our students.

Test are conducted online, through our computer network. The test algorithm presents questions to a student in an order based upon the student’s performance. When a student gets an answer wrong, the test offers an easier question. When the answer is right, the test offers a harder question.

Instead of returning results based within a grade level, this kind of test provides results on a much larger scale. Performance is measured in several areas within a subject, and results show the level of performance in each area across all the levels included in the test. That means that teachers have more informative results that show areas of strength or concern, and can adapt their teaching responsively.

In addition, the MAP test can be administered up to four times in the same year, giving feedback on the students’ learning in time for further adjustments to be made.

Parents, please feel welcome to ask your child’s teacher to share the MAP testing results with you.

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