Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Demands (or not) of Fundraising

We have had several high school students at Bethany Lutheran Church who were involved in one thing or another, and as a result had to do annual fundraising. It reminds me of the fundraising I had to do in my high school career for my extracurricular activities of choice. I’m afraid my neighbors and relatives may have learned to associate my call with a request for more money. It was just another a chore for me, but my parents probably felt the constant cycle of fundraising more acutely than I did.

Fundraising Thermometer

You’ve seen these before, right?

A Christian elementary school also has a constant need for funding. There are salaries to pay, supplies and utilities to provide, and facility maintenance. Beyond that, if the school is in a growth mode, it will require funding for expansion and promotion. Many private schools meet funding needs partly by requiring all students and their families to be involved in fundraising. The system works, and where it’s especially successful, the tuition rate can be lower.

Over the last year, as Columbia Lutheran School transitioned from a plan into a reality, I’ve spoken to several parents and prospective parents with strong thoughts about fundraising. Almost all of them are opposed to mandatory fundraising, because of the strong-armed demands on the family’s time. They don’t necessarily have a problem in principle with the idea of fundraising, only with mandatory participation in fundraising. They want to be able to say “no, not this time,” without paying a penalty to make up the difference.

There’s another problem with mandatory fundraising to support ongoing operational school expenses. It gives a false impression about the cost of school operation, and about the amount contributed by parents. It artificially reduces the billed tuition to a point where it no longer reflects the actual expenses of the school. The tuition seems to be lower, but when families factor their time, inconvenience, and donations (or even penalties) contributed through the fundraising program, the cost of the school may be even higher than if they had simply paid an actual-cost tuition. Mandatory fundraising tends to hide the true cost.

At Columbia Lutheran School, we do have fundraising, but not mandatory fundraising. The fundraising is coordinated by the Boosters, an organization of volunteers that operates separately from the school. Some fundraising money can be designated for tuition assistance, which helps families that need lower tuition expenses. Other fundraising money goes to special needs, like capital improvements or expansion. Parents, grandparents, and others are welcome to volunteer with the Boosters, but their participation is not required.

Tuition assistance is allocated according to the need of participating students. Those who wish to receive assistance complete a financial aid questionnaire with a third-party service called TADS, which provides the school with an objective measure of the need. Additional tuition assistance may be designated through donations directed toward a specific student. In that case, one fifth of the donation will be redirected for general tuition assistance. Through these assistance mechanisms, CLS students can still receive help with tuition, but without mandatory fundraising. In fact, participation in tuition assistance is also optional. A number of current families have elected not to receive tuition assistance, preferring to pay the full tuition directly, with zero fundraising. That may sound expensive to some, but to many, it makes a lot of sense.

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Testing and Formative Assessment

Every school should assess the progress of its students on a regular basis and use the information to adapt the teaching methods for maximum benefit. The content of teaching remains the same, but the techniques used to teach it will naturally vary over time from student to student. If you have a child or grandchild at a school that is not assessing students’ learning regularly, you might consider either suggesting the idea to that school, or looking into Columbia Lutheran School for 2015-2016.

When I was in grade school in the early 1980’s, we took several days to complete the California Achievement Tests. These were different from most tests, because the answer sheets were read by a machine. We used a number 2 pencil to fill in the bubble by the correct answer on a serious of multiple-choice questions. Tests were written for specific grade levels, so that test results applied within the student’s own grade level.

A recent post to this blog mentioned the adaptive tests that we are using at Columbia Lutheran School. Instead of having a test once a year, we can test up to four times annually, and compare a student’s performance over time to see what they have learned between tests, within the same school year. Instead of test results that would be aggregated to justify school funding and management decisions, our test results are specific enough to each student, with enough detail for teachers to critique their teaching methods on the fly, and to identify areas of strength or areas of concern in the learning of specific students.

elementsadaptivetesting_web_ This graphic illustrates the advantage of an adaptive test over the kind I took as an elementary student. When an answer is right, the test automatically proceeds to a harder question. When an answer is wrong, the test automatically proceeds to an easier question until the student can give a correct answer. The total range of difficulty spans several grade levels, allowing the test to pinpoint the student’s ability in separate areas within a much wider range, while also saving time in the testing process.

The mixed-grade, classical-model classrooms at Columbia are an excellent environment for using test results. The teacher can use assessment data to fit each student with the level of difficulty most appropriate, within the range of grades present in the room. At the same time, the teacher can use fresh assessment data to help differentiate teaching methods between students according to their learning needs. All teachers try to do these things to some degree, but the adaptive testing used at Columbia Lutheran School gives teachers a distinct advantage over those at schools that don’t provide it, or that don’t provide regular testing assessments at all.

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Science at a Christian School? It’s a Natural Fit!

The Columbia Lutheran School science textbooks were written by Dr. Jay Wile, and some of our K-4 students even look forward to science as a favorite class. Dr. Wile wrote an article you might find enlightening about the relationship between Christianity and science, mainly because it presents that relationship as it stands historically, rather than the atheistic propaganda that our public schools are forced to present. There are some dedicated educators at public schools who do good work, but the entire system is hamstrung because the “separation between church and state” is forced upon their teaching, resulting in a scope of learning and a perspective that are artificially limited.

I realize that proponents of atheistic science like to claim that a Christian worldview artificially limits scientists, thinking of the “flat earth” theory and the like. However, they have it exactly backward. Dr. Wile’s post linked above shows why. It’s also worth reading the comments below the post as Dr. Wile responds to some questions from someone called Josiah.

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Filed under Classical Christian Education

Limited-Time Opportunities for 2015-2016


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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Filed under News, School Board, School Policy

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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