Tag: growth

Math Part 2

Secondary math at SCS has been a topic of conversation and discussion for several weeks. I knew I had information, but I did not know the ‘why’ behind some of the information. I now have some of that why.

British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba are all part of the Western Canadian Math Protocol and, as such, have the same math outcomes for K-12 in all four provinces. By doing a little research, it is easy to find a provincial ranking based on a variety of standardized assessments that are offered Canada wide. The results are not comparable except for the math results for the four Western provinces. The provincial ranking is as follows:

Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, and, at the bottom of the rankings, Saskatchewan.  I had asked myself the question as to why the rankings were as they are. Are teachers in Saskatchewan any less prepared? Are the students in Manitoba not as smart as those in Alberta? Once answer I had arrived at was regarding teaching strategies. I still think teaching strategies plays a role, but there is a much larger factor that I have recently discovered. Let’s review the rankings with a bit more information:

Rank Province Hrs of instruction
2 BC 120
1 AB 125
4 SK 100
3 MB 110

The hours of instruction refers to the number of hours of instruction a student can expect in a high school classroom before professional development days and other holidays are deducted. The reality for SK students is that they receive roughly 80 hours of instruction by the time the PD days, parent teacher interviews, and field trips/other events are removed. BC students receive around 110 hours of instruction with the same parameters. That means that BC students receive approximately one month more classroom instruction time that SK students for the identical content. It is no surprise, then, to see that BC and AB students perform better on standardized tests than SK students.

Why is there such a difference in time? I can’t speak to AB and MB, but I can use BC as an example. In BC, high school students are required to take eight courses a year (four in each semester) with a grade 10-12 minimum total of 21 courses required. In SK, high school students are required to take ten courses a year (five in each semester) with a grade 10-12 minimum total of 24 courses required. In other words, SK students skim more courses than BC students and BC students delve deeper into fewer courses than SK students.

So, what do I do with this information? There are two courses of action I can take given the number of students (and sections of each class) that currently attend SCS. The first option is to offer an after-school math club where a tutor would be hired to offer inquiry-based (or project-based) math learning. The tutor would develop various real-life questions or projects that would strengthen math understanding. This club would be open to all high school students.

The second option, pursuant to parental interest, would be to change the current timetable for our grade 11 and 12 students. Currently students take five courses per semester. In the new format, we would offer students four courses in one semester and five courses in the other semester. In the four course semester, students would get 120 hours of instruction and in the five course semester, students would get the regular 100 hours of instruction. The four course semester (only for grade 11-12 students) include a math and a science course at the 20 and 30 level (for example, Pre-Calculus/Foundations 20 and Physical Science 20 AND Pre-Calculus/Foundations 30 and Biology 30. The other two courses would be non-science/math courses such as ELA or History or anything else along those lines. Students in grade 11 or 12 would only be able to take nine courses, but they would have the equivalent of one extra month of classroom instruction in the courses they take during that semester. Students from grades 1-12 need 24 credits to graduate; this timetable format allows students to obtain 28 credits if they want.



Why Does SCS Exist?

Last weekend was Thanksgiving. I had the opportunity to go back to BC to visit family and friends for the long weekend. On the flight back, I had the chance to read. The book I read, Pivot, was a response to the Global Christian School Learning Summit, a biennial conference for Christian school educators. Some of the presenters got together to prepare a review and a challenge for each of the session tracks from the conference. The first chapter was about sustainability for Christian schools. One of the subsections in this chapter dealt with the need for spiritual vitality in order to sustain the vision and mission of Christian education. The authors provided four keys to maintaining this spiritual vitality:

Key #1. In order for Christian schooling to be sustainable, the home, church, and school must be united under a common cause. It is imperative that parents, pastors, church leaders, and educators be willing to address the issue of education biblically.

Today this is still an issue. Very few churches are actively supportive of Christian schools; many churches are actually hostile to Christian schools. Church and home must work together with Christian schools to properly train children into biblical thinking.

Key #2. Christian parents, pastors, church leaders, and educators must continually strive to develop a strong biblical worldview in their own lives. Studies show that today’s Christians may be the most biblically illiterate generation of believers in church history, and that a very small percentage of Christians possess a biblical worldview. Christians must be intentional in developing their own worldviews so that they interpret all of life from a solid biblical perspective. As parents, pastors, church leaders, and educators develop a biblical worldview, they will understand and be able to formulate a biblical philosophy of education that will lead them in engaging their families in Christian education.

After having been involved in Christian education for over twenty years, I am no longer surprised by how few Christians have a well thought-out biblical worldview. This is something we strive to inculcate here at SCS and is one of the reasons for the work we have done with our CE (Christian Education) program. The other component of this is how biblically illiterate most Christians are today as the main source of theology comes from the music they listen to. When Martin Luther wrote A Mighty Fortress is our God, the mindset was that our music should teach theology and was written as such. However, that is not a good source of theology today.

Key #3. Christians must reject dualism, whereby they live their “religious” lives by biblical truth but their “secular” lives by human reasoning and common sense. This dualistic mindset has led the majority of Christians to see academic subjects as merely bodies of neutral facts with no spiritual meaning and, therefore, to not see the need for Christian education.

Education is not neutral; the organized educational system is definitely not neutral. I am so glad that we have groups praying for us on a weekly basis; the importance of this cannot be overstated. Many secular authors, and those promoting other worldviews, are becoming increasingly open about admitting that every aspect of education is spiritual and has spiritual overtones and underpinnings. We, as Christian parents and educators, need to realize this as well.

Key #4. All Christians must pursue excellence in who they are and what they do, as they serve a God who is excellent (Psalm 8:1) and who expects His children to strive for excellence (Philippians 1). However, biblical excellence is vastly different from worldly excellence, which is based on horizontal comparison and competition with others (and as a result, often devalues character). By way of contrast, biblical excellence has a vertical perspective, where God is the standard, Jesus Christ is the model, the goal is Christlikeness, the focus is character, the basis is God’s Word, and the motive is God’s glory. (In this model of excellence, performance is an outgrowth of godly character.) When parents, church leaders, and educators understand and pursue biblical excellence, their educational efforts will be distinctive and stand apart from all other forms of schooling.

This key certainly sets us apart from the secular (public) school system. As we work on our definition of excellence, let us keep the above definition in mind.

The authors then move on to a discussion of whether or not we should be protectionist or missional. (Another way of labeling these two perspectives would be to call them covenantal or evangelistic):

Christian schools and institutions have choices to make in the face of this changing world. The choices could be labeled as “protectionist” or “missional.” Each can find a basis in Scripture, and either can be a faithful response by an individual Christian school or other educational ministry to God’s plan and the leading of the Holy Spirit. As with any dichotomous characterization, these choices have the potential to become caricatures of what has been described. While the reality for Christian schools and institutions will be far more complex than these two choices can encompass, they serve as useful illustrative tools and means of categorizing potential responses. A protectionist approach, as the name implies, would see Christian schools and institutions focusing on ensuring that within that school community there is a strong reinforcement of beliefs and values. Perpetuation of faith and maintenance of existing religious freedom based largely on claims to those freedoms becomes the dominant paradigm of engagement with the legal and legislative environment. Of course, this approach can only be sustained against the background of strong existing religious freedoms and with an eye to protecting those freedoms. A missional approach requires a change of mind-set for many Christian schools and institutions in the West. While still ensuring there is a strong reinforcement of beliefs and values within that school community, a missional approach necessitates that Christian educators begin to live and think as minorities. This requires engaging with society in winsome, diplomatic ways. In this approach, Christian educators must operate with the assumption that their actions and motives are understood as bad for society and bad for individuals—and in some cases even evil. Christian educators cannot give those who hold a different view a basis to criticize them through the use of careless language or by unthinking behavior, but will need to be explicit in explanations of why they do what they do, and ensure their students and families also understand these rationales.

Based on the way these two perspectives are described, I would argue that we need to be moving more to a missional approach to education here at SCS. The closing thoughts from the authors show why I think this.

More recently the cultural focus has shifted away from merely sexual activity or even sexual orientation to “gender identity,” with Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) rights being asserted across a wide range of areas. The dominant cultural narrative understands “gender” to be distinct from [biological] sex with individuals able to determine their own “gender identity” independently from their sex “assigned at birth.”1 On the basis of this self-determined gender, individuals then claim the right to be treated as if their sex correlated with their gender. This can be in the form of adopting the social markers traditionally associated with a particular sex, such as dress and school uniforms, and on through to access to facilities such as changing rooms and bathrooms. Failure to accept this cultural narrative is being equated in the public square with racist attitudes of the past and linked with increased rates of suicide and negative mental health outcomes. Indeed, against the background of a wave of activism in this area, Christian education is in danger of being characterized by what it stands against, rather than what it stands for. Yet in the midst of these challenging circumstances there is hope. Christian schools and institutions across the globe educate millions of young people on a daily basis. Christian education doesn’t merely provide academic instruction but seeks to form young people in the knowledge of the fullness of Christ—young people who understand their identity in the revelation of Christ’s love for them and His saving grace. Christian schools and institutions have an incredible opportunity to speak into these young lives. As such, they should strive to become known for their positive oddities and not their perceived condemnations of society or individuals. If the Christian education movement is faithful to Christ it should look and operate differently than its counterparts. Those differences need to be explained to legal authorities and community and should reflect the love of Christ. In this way, Christian schools and institutions can begin to rebuild their reputations and show they are for the common good of the community and not out for their own preservation, even in spite of some actions and beliefs that might be interpreted as odd or even negative.

This is the battle currently being fought in Alberta. It is not far behind in BC and Saskatchewan. I am glad that the authors also provide a way to help us process how we should work to not only protect ourselves but also to plan a way to reach out into our culture to be the salt and light God has called us to be.

In order to embed these practices Christian schools and institutions need to ensure their written documents truly reflect the totality of who they are and what they believe. Faith, values, and beliefs should be captured and evidenced in foundational documents, policies, and practices, as that will be the basis upon which Christian schools and institutions will be judged, to a large degree. This is of particular importance in the area of employment. With a clear understanding of what they believe and why, and policies and practices to reflect this, Christian schools and institutions will have a sound footing on which to develop relationships with legislators. While legislators may not always agree with the positions proposed, communicating with them and helping them to understand the truth of who Christian educators are and what they are seeking has an enormous impact on legislation. The political world is the modern day “city gates,” at which Christian educators need to engage in discussions with civic leaders. This engagement needs to happen at all levels of government, and Christian educators need to have the wisdom to know when to engage and when not to engage on an issue. Some Christian schools and institutions may be called to play a further role, communicating and seeking to influence the wider culture. This happens nowadays primarily through the media. Christian educators’ messages should reflect the truth of who they are, what they believe, and how Christian education benefits society. Christian education needs to be seen as for the public good, not merely for its own good. Where possible on issues where Christian educators can agree with the government (or with those who may normally oppose Christian education), Christian educators should seek to work collaboratively. The positive message that education can be a good for all, and that education lifts people out of their current situations, is generally one that Christian educators can endorse and support. In Western cultures, where the popular narratives are increasingly disconnected with biblical truth, the prevailing trend will be for courts and legislators to follow that trend and make decisions and law antithetical to the operations of Christian schools. The pervasive influence of Western culture globally suggests that other nations should take heed of this trend and prepare themselves for what is likely to come. While Christian educators live in challenging times, they also need to be conscious that in dealings with those in the courts and legislators, the ultimate aim is that they, like the Colossians, “may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2b–3).

There will be no blog post next week as the SCS teaching staff (and administration) will be in Calgary participating in the ACSIWC Teacher Convention where our topic is Shalom and our keynote speaker is Dr. Christopher Yuan. We will have time to work on a group project with other Alberta and Saskatchewan Christian school educators on integrating our faith into every facet of our instruction.

Works Cited

Swaner, Lynn E., et al. PIVOT: New Directions for Christian Education. Purposeful Design Publications, 2017.

Back in the Saddle Again

This year I have the privilege of being in the classroom again (only two hours a week as prep release). Due to the many benefits, I believe every principal should teach at least a little every year.

One benefit of being in the classroom is that it helps develop positive relationships with the students. Positive relationships lead to student engagement which, ultimately, leads to improved student achievement.

A second benefit to being in the classroom is that it allows me to utilize and refine the various teaching strategies I have used in the past. As I refine these, I can share them with the other teachers in the building (just as I can learn from them as well).

A third benefit is that I improve my credibility with the teachers. As I teach, I gain an appreciation for what the teachers go through in this building. When I offer suggestions, I can fine-tune them to the students that we have. The teachers know that I am dealing with some of the same issues they are: intermittent technology, Maplewood frustrations, and classroom composition concerns.

A final benefit is that I get to share some of my interests with my students. I have the opportunity to get students excited about some of what I enjoy doing: reading and writing. Increasing their level of excitement helps them to do better in their learning and that is something that teachers, students, and parents can get excited about.

Death Valley

As a child, I loved our Christmas holidays. Every year we would burrow into our VW Rabbit and head down to California for a two-week skiing holiday. We would share a house with our extended family and spend the two weeks skiing, hiking, travelling to natural hot springs, and visiting with family. On the way home (if we were visiting our family in greater Los Angeles), we would sometimes swing through Death Valley .

Death Valley is the lowest point (over 30 metres BELOW sea level) in North America and a desert.

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The surrounding mountains would be cloaked with snow and there was the odd winter that featured snow on the desert floor.

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Driving through, we could see the tracks of the borax wagon trains and see where seasonal rivers (flash floods) had carved paths.

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Most years we drove through, we saw no flourishing plant life. There may have been the odd Joshua tree or other cacti, flowers withered on their stems, or the frequent bleached logs.

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One year we decided to visit our extended family in Los Angeles in the summer. My dad rarely had time off in the summer, but one year we did. My dad wanted to see Death Valley in the summer, so we drove through and saw the same valleys covered in wildflowers. As the winter snow melted (in the valley and from the surrounding mountains) the flowers had been provided with sufficient moisture to germinate and flower (ever so briefly). The appearance changed so dramatically, it was hard to believe that we drove through the same valley. It was amazing to see what a bit of water could do.

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All of this is a lead-in to the verses I just recently re-read in Isaiah. Isaiah 43:1b-3a, 19 says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed youI have called you by your  name; You are MineWhen you pass through the waters, will be with youAnd through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. For am the Lord your GodThe Holy One of Israel, your Savior; 19 Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

We have such amazing promises in these few verses. First, God has redeemed us. He found us where we were but did not leave us there. He is making something wonderful in and through us. Second, He shows us how precious we are to Him by announcing that we are His. (Everyone else, hands off!) Third, God promises that He will be with us when we pass through the waters and walk through the flames (trials and tribulations). Finally, we have His promise that He will make roads in the wilderness and call forth rivers in the desert.

Sometimes we feel like we are in the desert: nothing seems to be flourishing and the little life that is there seems to be all prickles. And yet….

When the waters come, there is life in abundance.

And God promises to provide that water.

I can’t wait to see what God will do this year. He will provide water and we will flourish. I don’t know how or where the water will come from, but that is not important. What is important is that we wait upon God and His timing for the waters (of blessing) to come. Let us do our part in being faithful to His Word and then He will do His part (in His timing) and bring the blessing that only He can give. That way all glory belongs to Him and we will have the privilege of praising His name.

The Politics of Collaborative Expertise

This is the second of two John Hattie articles on how to improve learning at SCS. [As before, my comments will be in square brackets.]

‘The real problem (of education) is that the locus of system-wide improvement is actually at the individual level. The only way to improve this to get INSIDE classrooms and work with teachers where they do their business – and that takes a ton of courage for all educators (formal leaders and classroom teachers alike) as well as the system overall and time. [The bottom line is that the teacher has the biggest impact on how much students learn.]

‘Expect a Year’s Worth of Progress

The student of high expectation teachers [are] very successful in achieving their teachers’ expectations and the students of teachers with low expectations [are] similarly successful at making lower gains.’ [What I have learned is that it does not matter where one sets the bar; students will always fall just short. So, if the bar is set low, students will just fail to reach it; if the bar is set high, students will just fail to reach it. So set the bar high. However, that is only half of the story. The other half is that the teachers then need to provide the scaffolding and supports needed to help each student reach the high bar. That, to a great extent, is Hattie’s argument in this article.]

‘Develop New Assessment and Evaluation Tools

We need to understand teacher and student expectations to ensure that they are appropriately high – and then to provide teachers with decent assessment and evaluation tools to help them set and evaluate these expectations.’ [This is about what administrators need to provide their staff and not about the failures of teachers. Teachers do the best they can with the tools they are given; it is up to the administration to give them better tools. Just getting data is not good nor enough; it must be the right data. Giving the teachers better evaluation tools helps generate the right data.]

‘Know Thy Impact

School leaders [need to] become leaders in evaluating the impact of all in the school on the progress of all students…. Schools need to become incubators of programs, evaluators of impact and experts at interpreting the effects of teachers and teaching on all students.’ Teachers [need to] be clearer about what success would look like and the magnitude of the impact and we ask them to prepare assessment to administer at the end – before they start teaching.’ [Here we see three different roles set out: administrators as educational leaders, schools as incubators of programs, and teachers as evaluators. This should become a discussion point within SCS and withing SPSD.]

‘Ensure Teachers Have Expertise in Diagnosis, Interventions, and Evaluation

If students are not learning, then it is because we are not using the right teaching strategies….[Teachers need to] have a high level of cognitive decision-making skills; that they are able and willing to say ‘I was wrong in my choice of method of intervention and need to change what I do or say’ or ‘I was right in my choice of interventions as they led to me successfully teaching these students’; and that they engage with others in collaborative inquiry about their diagnoses, interventions and evaluations – based on the evidence of their impact.’ [This requires huge amount of trust. We are not there yet, but this is something that we will be working on next year as it is truly what is best for students. Also, this is what it means for teachers to actually be professionals – working together, based on evidence, to help students achieve academic and spiritual success.]

‘The Implications of Collaborative Expertise

The focus of collaboration needs to be on the evidence of impact, common understandings of what the impact means, the evidence and ways to know about the magnitude of the impact and how the impact is shared across many groups of students…. Led by instructional leaders, the community would aim to have teachers sharing and learning how to become more expert…. The school leader must have the expertise to create opportunities, develop trust, provide the resources needed to understand the impact on students of all the teachers (and their own impact as school leaders) and to lead these discussions among the teachers. The leader’s role is to seek the answer to two major questions: (1) what is the evidence that each student is gaining at least a year’s progress for a year’s input in every subject and (2) what is the school doing in light of this?… The school, not the individual teacher, should be the unit of analysis. [We have known about the importance of collaboration for teachers for a long time. However, that does not mean that we are engaged in collaboration to any great extent. This is something that needs to change (but I know it takes both time and trust). We also need to decide on which assessment tools will actually give us the data we are looking for. This will take some time. It is something that we will be working on again next year.]


Hattie, J. (June 2015). What Works Best in Education: The politics of collaborative expertise. Pearson.

The Politics of Distraction

This is the first of two articles by John Hattie that I would like to share with you. [I will comment on what I quote within square brackets.]

Hattie’s fundamental argument is that the ‘minimum goal of education, when rightly expressed, should be for all students to make at least one year’s progress for one year’s input, no matter where they start.’ [This is a good basic assumption. Where we go from here is to look at the various suggestions that Hattie makes to ensure that this happens.] Hattie then argues that ministries of education have good intentions, but often the good intentions do not lead to where we need to go. Hattie explains that political leaders and department officials often struggle with the ‘variability in the effectiveness of what happens at the classroom level and instead focus on policies which are politically attractive but which have been shown to have little effect on improving student learning…. The typically expensive proposals…distract us from implementing policies that can make a significant difference, defined here as interventions with an effect size of at least 0.4, the average expected effect size for one year of progress in school.’ [As an administrator, I am all about student learning. How can we, as an administrative team, help our students make one year’s worth of progress with one year’s worth of teaching. Some of Hattie’s suggestions will work at the school level; other suggestions need to be made at the provincial level and so we don’t really have a large say on that issue. Let’s start to consider Hattie’s various suggestions.]

‘Fix the Infrastructure

We need more sophisticated diagnostic tools to help teachers ascertain each student’s recent successes and work out the best way for them to progress to the next level.’ [This is true for us here at SCS. There are a variety of assessments we need to complete by virtue of being an associate school. However, there are other assessments that we will start to implement next year that have not been used at SCS in the past. The two main areas across all grades is literacy and numeracy. There is a simple literacy test that we can implement for grades K-6. We will then look for some assessment tools for literacy from grades 7-12. I also have a numeracy assessment tool that we can use for K-8; we then need to find a good tool for grades 9-12. Once we have these tools, we can start tracking students and seeing where we need to make adjustments and which adjustments we need to make. That will help us move forward with each student.]

‘The art of teaching is to balance the need for surface knowledge with deep processing of this knowledge. Deeper thinking skills need content on which to work. You cannot use deeper-thinking skills unless you have something to think about.’ [This has been something I have argued for years. Students need a lot of background knowledge before they can be asked to think critically about it. So let’s give them the background knowledge and then challenge them to evaluate that information critically. This would not require a big change at SCS; it is more that the teachers just need to be more intentional about doing this. In other words, we do this; we just need to know that we are deliberately choosing to do this.]

‘Fix the Teachers

Teachers attain additional expertise (such as studying to become a learning-difficulties coach, assessment coach or literacy coach) and take responsibility for improving the skills of their fellow teachers within a school.’ [This is something that we at SCS already do in some of the elementary grades. We have a data team that is getting further training in assessment and instructional strategies and bringing that information back to SCS and then sharing it with the other teachers in the elementary. It does not work quite the same way in the secondary grades, but several of our staff are also very involved in acquiring greater expertise in the secondary subject areas and then bringing that information back to the secondary departments. We have seen how beneficial this is at SCS. The only real change that needs to happen here is that the efforts should be documented so that we can be even more intentional in making this happen. (Much of what has been done has not been documented and so is not well known.) As we become aware of other areas that are less developed, we will start to send staff to get further training in those areas so that we can help improve the entire teaching staff. This form of professional development has been shown to be the most effective style of professional development.]


Hattie, J. (June 2015). What Doesn’t Work in Education: The politics of distraction. Pearson.

PCAP 2016

SCS just received the results for the latest PCAP (Pan-Canadian Assessment Program) results; this assessment is for grade 8 students. The focus for this year was reading. There are two ways of looking at the data. The first way is to look at how many grade 8 students were able to read well enough to ‘participate effectively in school and in everyday life’ (PCAP 2016 Highlights, http://www.cmec.ca). In this way of looking at the data, Saskatchewan students performed well: 90% of students were able to read at that level.

A second way of looking at the data is to compare Saskatchewan to the rest of Canada. In that way, students in Saskatchewan did not do as well as the Canadian average. The mean score for Canada was 507 while the mean score for Saskatchewan was 491 (a difference in mean score of 16). This, in my mind, is somewhat concerning but something that we, at SCS, can and will address next year.

One other piece of interesting data, based on the work I did for my dissertation, has to do with the differing results between boys and girls. I will quote the pertaining paragraphs from the document: ‘Girls performed significantly better than boys…on the overall reading assessment, as well as in each of the four subdomains…. [G]irls outperformed boys by 27 points in Canada as a whole….Boys were more likely to perform at Level 1 – that is, below expected levels of reading proficiency – and were less likely than girls to achieve Level 3 for Canada as a whole’ (PCAP 2016 Highlights, http://www.cmec.ca).

For May 25 and June 1, I will share some thoughts from John Hattie (a researcher from Australia) on changes we can make to improve the academic standing of our students here at SCS.