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Why so many projects?
Here at CCS, it seems like you see projects and academic fairs going on all of the time! Yes, you do. Why? Projects, project based learning and academic fairs give students an opportunity to be immersed in a real world topic, while at the same time practicing many interdisciplinary competencies, and developing higher order thinking skills and presentation skills. There is nothing else like it.
We begin in 1st/2nd grade with a camping project that covers science, social studies and math or pioneer days which incorporates history, science, and English, and an animal habitat project that involves science and English. In addition, these first graders practice writing, speaking publically extemporaneously, memorization, and creating attractive presentation boards. These same types of skills are engaged year after year for larger and larger venues.
Project Based Learning (PBL) is actually a formal teaching method in which students learn by actively engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects. The definition according to PBLworks.org states that PBL is a teaching method in which students learn by actively engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects. In PBL, teachers make learning come alive for students.
How is PBL different from “doing a project”?
PBL has become more and more widely used because of the many benefits it provides and there are many ways to structure it. However, there are key characteristics that differentiate "doing a project" from engaging in rigorous Project Based Learning. We practice both here at CCS
Doing a simple project can often be a culminating assessment of topics that were covered thoroughly in a unit from a test book and reinforced by teach led instruction. This might look like constructing a model of a cell using edible parts. We do these simple type projects throughout the grades here at CCS. However, this is not project based learning. For distinction, a simple project, such as the one just described, is “a short, intellectually-light project served up after the teacher covers the content of a unit in the usual way - from a "main course" project, in which the project is the unit. In Project Based Learning, the project is the vehicle for teaching the important knowledge and skills student need to learn. The project contains and frames curriculum and instruction” (PBLworks).
Here at CCS the 5th grade soup project, the 6th grade world’s fair, First Lego League, the science fair, change for the world, and senior project are all founded upon PBL. These require critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and various forms of communication. They seek to answer a Driving Question and create high-quality work, and students need to do much more than recite memorized answers on a multiple choice test. They need to use higher-order thinking skills and often need to learn to work as a team.
Because students begin using PBL early here at CCS, by the time they graduate they are remarkable thinkers, researchers, communicators, and presenters. Graduates regularly return to express their appreciation for this education and share with us glowing reports from professors, bosses, and co-workers. It is something we are very proud of.
The Challenges of PBL
PBL does come with some challenges. Scaffolding instructions at different age groups with differing learning styles and academic levels can be a strength of PBL, since there can be allowances for uniqueness’s to individual student’s projects, but it is also a challenge to structure the overall project in a manner that meets those needs. Like any teaching method, some students love the freedom, individuality and sense of ownership they can have with their project. Others feel intimidated and have a hard time with different components of bringing the project together. Sometimes, students feel so uncomfortable they have a difficult time even forming their confusion into questions to ask a teacher and become overwhelmed. This can end up coming out at home, rather than in the classroom where their teacher can guide them through the process step by step. In PBL teachers rarely “give the answer”, rather they ask the questions, because thinking through the questions is what leads students to an answer that they can own and carry forward.
We appreciate that these challenges can create frustration at times at home. We desire to communicate with parents throughout the process of these activities, and clarify information throughout the process. We recognize that parents are often part of the project, providing oversight for safety, coordination for team members to meet, and collecting materials. We do not desire, nor expect parents to be members of the project team with their child. The work of PBL must be done by the students, this in itself can present temptation to do too much or answer questions they really need to get answered with their team or teachers.
If you, as a parent, have questions please contact your child’s teacher through email. Email, rather than texts, dojo, or even calling, presents the best opportunity for clarity that can be referred back to again and again. We desire that these projects be engaging, memorable and even fun learning experiences.
For More Information
If you are interested in learning more about PBL this website is a great start: https://www.pblworks.org/what-is-pbl
I am also happy to discuss teaching methods here at CCS and give you additional research or literature on our varied approaches to learning. Contact me anytime.
What is Dual Credit? Should my child take dual credit classes?
Technically the term “dual credit” refers to any simultaneous enrollment to two academic programs at one time. This could be a student enrolled in both a homeschool program and brick and mortar school simultaneously, or a private school and public school simultaneously; however, while you will hear the term used that way it more often refers to a high school student that is simultaneously enrolled in both a high school program and a college program and is gaining credits from both academic programs at the same time. Students are killing two birds with one stone, so to speak. The obvious benefit of this dual enrollment is that they are fulfilling their graduation requirements for a high school diploma at the same time as getting a head start on the graduation requirements they will have for an associates or bachelor’s degree in college.
Christian Center School (CCS) encourages dual enrollment for upper classmen and does so through the sequence of the courses we offer in our college prep program, as well as with our daily schedule for upper classmen. Most dual credit opportunities at the college level require that students be 16 and/or a junior in high school to qualify. This is the case with North Idaho College (NIC) and the other Idaho state schools. They must also already have a 3.0 GPA. CCS prepares students to qualify for this opportunity by working with students to achieve high scores in college preparatory coursework as a prerequisite for their dual enrollment.
One of the financial benefits of dual enrollment is the discount given for dual enrollment in college level courses. The discount is generally half of the normal per credit cost associated with the course. CCS students, therefore, can cut the costs of their college financial burden by dual enrolling. However, because CCS is a private school, we do not have access the additional funding the State of Idaho gives for dual enrollment tuition; we encourage parents as tax payers to make their opinions regarding this inequity known to their state legislators.
CCS offers dual credit opportunities through NIC, as well as other Idaho schools through online IDLA classes, and is partnering with Christian colleges to do the same. If you are interested in more information regarding specific dual enrollment options, please don’t hesitate to contact me or Dani Redican.
What is Title 1?
Title I is a federal aid program for schools. The goal of Title 1 is to ensure a high-quality education for every child, by providing extra help to students who need it most. Title I has three primary objectives:
- to improve student achievement for all participating children
- to improve staff development
- to improve parental and community involvement
Title 1 funds are distributed to school districts and individual schools based on the number of families enrolled that would qualify for free or reduced lunch within the public school district that they live. However, once a school qualifies for Title 1 funds, academic need, not economic status, determines which students receive extra services. Title 1 funds are intended to supplement what a school already provides its students.
Title 1 is different from Special Education programs. Title 1 does not address student needs based on disability or special needs, but rather on the basis of student performance, achievement and progress. CCS uses many forms of assessment to determine these needs including but not limited to: Direct Reading Assessments, Iowa Assessment, formative and summative assessment by teachers, and more.
Under new flexibility guidelines for Title 1 grants, the way Title 1 funds are used within schools has changed. Title 1 programs are now allowed, and encouraged, to collaborate to fill gaps and introduce innovations in instruction. What does this mean to you and your child? Because we can now combine some Title 1 funds with other funding sources to enhance the education of all students, the role of Title 1 in your school may not be as visible to you (and your child) as they have been in the past. This is a good thing! As educators and parents, we share the goal of providing students with the best education possible. The new guidelines enable us to work together toward this goal.
Under Title I, local school districts are required to provide services for eligible private school students, as well as eligible public school students. In particular, section 1120 of Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act, requires a participating local school district to provide eligible children attending private elementary and secondary schools, their teachers, and their families with Title I services or other benefits that are equitable to those provided to eligible public school children, their teachers, and their families. These services must be developed in consultation with officials of the private schools. The Title I services provided by the local school districts for private school participants are designed to meet their educational needs and supplement the educational services provided by the private school.
Here at CCS we recognize that parent involvement in the school increases academic success as well as builds our culture. You play an integral role in our Title 1 program. We encourage parents to become classroom aides, volunteer in classrooms through Parent Service Hours, and partner with teachers through at home reading logs, projects, fieldtrip chaperones, and other program supports. We invite you to get more involved and find out how Title 1 is supporting the programs of CCS.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education. Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office of State Support. (2015). Improving Basic Programs Operated by Local Educational Agencies (Title I, Part A).
I am often asked about whether or not CCS is accredited. What many parents seem to believe they are asking is, “Will colleges respect CCS as a viable college prep program?” Those are not the same question, regardless of what you have been led to believe. The answer to the first question is no; the answer to the second is yes!
CCS is not accredited for one reason; we love our staff and have chosen not to let them go. CCS has an experienced professional staff that has proven they can produce strong academic achievers while engaging them in active learning that fosters a love of learning. When we looked into the accreditation process and completed a lengthy self study of our programs there was only one area that we did not comply with what Idaho’s State Department of Education and AdvancED’s agency required. That one area was uniform teacher certification.
CCS does have many Idaho or other state certified teachers. However, uniform certification would mean that even an instructor like Dr. Burns, our chemistry teacher, who is a professor of Chemistry at Whitworth University with a PhD in Chemistry, would need to comply with Idaho state certification policies. We believe he is already well qualified as a teacher, as does Whitworth. It also would mean that we would be required to hire a certified Spanish teacher with a degree in Education rather than a native speaker of Spanish with a degree in Aeronautics. As you can see by my examples, we do not believe that the only qualified teachers are those with degrees in Education and endorsements by the state.
However, let me stress again that we took the accreditation process very seriously and we qualified or exceeded qualification for accreditation in every area except teacher certification. That, and some additional trends in the accreditation process, gave us pause. The CCS Board continues to evaluate whether or not we would desire to complete the accreditation compliance. At this time we have chosen not to.
As to the second question above, “Will colleges respect CCS as a viable college prep program?” the answer is yes they have and continue to. CCS has been sending students to colleges of their choice for many years. CCS alumni are engineers, pastors, teachers, nurses, business owners, executives, police officers, and many many other professions. Currently, we have alumni attending Whitworth, Biola, Eastern, Mid-America, Boise State, University of Idaho, Eastern Washington University, and others. What are colleges and universities looking for? That is the question parents should be asking.
Colleges and Universities are well aware that high schools across the nation offer much the same curriculum on the one hand, but differ greatly from school to school when it comes to grading criteria. Because of this fact, they do not make their decision based primarily on a student’s High School transcripts nor the accreditation of those transcripts. High School transcripts communicate to a college, university or post secondary program which classes the student chose to take and how they performed in those classes. Students who take more challenging courses and do well in them are more highly desirable to these programs. CCS is a college preparatory program. We hold our students to some of the highest graduation requirements of schools in the state. Most of our High School students take four years of math, history, English and science, are fluent or close to it in Spanish, have taken on-line classes, and enroll in college level classes through Idaho colleges prior to graduation, . Our standardized test scores are on average two years ahead. These factors make our students very desirable.
Beyond our student’s transcripts, SAT and ACT test scores play a big role in admittance and scholarship opportunities. Again, most CCS students are awarded not only admittance but merit scholarships at the colleges and universities they attend. Their academic records also makes them eligible for private scholarships and grants.
In short we have never had a student admissions turned down because CCS is not accredited.
As CCS continues to grow its programs, the CCS Board will continue to evaluate whether or not we believe it is in our students’ best interests to pursue accreditation to meet our mission. We make a commitment to you to provide individual academic excellence in a family environment to biblically prepare tomorrow’s leaders to reach our community and world for God’s glory.
Julie Yetter, Principal