Show what you know, so we can help you grow
The mission of San Jose Christian School is to advance the kingdom of God through exceptional teaching fully integrated with Biblical perspective. Within our Christian community, we seek to engage and transform culture for Jesus Christ.
SJCS administers a student-adaptive standardized test to Grades 2 - 8 called NWEA MAP Growth. The NWEA MAP website opens, “See their needs. Close the gaps. Help them grow.” This aligns with our SJCS approach where we aim to support each unique learner. SJCS students take fall and spring tests in the areas of math, reading, and language to inform teachers of student needs, support differentiation, and measure growth.
Spring MAP testing results are in! Let’s take a look at the results to celebrate some of the ways our team used MAP testing to see student needs, close gaps, and help our students grow.
Spring 2023 Testing Results
Two years ago COVID interrupted student learning worldwide. For schools across the U.S., math education during and post-COVID was especially challenging. Because MAP testing results give specific data about student and class achievement in specific areas (ex. operational and algebraic thinking, number and operations, geometry, statistics), SJCS teachers can target learning gaps, what students are ready to learn next, and which areas need particular focus during instruction and assessment.
SJCS responded to math learning gaps post-COVID by adding a math push-in teacher to support students on the above- and below-level spectrum for Grades 4 and 5 math. Additionally, math teachers met monthly during the 21-22 school year to collaborate and unite in meeting the challenges of students with diverse math needs.
Spring 2023 MAP results show that our math class averages grew 3 - 16 RIT points from September to March, with most math classes ranking higher than grade level and California private school norms.
K - 2 Language Arts
San Jose Christian follows a curriculum review cycle to ensure quality curriculum which meets and exceeds standards. In our most recent language arts curriculum review, elementary teachers and the Education Committee chose SuperKids for JK-2.
MAP results confirm the excellence of the SuperKids program which covers reading comprehension, phonics, writing, spelling, and penmanship. According to the fall MAP reading scores, Grade 2 started the 22-23 school year five RIT points higher than the California private school average. The spring MAP results show that the class average grew nine RIT points since September, keeping the class average well above California private school norms.
3 - 8 Language Arts
The language MAP test comprises three categories: writing (plan, organize, develop, revise, research), grammar (edit, understand, use), and mechanics (edit, understand). SJCS uses Easy Grammar, Daily Grammar, and Step Up to Writing to teach these language skills. The elementary classes who take this particular test grew 5 - 9 RIT points during the course of this year, continuing their history of exceeding grade level and private school norms.
In middle school these skills are integrated into the daily language arts curriculum as well as taught specifically in a weekly grammar class. Past MAP results for each unique learner were used in the Grade 7 class to pilot differentiated instruction. Additionally, Greek and Latin vocabulary were added to the grammar curriculum.
This responsive teaching resulted in 88% of Grade 7 students scoring at or above grade level on the spring language MAP test, an increase of five RIT points which placed the class average above California private school norms.
Recent conversations with SJCS alumni and comments on the 2023 alumni survey affirm that SJCS is living out its mission.
“San Jose Christian’s preparation for academic excellence helped me become my high school’s valedictorian,” one alumnus wrote.
Another praised, “My time at SJCS has given me academic confidence going into high school thanks to amazing teachers who are strong, Godly leaders. The solid, clear, and efficient teaching at SJCS has been a great foundation for my education.”
Current high school students share that “SJCS fully succeeded in preparing me for every aspect of high school” and that “I felt very confident coming into [high school] math after attending SJCS.”
As SJCS continues to move forward in its mission, we are committed to meaningful faith integration, excellent curriculum, effective teaching, and Christ-centered community. May God be praised as we offer our school, our community, and our work to God’s glory.
Spotlight Series: 2nd Grade Problem Solvers
This blog is part of a series for the 2022-23 school year to ILLUMINATE how God is at work at San Jose Christian School. Each post will SPOTLIGHT a specific grade level and/or program. This fourth post in the series is a SPOTLIGHT on teaching problem solving at SJCS and features interviews from: Shannon McNerney (2nd Grade Teacher) and Tabitha DeAnda (1st-2nd Learning Center and 3rd-8th Art Teacher)
Part of Our Mission at SJCS is to prepare students to “engage and transform culture for Christ,” and in order to accomplish this, Shannon McNerney says students need to learn that transformation is possible. Ms. McNerney is the 2nd Grade Teacher at SJCS, and while transformation sounds extraordinary, she says that her students have ordinary opportunities to see transformations every day in math problems, conflicts at recess, or even on a blank piece of paper.
“Problems are part of The Fall story,” Ms. McNerney said. “We're going to have problems in our lives. We can't avoid that. But teaching [students] that it's something they can work through shows them that transformation is possible.”
This is the “engage” part of “engage and transform.” It is necessary for students to address the problems in their lives much like they must answer the problems in their math workbooks. Problems are going to happen, but when students understand that problems can be worked through, they learn not to give up in the face of difficulty.
“The students drive those teachable moments,” Tabitha DeAnda observed. Mrs. DeAnda teaches 1st and 2nd Grade Learning Center as well as 3rd-8th Grade Art and works closely with Ms. McNerney to support and teach their shared 2nd Grade students. The two teachers emphasized that while they do not know every problem students will face throughout a day, they are very intentional in planning for and anticipating misconceptions. Their classes are set up to provide a safe environment with the tools and resources a student would need in order to work through problems when they arise.
“We're going to have problems in our lives. We can't avoid that. But teaching them that it's something they can work through shows them that transformation is possible.”
“They have access to everything,” Mrs. DeAnda said, describing the structures, visual aids, and daily routines she uses in her classroom, “so my biggest tool is teaching them how to find it.”
Mrs. DeAnda gave the example of a student who did not have all the materials they needed at the beginning of class. When this student asked for help, her response came in the form of a question: “How can I find that?” She explained that this technique gave her student the chance to think through the problem rather than being given the answer.
While Mrs. DeAnda could tell her students exactly what they need and where to find it, she does not believe it is always in their best interest long-term. “I like to ask questions like how can you fix that? or how can you find that?... because I want to teach students to think: if I’m in a situation where I need to do this by myself, what are the resources I can use?”
Giving students the opportunity to think through their problems creates new pathways in their brains. Mrs. DeAnda remarked, “You’re teaching them that they’re forever going to be learning… that’s the perspective and culture we want to instill in them at a very early age.”
“Where this was a struggle for them, I see that transformation where they’re not going home defeated.”
In order to foster a culture of lifelong learning, students need opportunities to practice working through challenges in a safe space. At San Jose Christian, we teach the Whole Child with an approach that recognizes the uniqueness of every student. One program available to students who are experiencing challenges with reading and writing fluency is the Learning Center. In the Learning Center, the class sizes are smaller, which allows Learning Center Teachers to provide lessons with even more individualized pacing and support to meet students’ learning needs.
“If we did not finish one of the things on the agenda, I’m not moving on and jumping in the next day just because it’s a new day,” Mrs. DeAnda said. “We’re understanding the concepts before building upon them.”
Mrs. DeAnda explained how she wants learning to be a positive experience. Creating a safe and supportive environment that allows students the time they need to learn is what makes this possible. “It gives them the space to actually dial back,” Mrs. DeAnda noted, “and for us to hone into what their needs are and provide them with the tools necessary for them to succeed in the classroom.”
And this approach makes a tangible difference for student learning. Mrs. DeAnda described the transformation she has seen in her Learning Center classroom. “Where this was a struggle for them, I see that transformation where they’re not going home defeated. I’m hearing that they love going... This is fun for them. I mean, this is hard for them, but I’m trying in every possible way to make them feel like learning is amazing.”
“Every moment you’re seeing this magical experience for them.”
Both teachers said that what they enjoy most about working with second graders is their students’ curiosity. Mrs. DeAnda added that second graders are so eager to learn. “Every moment you’re seeing this magical experience for them. It’s so groundbreaking for them because it’s the first time for them learning everything and they’re still just so curious.”
Students’ natural curiosity means they are already longing for an explanation, answer, or solution. Ms. McNerney sees their natural curiosity as an asset for teaching problem solving, especially to get students started when they feel stuck. “Something I see that's really helpful is treating [a problem] almost like a puzzle,” she said, “which can be helpful for them because it’s not looking at something and seeing it as blank… but instead thinking where does this go?” The benefit of this approach is that it breaks the problem apart and allows a student to focus on, for example, writing the first three words instead of the whole paragraph.
Embracing natural curiosity also shows students that they have problem-solving tools inside of them, which teaches not only independence but also self-reflection. “I really enjoy watching them finally be able to communicate with me,” Ms. McNerney stated. When students look inside for a solution, they can identify areas of strength and areas of potential growth for themselves.
Ms. McNerney also described how when students better understand their own learning style, they can intentionally choose strategies or tools from several options. A visual learner, for example, will look for support on a poster in the room or from a color-coded chart when they get stuck, whereas an auditory learner may raise their hand to ask a question or to hear something repeated.
Additionally, Ms. McNerney explained that all the tools and strategies she provides for students become a “toolkit” that she references in class. When students are working, she says “there may be 12 different strategies given that they can use… and I like watching the kids recognize what works and what doesn't.”
“I think that problem solving can make a more student-centered classroom”
Self-reflection has the added benefit of showing students that learning is not all-or-nothing. Ms. McNerney noted this in describing how students communicate their feelings about different subjects. “There’s a switch that happens when they recognize: ‘Okay, I have certain skills that I appreciate in math, but I have a hard time with reading and writing.’” Rather than believing that because one aspect of school is difficult, they must not like school in general, these second grade students are already showing evidence of a growth mindset.
And it is important to allow students to see that learning is happening whether a task feels easier or more difficult. Both teachers mentioned that creating a safe space in their classrooms includes validating students' feelings when they find something difficult and normalizing that ability is not connected to how quickly a student can overcome a problem.
“We both will say that: I don’t know yet,” Ms. McNerney explained. And when students say: I don’t know or I can’t do it, she reframes their language. She will acknowledge that, “Yes, it is hard,” before emphasizing that they can do it, it will just require a different approach or a solution they have not tried yet.
Mrs. DeAnda added that she models this by sharing some of her own challenges and struggles. “I think we can be honest and open about ourselves and with them,” she said, adding, “We’re all learning together.”
Life is a learning process with problems and difficulties. As we prepare students to be world-changers, we are also teaching them that they are part of a community of Christians who are learning and growing as well. When students see that problems, even difficult problems, can be solved, they also see that they can be a transformed person.
“I think that problem solving can make a more student-centered classroom, which is what my goal personally is. In the end,” Ms. McNerney remarked, “they’re going to feel like: This is a place that is for me.”
Rae Sterk is the Director of Community Development at San Jose Christian.
Shannon McNerney is the 2nd Grade Teacher at San Jose Christian.
Tabitha DeAnda is the 1st-2nd Grade Learning Center Teacher and the 3rd-8th Grade Art Teacher at San Jose Christian.
Playgrounds, Paradise, & How this Principal Connects
The mission of San Jose Christian School is to advance the kingdom of God through exceptional teaching and curriculum fully integrated with a Biblical perspective. Within our Christian community, we seek to engage and transform culture for Jesus Christ.
Ask elementary students about a favorite part of school and you will likely hear, “RECESS!” Mister Rogers himself would agree that recess is an important and necessary “classroom” as he noted, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” The well-known poem "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" confirms this viewpoint with its opening lines, “All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in Kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile…”
At San Jose Christian our Reformed perspective starts at creation with the truth that the whole world belongs to God for God’s kingdom purposes. Eden was paradise where people were created for flourishing. This is why we teach the whole child at SJCS and why all aspects of our time at school–classes, collaborative work, spiritual practices, relationship-building, recess and playground time–are valuable and critical parts of the school day. Seriously!
Part of my job description as Teaching Principal is to “foster sound relationships among students, parents, staff, and Board; oversee student discipline and advancement of citizenship and spiritual/emotional/academic growth; and mentor and counsel students as needed through transitions or growth.” This is no small task, and, by its very nature, will not be complete until Jesus comes again. Given the challenge and scope, I see student support as one of the most difficult yet kingdom-oriented parts of my job at SJCS. I have opportunities every day to see God at work and join Him in that good work, work which can bring the kingdom of God here on earth and give glimpses of the paradise for which we were created.
The playground is full of opportunities for us to transform culture for Jesus Christ.
What might paradise, the flourishing for which we were intended, look like at SJCS? Imagine a playground where differences in students are celebrated and enjoyed. Imagine a recess game where each student joyfully and purposefully contributes. Imagine a conversation between principal and parent where grace and truth coexist. Imagine two students practicing conflict resolution tools which lead to forgiveness and healing in the relationship. Friends—these are all marks of God’s kingdom here on earth! The playground is full of opportunities for us to transform culture for Jesus Christ.
We were created for paradise! We see this paradise in part whenever God’s will is done or His power is shown. But it is an already-not yet kingdom until Jesus comes again. Until that day, we have good work to do in moving toward the flourishing for which we were created. Here are some of the intentional ways we are living out God’s kingdom at SJCS.
August | Grades 1-5 students gathered in the auditorium for a Playground Presentation to establish procedures and expectations in a community setting. Teachers joined the fun by role-playing for students what good choices can look like on the playground.
September | Our first Grade 5 Recess Pieces students started their leadership role. Each one completed an application which included self-reflection on servant leadership. Six students applied for the position and were chosen to serve this year. The Recess Pieces support the recess monitors with playground equipment pickup and advise the Teaching Principal in understanding concerns of our playground culture.
October, January, March, May | Four times throughout the school year I go into elementary classrooms to lead a Principal Connect session on an area of social-emotional well-being. In October we explored self-awareness, the ability to understand one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values. We recognized the range of emotions God created in us as a stepping stone to understanding self and promoting communication about our emotions with the important people in our lives. (If you are an SCJS parent you can read about this Principal Connect in your student’s Faith Journey postings.) Upcoming Principal Connect sessions will focus on self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.
Year-round | I have the heavy and holy responsibility to walk students through conflict resolution and choice-making. If students come to my office after a conflict, we take time to practice active listening. During this time of gathering information, each of us listens fully to the other without interrupting. In a culture where assumptions and interruptions are the norm, we want to listen well to one another to hear the heart and seek healing and restoration in relationship to God, self, and others.Through object lessons such as a quarter in my hand, a string held by two people, two concentric circles, or an apple placed among a group, I help students consider what a step forward might look like.
Imagining paradise in our daily lives sharpens our purpose and moves us forward in kingdom-minded ways. God made a beautiful, whole, fully-alive creation meant for flourishing and His glory. While we are reminded daily of the sin within ourselves and others, as Christians we have hope based on the truth of the resurrection. We can love those who hurt us because God loved us first while we were still in sin. We can seek healing and restoration because the Holy Spirit bears fruit in us of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. While this “work” is not always easy, it is good. It is God’s work in and through us that brings God glory.
Father, we praise you as our Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, and Provider. You are holy, God! We confess our sin to you today—sins of pride, gossip, grudge, or hate. While we are still far off, you look for us as a Loving Father, and run toward us, welcoming us into your arms with feasting and joy. In this day, whether on the playground, in the classroom, at the office, or at home, may we see where you are at work and humble ourselves to live in ways that bring your kingdom here on earth. Amen.
Spotlight Series: Library & 1st Grade Literacy
This blog is part of a new series for the 2022-23 school year to ILLUMINATE how God is at work at San Jose Christian School. Each post will SPOTLIGHT a specific grade level and/or program. This third post in the series is a SPOTLIGHT on literacy programs at SJCS and features interviews from: Nicole Nesdahl (Librarian) and Audra Tate (1st Grade Teacher).
Connecting students with books that interest them is what makes Librarians special, particularly to elementary-age kids. San Jose Christian School Librarian, Nicole Nesdahl, cherishes this opportunity in her role; “Young children are kind of ready to hear about everything, but also about God.” She continued, adding that libraries are “special places” that provide a breadth and depth of resources children are interested in that a single home could not offer on its own.
Mrs. Nesdahl has been the Librarian at San Jose Christian School for seven years, and has been part of the SJCS community for more than twice as long. After touring the school when her son was in 1st Grade, what she admired most was the faith of the staff. “It was so evident and so clear that [faith] was just permeating everything, and it was so obvious compared with the other schools that we had visited.”
Audra Tate also started working at San Jose Christian seven years ago, for one year as a substitute teacher while finishing her credential program, and then as the 1st Grade teacher. Even as a substitute teacher, she felt “something different” at SJCS. Not only was she excited to teach a Bible lesson to her students, but she also experienced something special in the classrooms, the community at the school, and even in the students themselves.
“Everything here just felt so warm and inviting,” she remarked. During the year she subbed here, Ms. Tate said that thinking about working at San Jose Christian full-time would fill her spirit up. “When I got the key and I walked into my classroom for the first time… I fell to my knees and praised God for bringing me where He wanted me to be, teaching little kids.” Reflecting on that day now, she affirmed: “I felt like I was on God's path. I feel like I'm on God's path.”
“Young children are kind of ready to hear about everything, but also about God.”
Mrs. Nesdahl felt a similar pull to work at San Jose Christian. “I worked in public libraries for many years and I totally, I loved it, but I became increasingly aware over time that there were missed opportunities… opportunities that could be there to speak life into these kids.” This was when she felt the Spirit nudging her to work with children from Christian families.
After seven years, she still enjoys being able to incorporate Biblical perspective into the stories she reads aloud and finds it fulfilling to specifically purchase books that will build up the library’s faith section. “It is a unique opportunity,” Mrs. Nesdahl explained, “because in a lot of schools you’re not going to have that at all. And in public libraries, there might be some small faith sections, but it’s not necessarily the Christian faith.”
Providing these books that otherwise wouldn’t be readily available to families is one thing that students love about going to the SJCS Library each week, and parents are pleased too. “It can be challenging for families to find these resources,” Mrs. Nesdahl acknowledged, “so I feel like just providing [books about the Christian faith] is such an awesome responsibility and that adds to what this school can give.”
Having a strong library program is not only providing the right books for students to read, however; it is also about building a trusting relationship with students and their families. Mrs. Nesdahl has a unique position at San Jose Christian because she gets to work with students in all grades from JK-8 across the years they are here. She loves connecting with students and learning about their interests, which also helps her with supporting their literacy development. “As the students and I grow in our relationship, they get to know and trust me, and so as I come alongside them, they know they can rely on me to recommend good books that will grow their literacy skills.”
“Once we learn how to read, we're unstoppable, because everything in God's Word is so powerful and he wants us to know it and live it out.”
Student interest is critical both for teaching reading and for supporting a life-long love for reading. It is also what makes reading fun and desirable. Ms. Tate believes that developing a love of reading means giving students “a book they can fall in love with.” She said it starts with helping them find something that they're interested in and then“putting that in front of them, a lot of it in front of them and then asking them questions.”
Ms. Tate is also mindful of student interest in her 1st Grade classroom when she creates opportunities for students to make personal connections. “I try to make real-world situations come alive, books come alive, characters come alive.. I try to make it a little more exciting.”
One of the ways Ms. Tate brings stories to life in 1st Grade is through a grab bag activity. In this activity, she fills a bag with items representing a character in an upcoming story, and then students have the chance to touch the supplies and make predictions about this character. It’s a hands-on activity that allows students to make a personal connection with a character before meeting them, and Ms. Tate observes that it gets students excited to read.
Another 1st Grade literacy activity that excites students is Bible story maps. Ms. Tate wanted to support reading comprehension in class by giving students something to do while they read Bible passages. After folding a large piece of construction paper into squares, students draw what they hear in the Bible story as the class reads it. “They love it,” she said. “Then when they're all done, they have this huge map that is all about the story in the Bible we just studied, and they are so excited to share it with everybody.”
Similarly, Mrs. Nesdahl described how she sees students internalize Bible stories in Library. After teaching students about the oral storytelling tradition, Mrs. Nesdahl shares how the Bible is part of this tradition and we are called as Christians to preserve and pass on the stories God has given us. Students get to practice this during Easter, when she uses Resurrection Eggs to tell the story of Jesus’ power over sin and death. After presenting the Easter story in a variety of ways, the students are ready and confident to share the story themselves. “By the end of that week, man, they know it, and they don't need to read it. They can just tell you if they see [the eggs]… they just know from us going over it.”
These literacy activities make stories memorable and meaningful, but Mrs. Nesdahl and Ms. Tate are also modeling for their students how to share the Gospel. By teaching students to follow God and to read simultaneously these teachers are preparing students to transform culture for Christ. Ms. Tate put it this way, “Just like we sit there and mouth how to make the proper long and short valve sound of ‘a’, we model the daily and long-term behaviors of a Christian.”
Learning how to read is as empowering as it is world-changing. Ms. Tate tells her 1st graders that once they learn how to read they will be “unstoppable,” because “everything in God's Word is so powerful and He wants us to know it and live it out.”
“Just like we sit there and mouth how to make the proper long and short valve sound of ‘a’, we model the daily and long-term behaviors of a Christian.”
Mrs. Nesdahl is also empowering students by creating roles like “library assistants” and “checkout assistants.” During Library, students take a participatory role in checking out and recommending books to their peers. Even as young as 1st Grade, students will help their friends who have not found a book by suggesting titles and explaining why they would be a good choice. Mrs. Nesdahl has created a supportive environment where students trust and rely on her and each other, while also helping students grow more confident and independent.
“We have the five finger rule,” Mrs. Nesdahl explained, “which has to do with turning the first page and every time you read a word that you don’t know, you put up one finger and then another and another.” This strategy helps students determine if a book will be too challenging or too easy for them. She encourages students to try books that have new words, but also builds their confidence by allowing them to choose what they read based on their comfort level. “And then as they grow older, they begin to know – either by length, by section, by AR level – what books are good for them.”
When students struggle to choose books themselves, or struggle to find a book that is appropriate for their reading level, they can find support in several places. For example, Mrs. Nesdahl described the benefit of offering graphic novels or pictorial books to students who have difficulty reading. “They might be concentrating so hard, their brain is not making pictures in their head because they're working so hard to read. And so, having that picture provides a little bit of brain relief, but keeps it moving and then they can continue on and then they build confidence as readers.” For other students, there is support through technology such as the Accelerated Reader system, which adapts to student reading level, or audiobooks, which provide a second mode for interpreting the text.
“It benefits everyone when we have more learners and readers.”
“It benefits everyone when we have more learners and readers,” Mrs. Nesdahl remarked. Fortunately, fostering a community of strong readers is something San Jose Christian is able to do well because of our small class sizes, academic scaffolds, and outstanding staff. Family support is also key to developing a love for reading, because it is evident when students read at home or see their parents reading. “We have a strong community of readers,” Mrs. Nesdahl noted, “I can tell the parents are educated and learners themselves.”
Ms. Tate recognized her students’ excitement about reading recently when she asked them what was on their Christmas lists and noticed that many of the items they wanted were books. She surmised that since her 1st graders are learning how to read, it is new and exciting, so they want more books to consume. “It's like learning how to ride a bike. Then you want the bell, you want the helmet, you want everything, right? Our students are learning how to read and getting better at it and their confidence is growing.”
Mrs. Nesdahl has a solution for parents looking to get more books in their children’s hands this Christmas. The Scholastic Book Fair will be at San Jose Christian November 28 - December 1 in the Library from 8:00-9:00am and 2:45-5:00pm. We hope to see you there!
Rae Sterk is the Director of Community Development at San Jose Christian.
Nicole Nesdahl is the Librarian at San Jose Christian.
Audra Tate is the 1st Grade Teacher at San Jose Christian.