CUEM has an ambitious vision to provide faith-based leaders with the tools needed to transform education to achieve sustainable and evolving excellence. This is achieved through a key initiative, the S.M.I.L.E. Project (Strategic Minds Innovating Lutheran Education), which connects educators with learning approaches, tools and techniques that allow students to modify the time, path and place of their learning to promote educational success. S.M.I.L.E. works with school leadership to tailor programs to student needs by:

  • Facilitating collaborative teams within schools to implement new models of urban education
  • Integrating student-driven learning strategies into a school’s culture
  • Infusing soft skills (communication, flexibility, shared problem solving) into the curriculum to improve post-secondary education and work opportunities
  • Creating an optimal mix of face-to-face learning, integrated technology-based lessons and mixed-age group instruction

CUEM is creating regional centers of excellence, starting with a partnership with California Lutheran University. This network of educational leaders will promote excellence in pedagogy, explore new educational models and speak at professional development events nationwide.

Connecting Programs for Excellence

CUEM’s mission is achieved when schools collaborate with each other to share teaching approaches, experiment with new educational tools and extend their knowledge through quality professional development workshops. Striving for excellence has permeated other educational programs at LSSNY. In 2015, The New LIFE School became one of CUEM’s S.M.I.L.E. pilot programs, using Blended Learning techniques in their elementary and middle school classrooms.

One of the most successful tools used has been the integration of Khan Academy math videos, aligned to the Common Core standards, into math lessons. Two years later, achievement and engagement in math learning has increased significantly.

The blended learning platform helped the teachers engage their math students at a level not experienced here before. Students asked every day when they could go onto their laptops to work on Khan Academy math. Kids are not just learning math, they are enjoying math.

Matthew Tucker, Assistant Principal, TNLS

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