NLSA Accredited

Iowa Great Lakes Lutheran School is accredited by the National Lutheran School Accreditation (NLSA). In order to become accredited in good standing with NLSA, a school must comply fully with the 30 required indicators of success.

NLSA Standards for Accredited Schools:

  • The school is purpose-driven.
  • The school is governed and administered effectively following written policy
  • A qualified and competent staff serves the school.
  • The school’s curriculum, instructional design and assessment practices guide and ensure teacher effectiveness and student learning.
  • Student services and activities are offered to meet the needs and foster the growth of each student in a safe and healthy environment.
  • Buildings, grounds and equipment provide a safe and healthy environment that serves to enhance student learning.

NLSA Validation Team Report


The Validation Team’s Overall Impression of the School

 Iowa Great Lakes is in its 23rd year as an educational ministry in the northwest corner of Iowa.   As a recognized service organization (RSO) of the LCMS the school draws students from a broad radius of Spencer, Iowa and is supported by at least four congregations with the vision of a Christian Lutheran School for kindergarten through twelfth grade.  

 The Iowa Great Lakes facility and campus is new, modern, clean, safe and meets the needs of the academic program.   With the growth of students there is the start of a capital campaign to expand from five classrooms to nine classrooms.

 The faculty and staff have a dynamic and balanced dimension that leads to a cohesive, progressive team ministry.

 The Pastors and constituency have a real heart for the ministry of the school.


Outstanding Strengths

  • Facility, playground, campus, and the potential for physical expansion
  • The vision of the Board to have Lutheran trained teachers is a priority, and they are following through in the hiring process.    
  • There is a genuine love and heart for the ministry of Iowa Great Lakes and the embodiment of the “community” of believers it has developed.
  • The camaraderie of the faculty is alive and well.
  • The staff (janitor, secretary, IT director, volunteers) is absolutely amazing.    


Major Deficiencies

There were no major deficiencies identified.



  • Lutheran trained teachers
  • Board policy requiring the colloquy process
  • Multiple pastoral support for Iowa Great Lakes which holds the RSO tatus
  • Large constituency of “Christian Education” supporters who find great joy in supporting this educational ministry
  • Relationships between the Church & School are supportive and commendable
  • Relationships between staff members & pastors are strong and positive.
  • Community relationships….AEA, YMCA, Catholic School, etc.
  • Good team dynamics and a nice balance of experience, and personality between the faculty.
  • Mrs. Popp has provided strong, capable, ministry-focused leadership.  Through her disability, Mr. Torkelson has been able to provide necessary leadership, consistency, and support to the entire school community.
  • The pastors and congregations in the association are present and supportive of the ministry of IGLLS.  
  • Full-time teachers are LCMS rostered or have completed colloquy.
  • The Governance and leadership of IGLLS has made great improvements since the last NLSA visit and should be commended.
  • The team dynamic of the IGLLS staff is exemplary in supporting one another and providing a positive school climate.
  • Teachers intentionally use technology to enhance classroom learning.
  • Full-time teachers are LCMS rostered or have completed or are in the process of completing a colloquy program.
  • Current technology is available for teacher and student use.
  • Teachers use FastBridge, which is a great tool for assessing student academic needs.
  • IGLLS has a strong relationship with the AEA.
  • There is strong collaboration among staff to inform instruction.
  • There is a developed and successful archery program.
  • Strong support by AEA (equipment for disabilities, interventions, training) is provided.
  • Student accommodations are made as individual needs arise. (flexible seating, technology, elevator)
  • IGLLS time is scheduled into each day to allow time for interventions, pull out work, and extensions.
  • Reading Groups are fluid between classes so students can be taught at their level
  • Proper size classrooms provide enough space for learning and also for movement around the room.
  • Ramp accessible entrance.
  • Trevor (custodian) cleans each room daily and follows a daily schedule.  
  • Principal oversees the custodian with the help of the trustees of the church.
  • Yearly maintenance schedule is followed (ex-gym floor is re-waxed each summer.)
  • A “sick” room is available for students that feel ill.
  • Classrooms have excellent access to technology. 
  • Impressive playground area and additional space that is coned off for the safety of students.  
  • Electronic outdoor sign. 
  • Electronic security system to provide safety.



  • A more formalized approach to orientation of new staff is being developed and put into operation. This orientation should also include the mentoring program at IGLLS.
  • Seek ways to expand the school’s volunteer base
  • Pastors and teachers work together to find ways for pastors to be involved in the school
  • Clearly define the relationships and roles between IGLLS as an RSO and the supporting congregations.
  • The Board needs to schedule an annual audit and address any concerns found.
  • The Board put a formal process in place to assess needs and develop short (3-5 years) and long (5-10 years) goals.
  • The Board should continue to market and grow the Endowment Fund.
  • The school should create a Volunteer Handbook.
  • IGLLS teachers should seek ways to grow spiritually and are encouraged to be intentional in discussing future vocations in church work with the students.
  • IGLLS should continue to acknowledge student success to the constituency and community. A graduate tracking process should be developed by the administration.
  • Continue to develop the curriculum by adding benchmarks.
  • IGLLS should participate in professional development to become research-based and data-driven to improve instruction by formalizing the process for analyzing Iowa Assessment scores.
  • IGLLS should use resources like Care Connections of Northern Iowa to develop a formal plan to support any concerns that would require formal counseling or emotional care.
  • IGLLS should gather input from teachers and parents, review needs of the community to identify a clear vision for extracurricular activities and establish extracurricular activities to add to the already successful archery program.
  • Accommodate for additional classrooms so that sharing of church facilities is no longer necessary.
  • Develop a formal agreement between First English Lutheran Church and the school that addresses budgeted expenses related to the school.
  • Upgrade the current phone system.
  • Each classroom should designate and mark an egress window and have a clear passage to that window.
  • A simplified evacuation plan should be posted in each classroom.