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This post by Fr. Tim Scully, CSC, and a reprinted excerpt from an original post at Spes Unica, a vocations and discernment blog of the Congregation of Holy Cross.
|Fr. Nate Wills, C.S.C., teaching high school|
In Holy Cross, we recognize the value of this providential legacy. But we also recognize that our goal isn’t just to keep the legacy alive – we’re not interested in life support or, worse, hospice! Instead, we need to bring this vision of hope boldly into the 21st century. And we need courageous witnesses to continue to take up the challenge – men like the Holy Cross pastors, priests, seminarians, and lay collaborators that you will hear from on this blog throughout Catholic Schools Week.
The central educational problem our Catholic Schools face today is captured by a dynamic that can best be summarized in three statements of fact. First: poor kids are in deep trouble. Second: there is an intervention that works. And finally: this intervention is not reaching the kids that need it.
|An ACE-trained teacher in the classroom|
Poor Kids are in Trouble
First: Poor kids are in deep trouble. The most disturbing problem we face today is the gap in achievement between poor and minority children and everyone else. The stats on achievement reveal a grave injustice, which we see clearly in the circumstances of our nation’s most recently arrived—and largest—immigrant group, Latino families. While many call it an achievement gap, it’s really an opportunity gap. Many of these kids are assigned to schools that doom them to lives of poverty.
The data are well known to us:
• Black and Latino 12th graders read at the same level as White 8th graders.
• Only 52 percent of Latino children and 51 percent of Black children graduate high school in four years, compared to 72 percent of White children.
• Only 16 percent of Hispanic children and 20 percent of Black children are considered college-ready –meaning they have a high school degree, have taken the bare minimum courses required for college, and meet basic literacy standards on national tests.
But we believe there’s an intervention that works to close the achievement gap.
Catholic Schools Work
Decades of research tell us that no system of schools – charter, private, or public – has demonstrated such proven effectiveness for the children most vulnerable to unsatisfactory schooling as Catholic schools. There is no other educational intervention with a track record like ours. We know that children who attend our schools are 42% more likely to graduate from high school, and 250% more likely to graduate from college.
We know that the achievement gap among Black and Hispanic 12th graders is typically reduced or even closed when these students attend Catholic schools. We know that Catholic school graduates are likely to earn higher wages than their public school peers, more likely to vote, more civically engaged, and more committed to service when they are adults. But …
|Fr. John DeRiso, C.S.C.,
at St. Joseph Grade School
This Intervention Is Not Reaching Most Kids Who Need It
Why, for example, do only 3% of United States school-age Hispanic children attend Catholic schools, when the research has demonstrated convincingly that Catholic schools are especially effective at closing the achievement gap of minority students? From the disappearance of Catholic schools in urban areas, to financial barriers, both real and perceived, to the need for pastors who will make the courageous decisions needed to run and support an excellent school, the obstacles for poor families to send their children to affordable Catholic schools are real. But, as our ancestors in the faith and predecessors in Holy Cross have demonstrated, these obstacles are surmountable with the gifts of hope, hard work, creativity, prayer, and dedication.
|An ACE-trained teacher
in the classroom
The challenges stared down by past generations must serve as inspiration and a prophetic call that Catholic schools can continue to thrive in their mission to bring an excellent, faith-filled education to all who seek it, including the poorest among us. True to the charism of Holy Cross, signs of hope are present in abundance, though none are available without great effort and single-minded dedication, inspired and sealed by the grace of the Spirit. You will see many of signs and pathways to hope in this blog this week. The Congregation of Holy Cross, especially in our K-12 schools and in our universities’ commitment to providing continued talent and leadership for Catholic schools, remain “men with hope to bring” as we confront the challenges of the 21st century.
The past few years have seen the birth of a number of new organizations and initiatives in support of k-12 Catholic schools, largely in response to the onslaught of closings and the deep awareness of the vital contribution that Catholic schools make to our communities, our nation and our Church. When so much of the news is dire for Catholic education, it’s worth stepping back a bit to see the rebirth that is taking place around us. If necessity is the mother of invention, then a sustained 50 year crisis must be worth something! And there has been a notable amount of invention recently that offers hope for the future of Catholic education in the U.S.
Here is a list of major new initiatives emerging over the past couple of years that could make a meaningful contribution to Catholic schools nationally or regionally. This list is not exhaustive nor does it pretend to be, and hits heavily on activities at the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education, with which I am most familiar. But its a good start and I’m happy to add activities that I’ve missed if folks will share the good news!
In the days ahead I’ll offer a little profile of each of these exciting new initiatives in support of Catholic education.
A great article in the U.S. Catholic called an Unexcusable Absence: Catholic Schools Recruit Hispanic Students. As I was very involved with the Latino Task Force at Notre Dame and worked closely with Fr. Corpora to help launch the Catholic School Advantage Campaign, I can say with confidence that this article hits the nail on the head.
At the forefront of this new outreach effort, the University of Notre Dame in December 2008 commissioned a Task Force on the Participation of Latinos in Catholic Schools. The ambitious goal of this project, which reflects complementary desires to close the Latino academic achievement gap and to reverse enrollment declines in urban Catholic schools, is to double the percentage of Latinos attending Catholic schools, from 3 to 6 percent by 2020. Given population growth estimates, this goal means increasing the national enrollment of Latino children in Catholic schools from 290,000 to more than 1 million students over the next decade, according to the university.
Just more than a year into the campaign, Notre Dame’s Father Joe Corpora, the task force’s co-chair, says it’s too soon to see significant growth in Hispanic Catholic school enrollment, but he can tell that awareness already has heightened.
“This has been met with more interest and enthusiasm than anything we’ve tried to do,” Corpora says. “Every pastor and principal has asked us the question, ‘How can we get more Latinos in the Catholic schools?’”
Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education so far is consulting with schools in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Brooklyn, and San Antonio. It has received inquiries from schools in at least 50 more cities but lacks the resources to partner with all of them, Corpora says, noting he has logged 80 trips to those five cities over the past 14 months.
Lost in immigration
While acknowledging that Bonesz’ predicament is very real, the task force has discovered that it’s more than financial constraints keeping most Hispanic families away from Catholic schools, Corpora says. Two other factors are at play: First, in most Latin American countries there is no such thing as a parish school, so the entire concept is new to many Latino immigrants. Used to Catholic “academies” serving only the most affluent families, families do not even check out local Catholic schools. “They have no idea there are scholarships and aid available,” Corpora says.
Also, Catholic schools in the United States have been slow to realize the differences between Latino immigrants and the descendants of Western European immigrants who founded the schools.
“They’re not culturally responsive to Latinos, which means the culture of the school looks nothing like the culture of their homes,” Corpora says. Because many Latino immigrants work hourly wage jobs, for example, they lack flexibility in their schedules to meet with school staff as needed. Also, many schools’ printed marketing materials never reach them, especially those only in English.
“Our schools for years and years served immigrants. When the immigrants stopped looking like immigrants, we’ve never re-invented our schools to serve today’s immigrants,” Corpora says. “The church has not gotten smart enough to adapt to the local clientele.”
In an 18-month pilot project aided by consulting from Notre Dame’s ACE program, the Diocese of Brooklyn is targeting 30 of its schools situated in areas with large Hispanic population growth in recent years. The goal is to boost Hispanic enrollment 10 to 15 percent by this fall, says Brooklyn diocesan schools superintendent Thomas Chadzutko.
Among the most critical elements is a plan to implement a more personal outreach to Latino parents and adopting a more culturally sensitive outlook, Chadzutko says.
“It’s getting involved with Latino celebrations at the parish level, being a part of Latino prayer groups, and just providing them information on what Catholic education is in the United States,” he says.
This is the second post in a series about Catholic identity in America’s Catholic schools. The Stakes was the first post in the series.
For most of the history of Catholic schools in the United States Catholic identity was not a prescient question and their effectiveness in this area was largely assumed. When Catholic schools experienced a radical transformation in the make-up of their work force, from 95% vowed-religious in the 60’s to 97% lay today, Catholic identity became a relevant topic. In today’s Catholic schools lay people have stepped up to carry the flame of faith and Christian witness. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity. It is a challenge because many lay Catholics lack rigorous theological and spiritual formation and have limited experience and comfort articulating their faith. But it is an opportunity to empower lay witnesses and and cultivate new lay leaders. Lay Catholics today generally need guidance and support if they are going to be fully effective in this role. The guidance should come, among other ways, in the form of quality standards and assessment measures that can assist Catholic schools in effectively fulfilling their core mission and purpose.
So where is Catholic education nationally regarding Catholic identity standards? Existing tools are inconsistent, vary widely in terms of content and quality, and are not universally accepted or used, though there have been some recent discussions at bringing some greater consensus to national school based standards for Catholic schools. There are a number of concerning trends among existing standards that should be avoided in any national effort.
First, for many accreditation models Catholic identity is limited to a side item, treated as one thing among many others to check off the list. This fails to capture the rightful place of Catholic identity at the center of the mission of Catholic schools and as the animating and permeating principle of the school. In effect, it presupposes a sort of marginalization of Catholic identity as an add on to a basically secular education. This is a problem. The Western Catholic Educational Association is a leader in the Catholic school accreditation field that pushes for a more comprehensive view of how to integrate Catholic identity.
Secondly, for those that do integrate Catholic identity, the standards lack a unifying vision. Approaches rather clumsily insert Catholic identity into otherwise secular realms. For example, among the academic standards it may ask how Catholic identity is reflected in the entire curriculum, but it fails to point to why this is important and necessary or place this in a meaningful theological context. The theological reasoning for this, however, is available in Church teaching, which explains that Catholic schools should have a curriculum that “orders the whole of human culture to the news of salvation so that the knowledge the students gradually acquire of the world, life and man is illumined by faith” (Declaration on Christian Education). These are profound theological ideas that should be discussed and grappled with by Catholic school leaders and teachers of all subject areas. Too often this idea is completely absent, and when an effort is made to integrate Catholic identity across the curriculum, it is done so in a superficial or ridiculous manner. At best this means reading a Catholic book in a literature class or a discussion on evolution and Creation in science class, at worst, this means counting crucifixes in math class or having word problems about the Apostles. Both of these forms of “integrating Catholic identity across the curriculum” fail to grasp what it means to order all of human culture to the news of salvation. It would seem that they lack the unifying principal and framework for why and how to integrate Catholic identity across the curriculum. It is not about teaching Catholic math or Catholic science, but teaching science and math in such a way that reveals the glory of God, the goodness and wonder of God’s Creation, and the rational capacity of our minds which reflect God’s wisdom and reason as creatures made in his image. It is the conviction that all truth is a part of the one Truth and that knowledge of human culture and subject areas is part of our human knowledge of all of Creation, which is one of our primary means for knowing God, through the majesty and wisdom of his work. There should be regular discussions among faculty to grapple with these ideas and make striving towards this ideal a part of the culture of a Catholic school. This is very rare.
It can be a challenge to thoughtfully link theological principals from Church teaching directly to standards and school level indicators. Though accreditation models often include some context from Church teaching usually in an introduction, there tend not to be explicit and clear links between the theological context and the school-based standards and indicators. There appears to be one recently created exception in the field that does provide clear and strong links between the theological reasoning and the school based standards. Dr. Anthony Holter and Rev. Ronald Nuzzi at the University of Notre Dame have created a CSII_Overview_2010 that thoughtfully places school based standards within a clear theological framework.
Drawing upon the teachings of the Church, Nuzzi and Holter identify constitutive theological elements of any Catholic institution or community and apply these to specific standards and indicators at the school level. This is an important contribution in that it appropriately places Catholic education in its broader theological terms. It recognizes, for example, that the “secular” educational mission of the school is not outside of the bounds of the school’s Catholic mission, and Catholic identity is certainly not one element within a broader secular framework. It is in fact the opposite. The Catholic mission and vision is broader and encompasses everything, and the secular disappears. A Catholic school seeks to realize the full human potential of its students as children of God endowed with dignity in the image of their Creator, as a result a Catholic school is concerned with academic quality in all areas of human knowledge. There are not two missions of the school, a secular and a faith-based, but one mission enlivened and enriched by a Catholic vision at the core and encompassing all elements of the school’s life and purpose. Just as it is the spiritual goal of an individual to become fully human, fully oneself, so it is also part of the Catholic mission of the school to be fully itself, fully an excellent school, but one with a particular vision of life, meaning, and view of reality and Truth. The problem with most existing standards are that they integrate the “Catholic” into the existing secular. Nuzzi and Holter attempt to set this right by explaining how the Catholic vision enlivens and gives meaning to the whole, and apply this concretely to the school standards and indicators.
Thirdly, there are weaknesses in the details of how these basic standards should be implemented successfully and oriented towards quality. Far too often the standards are a sort of minimum requirement, a basic checklist, but far from an indicator of real quality. Let’s take an important example. Students should have the opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist on a weekly or monthly basis. This is one of the most important and most common Catholic identity standards, but there tends to be nothing mentioned about quality. We don’t just need regular Liturgy, we also need good Liturgy! What is the level of preparation for the students’ participation in the Liturgy? Are students prepared to read at Mass? Are children singing? Do they know the songs? Are the songs age-appropriate and thoughtfully chosen? Are there teaching Masses for the children? Are faculty singing and participating as models for the students? What is the feeling of reverence or joy in the Liturgical celebrations? How can these be enhanced? The question of quality should also be applied to areas like prayer, service programs, religious education and religious imagery in the school. Yes, these things need to be happening, but they need to be done well to be effective. We need metrics for thinking about quality.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is the question of assessing student learning. This is the sine qua non for evaluating the effectiveness of Catholic identity and faith formation in Catholic schools. It is absolutely essential to understand the “outcomes” of the teaching and the culture of a Catholic school. The assessment must be aligned with the fundamental learning goals of Catholic education, which is inclusive of catechesis and moral education, but broader. It points to what it means to be Christian and Catholic. This is not a very easy thing to assess. The only assessment tool of which I am aware that seeks to assess Catholic Religious Education is the ACRE test, which has various limitations. In the absence of another assessment tool, ACRE should be utilized.
More needs to be done to develop clear standards, oriented towards quality, connected to theological principals and integrated with the broader life of the school. But much can be accomplished simply by bringing this conversation, the Catholic mission and ethos of the school, front and center within the school community. Too often strong Catholic identity is assumed and taken for granted. It is rarely measured, reflected upon, and deliberately strengthened. The central role of Faith should be reflected in the amount of time we spend thinking about it, talking about it as a community of educators, and evaluating and improving practice in its light. To do less fails to do justice to the purpose of Catholic schools.
Stay tuned for the next post in this series, Catholic identity in our Catholic schools: Reflections on Religious Education
The largest Catholic school system in the U.S., the Archdiocese of Chicago, can now boast enrollment growth in the city’s Catholic schools for the first time since the 1960′s. In the midst of the worst and most stubborn recession this country has seen since the Great Depression, this news is simply incredible, almost miraculous!
Half of Chicago’s Catholic schools (53%) are stable or growing this year, compared with 35% the last several years. Also particularly promising given Chicago’s booming Latino population and the critical segment of the Catholic market that Latinos represent for Catholic schools (see here for more), the Latino student population grew for the first time in Chicago in at least five years.
While other large Archdioceses are dealing with consolidation and school closure in an effort to find solid ground to begin building a more stable Catholic school system, Chicago is growing!! How is this possible? What is the magic in Chicago?
There’s no magic here, only a lot of hard work, strong leadership, and good ideas being effectively implemented.
First let’s mention leadership. In July of 2008 Sr. Mary Paul McCaughey, O.P. took the helm as Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese. She has brought energy and dynamism to the lead spot in the Catholic schools office. In Spring of 2009 the Archdiocese founded a new powerhouse of a Board of Catholic Schools, which has sought to exercise leadership in governance and policy for the Archdiocese. Though it may be too early to be seeing the impact of this board’s involvement, this is a promising sign for the future of Catholic schools in Chicago. Finally and perhaps most importantly has been the ongoing vital contributions and innovations of the Big Shoulders Fund. Between their 10 to 12 million dollars of annual scholarship contributions and other funding support to stabilize and increase enrollment, to their experiments in adding regional marketing and recruiting staff, Big Shoulders has been integral to the health of the system for many years.
The marketing, enrollment and scholarship push has been at the center of effective policies of the Archdiocese, and can be largely credited with the recent growth. There is an Archdiocesan Marketing Enrollment Network (AMEN) that promotes and shares best practices, an increased investment in Enrollment Marketing Staff at the Archdiocesan and local levels, and broader efforts to strengthen the Catholic school brand.
Also noteworthy are 16 Catholic elementary schools that are part of an innovative experiment called Archdiocesan Initiative Model elementary schools. This 3-year pilot transferred governance authority among a set of at-risk schools from the Parish to the Catholic Schools Office. The Catholic Schools Office sought to invest in programs and policies that would translate to enrollment growth and financial health. Though the program only began on July 1, 2010, the schools have already seen a net enrollment increase, many of them reversing multi-year trends of enrollment decline. The Archdiocese is also committed to ensuring the vitality of St. Gregory High School’s, which is also participating in the Board Initiative.
Finally, the Archdiocese has continued to invest in an effort to boost Latino enrollment in Catholic schools that began last year. Working together with the University of Notre Dame’s Catholic School Advantage Campaign, and receiving considerable support from the Archdiocese Enrollment Marketing Consultants, Latino enrollment grew for the first time in at least five years by 200 students, an increase of 1.7% of total Latino enrollment. The Archdioceses remains committed to an audacious goal of doubling Latino enrollment in Chicago’s Catholic schools by 2020, which will require ramping up to a growth rate of 7% annually. Efforts like this story on Univision Chicago will hopefully continue to build the momentum.
All and all, these modest gains are a small miracle and an important sign of what is possible in American Catholic schools. May it be the beginning of a changing trend and a model for policies and practices that can work in other places.
A special thanks to Ryan Blackburn of the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools for sharing the good news!
A recent blog post in a blog called Law, Religion and Ethics highlights the forthcoming article by Notre Dame law professors Nicole Garnett and Margaret Brinig titled Catholic Schools and Broken Windows (referring to the well known broken window theory about crime and urban deterioration), about their study of the impact of Catholic school closures on inner-city Chicago neighborhoods. The blog post mentions the major findings of the Garnett and Brinig study:
The authors present extensive evidence that neighborhoods that lose their Catholic schools descend into greater disorder and eventually experience increased crime. Obviously there are issues of correlation versus causation, which the authors acknowledge and attempt to address.
Though I have not yet had the pleasure of reading their article, I have heard Professors Garnett and Brinig share a presentation on this study. I can assure you that this article will be a valuable contribution to making the empirical case for the contribution of Catholic schools and the need to preserve and support them. The study demonstrates empirically what Tony Bryk and others have argued before and many more have known through experience: Catholic schools in the U.S., especially urban Catholic schools, through their service to children, families and entire communities, are uniquely valuable institutions for preserving and protecting the common good. We look forward to reading this important study!
Just added: here is a link to the law review article discussed above, Catholic Schools and Broken Windows.
In a powerful op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, CSC, iconic President Emeritus of the University of Notre Dame and a leader in the civil rights movement, reflects upon education as the civil rights issue of our time. Emphasizing the role of education in providing young people with equality of opportunity, he condemns the actions of congress in removing the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.
Here are some selections:
If Martin Luther King Jr. told me once, he told me a hundred times that the key to solving our country’s race problem is plain as day: Find decent schools for our kids… Millions of our children—disproportionately poor and minority—remain trapped in failing public schools that condemn them to lives on the fringe of the American Dream.
For all these reasons, I was deeply disappointed when Sen. Richard Durbin (D., Ill.) successfully inserted a provision in last year’s omnibus spending bill that ended one of the best efforts to give these struggling children the chance to attend a safe and decent school.
Despite its successes, it is now closing down. On Tuesday the Senate voted against a measure introduced by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I., Conn.) that would have extended the program. Throughout this process Mr. Duncan’s Education Department and the White House raised no protest.
Much has been written about the crisis in education, and the effective resegregation of our public schools. It’s clear who is paying the price.
Many of the parents using Opportunity Scholarships chose Catholic schools for their children even though they are not Catholic themselves. That’s no coincidence. When others abandoned the cities, the Catholic schools remained, and they continue to do heroic work.
At Notre Dame we launched our own efforts to bolster this mission. Our Alliance for Catholic Education, for example, takes talented young men and women, trains them to see teaching as a career, and then sends them into struggling inner-city schools such as Holy Redeemer in Washington, D.C.
But these inner-city schools can’t do it themselves. Recently the archdiocese of Washington announced that Holy Redeemer would be forced to close its doors at the end of the year because the families who send their children to the school are unable to afford it without the financial aid they receive from this program. The archdiocese stated that “decisions last year by the U.S. Department of Education and by Congress to phase out the federal D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program . . . negatively impacted Holy Redeemer’s financial situation.”
Of Holy Redeemer’s 149 students, 60 were on Opportunity Scholarships. Unlike so many of their peers, these kids were on their way to college. Now they have to find some other safe haven. Others will never get the chance at all.
I know that some consider voucher programs such as the Opportunity Scholarships a right-wing affair. I do not accept that label. This program was passed with the bipartisan support of a Republican president and Democratic mayor. The children it serves are neither Republican nor Democrat, liberal or conservative. They are the future of our nation, and they deserve better from our nation’s leaders.
I have devoted my life to equal opportunity for all Americans, regardless of skin color. I don’t pretend that this one program is the answer to all the injustices in our education system. But it is hard to see why a program that has proved successful shouldn’t have the support of our lawmakers. The end of Opportunity Scholarships represents more than the demise of a relatively small federal program. It will help write the end of more than a half-century of quality education at Catholic schools serving some of the most at-risk African-American children in the District.
I cannot believe that a Democratic administration will let this injustice stand.
Father Hesburgh is the former president of the University of Notre Dame.
The Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) at the University of Notre Dame will be offering a set of unique opportunities for Catholic school advocates and educators this summer. ACE seeks to sustain and strengthen Catholic schools through leadership formation, research and professional services and is a leading organization in support of Catholic schools nationally. For those interested in supporting Catholic schools and joining a powerful network of others committed to this mission, consider signing up for one of the programs below.
I will be attending the Advocates for Parental Choice Symposium this year and am very much looking forward to it. I’d also recommend the Summer Forum on the Participation of Latino Families in Catholic Schools, which is a part of the Catholic School Advantage Campaign.
The following is an excerpt from the ACE Fellowship web-page, which helps coordinate these programs.
Summer Enrichment Opportunities
This summer, hundreds of Catholic school professionals, parents, and advocates will gather at Notre Dame to be enriched in their efforts to make a high quality Catholic education available to all who desire it, and we invite you to be among them. I hope you will join us on campus for one of these programs, and share these opportunities with your communities.