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About the Schools Featured in the What Would You Fight For Commercial Spot on NBC

on Thursday, 03 October 2013.

IMG 6851-1The math intervention featured in Ruby's classroom in the What Would You Fight For commercial spot on NBC is just one of many elements of the comprehensive university-school partnership between Santa Cruz Catholic School and the University of Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE).  In 2010, Notre Dame partnered with three Catholic schools on the south side of Tucson to form the nation's  first-of-its-kind university-school partnership program that effects comprehensive school excellence in regional clusters of partner schools by implementing a unique model of urban Catholic schooling.

In those Notre Dame ACE Academies, ACE joins with dioceses to provide leadership and oversight for schools that serve disadvantaged children, providing comprehensive school support that attends to multiple dimensions of schooling in the areas of Catholic identity, stewardship, and teaching/learning. (Read the Executive Summary)

Above all else, the Notre Dame ACE Academies provide a Catholic education of the highest quality to as many children as possible in under-served communities. Our goals are to improve the academic quality of the schools through intensive interventions related to teaching and learning and to increase the number of low-income children who have access to the schools through parental choice scholarship programs.


The first cluster of ND ACE Academies was established in Tucson, Arizona in 2010, and in the program's first three years significant gains have been realized in student achievement, scholarship revenue, and enrollment. ACE has secured nearly $2.4 million in new tax credit scholarships for students in the Tucson ACE Academies, and academic achievement is up in almost every subject and grade.
The Notre Dame ACE Academies are closing the achievement gap for the children we serve. 3rd graders in NDAA schools scored in the 34th percentile in reading when we began the partnership in 2010. Three years later, those same students are now in 5th grade and are reading in the 41st percentile. In math, those students were scoring in the 20th percentile when we began. Today, those 5th graders are scoring in the 47th percentile.


Students who began with us in preschool are showing the greatest benefits of the partnership. Students in K, 1st, and 2nd grade are currently reading in the 76th percentile and doing math in the 73rd percentile, far ahead of the national and diocesan averages. And the kindergarteners are doing the best of all. Notre Dame ACE Academy kindergarten students are reading, on average, in the 91st percentile, and they are doing math in the 86th. In a neighborhood where barely half the children will graduate from high school, our 5-year-olds are among the top 10 and 15 percent in the country in reading and math, respectively.


ndaa 3rd gradeSt. John the Evangelist in Tucson provides an illustrative case. In our first year of partnership, 3rd graders at St. John were scoring in the 17th percentile in math. Only 130 children were enrolled in the school, and scholarship amounts averaged $1,000. This year, the same children who were scoring in the 17th percentile a few years ago are scoring above the national average now that they are in 5th grade (52nd percentile), and the current 3rd graders are scoring above the national average (53rd percentile).

The youngest children in our schools are no longer falling behind, and the older children are closing the achievement gap. In Fall 2013, enrollment reached 258 students – up more than 94% since 2010. Scholarships average between $2,500 and $3,000 in 2013-2014, in many cases tripling the financial aid families receive. Notably – every teacher at St. John was there three years ago. No faculty changes have been made, yet the school has transformed dramatically, thanks to strong school leadership and key support levers provided by NDAA.


In 2012, ACE expanded the NDAA model to the Tampa Bay area, and similar gains are already evident in our partner schools in Tampa and St. Petersburg in the first year, with enrollment gains of more than 20% scholarship revenue growth, and academic achievement improvement that projects to be on par with the gains we have seen in our pilot schools in Arizona.

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