ACE logo

ACE Advocates News

Sigan Adelante: Bishop Kicanas' Call to Keep Going

on Wednesday, 02 February 2011.

Newman and Ex Corde: Proud to be Catholic

In an address to the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, Bishop Gerald Kicanas reflects on the responsibility of Catholic universities to form laity for service to the world and the Church.  In doing so, he encourages Catholic colleges to redouble their contributions to Catholic K-12 schools, and thanks the Alliance for Catholic Education for, "sending an army of young teachers and administrators to work in poorer communities in many dioceses," and for the formation of Notre Dame ACE Academies in Tucson.

Bishop Kicanas' speech is an inspiring reminder that to be Catholic means accepting the call to spread the Gospel message with fidelity and vigor. The text is below.

Presentation to the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities Annual Meeting
Washington, DC
January 30, 2011

Catholic colleges and universities matter much. Your work makes Christ's mission come alive and flourish. Through you the faith is handed on to others. My respect for you and what you do every day could not be greater.

I esteem the challenge you give your students to live not for themselves but for others, preparing them to contribute selflessly to their community. One of the core characteristics of a Catholic college or university identified by Pope John Paul II in Ex Corde Ecclesiae is "an instituional commitment to the service of the people of God and of the human family" (Ex Corde, 13,3) You live out this commitment in exceptional ways.

I value the scholarship of your faculties, women and men for whom being Catholic means a grand curiosity about life and a willingness to question and explore, always with the blessed assurance of revelation and Church teaching as guide.

I marvel at the countless ways you assist the Catholic community by your counsel and advice, by your involvement and generous sharing of your resources, by your fidelity to your Catholic identity in which you take such pride.

I once was who you are; I once was where you are.

ACE-Ireland's Roman Retreat

on Wednesday, 02 February 2011.

by John O'Malley, Coordinator of ACE-Ireland

Every year, the ACE Advocate community in Dublin organizes a retreat for former ACE teachers. We feel that this helps to strengthen the fellowship between us and also gives us an opportunity to refocus on our mission as Catholic school teachers. This year, we took our first trip abroad, and spent four days in Rome in early January. Our group was led by Fr. John-Paul Sheridan, a priest of the Diocese of Ferns (in the south of Ireland) and a great friend of ACE.

Catholic School Students, Achievement, and Motivation

on Wednesday, 02 February 2011.


By James Frabutt, Ph.D., and Anthony Holter, Ph.D., Remick Leadership Program.  Janine Bempechat and colleagues explored beliefs about academic achievement among a sample of low-income, urban adolescents enrolled in Catholic schools.  Their 2008 article, Beyond the Rhetoric: Understanding Achievement and Motivation in Catholic School Students, describes a longitudinal project in which students were interviewed in depth about the role of education in their lives, their teachers’ goals for them, and family and peer support for learning.  Qualitative analysis of interviews and focus groups with the students revealed three major themes, outlined below.

  1. A Culture of Caring Pervades Catholic Schools.  Students routinely mentioned the caring and family oriented environment of their school, noting that teachers were interested not only in students’ academic success, but their emotional and social well-being as well.  One student explained: “It’s like they care for you so much at this school, they make sure they don’t want nobody, you know, to fall down in their grades and fail and not be able to, you know, reach their goals in life” (p. 171). 
  2. Students Believe They Must Take Personal Responsibility for Learning. Students explained that goal setting, consistent effort, and persistence were the drivers of academic performance.  When their academic achievement was poor, students tended to attribute this to internal factors (e.g., “I wasn’t careful in my work”) rather than external ones (e.g., “That teacher doesn’t like me”). One female student clarified, “I mostly think that effort is something that you put in, and it shows if you have effort, it shows if you don’t have effort” (p. 172).
  3. Adaptive Achievement Beliefs Pervade Catholic Schools.  Students explained that “mistakes and setbacks are a natural part of learning.”  When a student encounters an instance of academic failure, it need not be debilitating and lead to feelings of helplessness. In dealing with the academic challenges of high school, one student said “failure is not really something bad; I would try my hardest to do it again” (p. 173-174).

The authors summarized that “when given the opportunity to express their views, these Catholic school students focused on their teachers’ commitment to them as learners and articulated mature and sophisticated views about their learning” (p.174).  They further concluded that a better understanding of Catholic school students’ apparent motivational advantage can enhance educational reform efforts more broadly.
Bempechat, J., Boulay, B. A., Piergross, S. C., & Wenk, K. A. (2008). Beyond the rhetoric: Understanding achievement and motivation in Catholic school students. Education and Urban Society, 40(2), 167-178.

Indy Advocates Event Swells to Include Parishioners

on Wednesday, 02 February 2011.


From ACE Advocate Regional Chair Gary Asher. 

January, 2011.  The day began by participating in the regular Saturday morning parish Mass, which was well attended and provided a spiritual beginning to the day.  The priest was very welcoming and asked us to tell the congregation a bit about who we are and what our mission is. So the Mass also provided an opportunity to get the word out about ACE Advocates.

The service to Holy Spirit school was very successful. Originally we were to paint only the school's computer lab. But as the school and parish communities heard about the project, they became very excited about helping us.  The event blossomed into a group of parishioners (including professional painters) joining forces. 

As a result the school was able to get all the classrooms in the primary building painted. The success was not in what we, members of ACE Advocates, were able to physically accomplish but how we as a movement were able to inspire others to join in service to the school. 



NDAA Teacher Receives Tucson Values Teachers Award

on Wednesday, 02 February 2011.

From the Tucson Values Teachers Initiative

Congratulations to Fran Fritton, third grade teacher at St. Ambrose Catholic School, a Notre Dame Ace Academy, who is the Tucson Values Teachers December recipient of the Teacher Excellence Award!  She was nominated by Jan Knox, a former colleague at St. Ambrose.

Hats off to to Principal Martha Taylor who pulled together a tribute  that included the entire school - and a sign of color and congratulations for Fran.

Fran was also featured on the KVOA Teacher Feature segment in an interview with Martha Vazquez.  The feature was created just for the Teacher Excellence Award program. 

Congratulations, Fran!  One could see immediately from the faces in her third-grade classroom that Fran is adored.  She is one great teacher - a consensus also shared by her colleagues and administrators.

To learn more about the Tucson Values Teachers Initiative, click here.

Fr. Nuzzi Begins New Year on Capitol Hill

on Wednesday, 02 February 2011.

Fr. Ron Nuzzi participated in the swearing-in of the 112th Congress in Washington, DC, January 4-5. New Speaker of the House John Boehner from Cincinnati held an ecumenical prayer service at St. Peter Catholic Church on Capitol Hill, where Remick Leadership alumna Jennifer Ketchum is principal. S

Speaker Boehner, a Catholic school graduate and alumnus of Archbishop Moeller High School, extolled the value of his Catholic education during the prayer service and later spoke of Ash Wednesday services, Lent, and his Catholic upbringing during his first speech as speaker from the House chamber. Fr. Nuzzi also celebrated a Mass for Catholic members of Congress and their guests at St. Stephen Church.

The Future of Catholic Schools: St. Joseph Academy in Kenosha, WI

on Wednesday, 02 February 2011.

ACE Consulting Helps Shape a Model Worth Watching

In Need of a Vision. "A people without vision will perish."

This ancient proverb rings true in every age, but it seems particularly well suited for the state of 21st Century Catholic schools in the United States. With a population of over 70 million that has collectively reached levels of social stature and wealth unimaginable by previous generations, the American Catholic community does not lack the resources to sustain and strengthen its school system.

What is lacking in too many places is the vision of what can be possible, and the willingness to reaffirm age-old values through creative means. 

 For well over one hundred years, the one-parish-one-school model dominated the U.S. Catholic education landscape.  Ethnic enclaves, especially in the urban core of industrial cities, served the needs of immigrants and formed generations of people who were both Catholic and American – a feat thought by many to be impossible.  
Today, we see an American Catholic landscape altered in important ways.  Changing demographics, financial realities, and an evolving commitment of American Catholics to their schools have left many empty classroom seats and the closing, moving, or merging of hundreds of schools.  In many places, parents, pastors, principals, and teachers exhibit nothing less than heroic virtue as they work to keep their schools strong and accessible, and they are increasingly turning to novel school configurations in order to offer the finest Catholic education to their community.
Vision in Kenosha: St. Joseph Catholic Academy. Kenosha, Wisconsin, is not unlike scores of cities, suburbs and small towns across the northern United States.  Waves of Catholic immigrants in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries built parishes and schools, seeking to maintain their faith and culture.  Good jobs were to be had in the city’s successful automobile manufacturing industry, and the community generously made their faith manifest by investing in bricks and mortar for parishes and schools.  Today, ten parishes minister to Kenosha’s Catholic community, and creative thinking is leading to innovation in the diverse Catholic school system of this region.
In order to better serve the people of Kenosha, three parishes joined forces in 2010 to establish St. Joseph Catholic Academy, a Pre-K through 12th grade Catholic institution.  By combining St. Mark’s Elementary School, St. Joseph Inter-Parish Junior High, and St. Joseph High School, the new Academy provides increased options and resources for families, and currently enrolls 660 students.  The curriculum includes the state of Wisconsin’s only Pre-K Catholic Montessori program, an enhanced arts instruction, and other programs seen infrequently in Catholic schools.
Bob Freund, the Academy’s founding president, says that St. Joseph Catholic is a product of parents, pastors, and educators who have a great vision for what is possible.  “Our community is committed to ensuring that Catholic education remains available, faithful, and excellent.  We believe that we can accomplish more when we collaborate.”

And St. Joseph Catholic is certainly doing exciting things.  With a school-wide commitment to Catholic identity and critical thinking skills, the Academy is leveraging resources in ways that would have been impossible amongst three distinct, much smaller schools. 
“Our campus minister works with the entire Academy, coordinating prayer, liturgy, and service for the every single class.  That’s very important for our mission as a Catholic school, especially as we work to keep each student connected to their family’s parish,” said Freund.  Children in kindergarten through fifth grade are exposed to four world languages, studying Spanish, French, Italian, and Mandarin Chinese for nine weeks each year.  And the Academy integrates technology into teaching:  building on a program already in place in the middle school, soon each student in grades six through twelve will have access to a laptop for use during the school day.
With one administration, one business office, and a streamlined curriculum, St. Joseph Catholic is able to achieve efficiencies – educational and financial - that were elusive in the past.  And, parents are pleased:  the Academy saw a 20 percent enrollment increase this year over the total number of students enrolled at the three separate schools during 2009–2010. 
The road to the Academy’s current configuration was not always easy, and resistance was met in some quarters.  Freund and other community leaders realized that an outside, objective study of the possibilities would be immeasurably useful to the success of this emerging institution.  “We invited ACE Consulting from Notre Dame to perform an assessment of our situation, and their study was absolutely invaluable.  Commissioning the ACE Consulting report was the most important thing we did as we considered this transition.”  ACE Consulting examined local demographic trends, facilities, finances, as well as the perceptions of the local Catholic and parent communities.  “Their unbiased analysis provided a perfect road map for us.  I can’t tell you how often we refer to their report.”
Currently, St. Joseph is reaffirming its commitment to the vision of offering a high quality Catholic education to all families in Kenosha who desire it by launching an ambitious strategic planning exercise.  Focusing on the areas of Catholic identity, academics, leadership, development, and facilities, the new Academy model is charting a bold path toward the future. 
Freund believes that the tenor of conversations in the community about Catholic education has changed dramatically over the last two years.  “The mood had always been about survival.  Now, the feeling can be described as confidence.  We’re excelling.  We’re moving forward.”
No one formula or school configuration will serve every situation, family, or parish.  But the vision of making Catholic schools faithful, excellent, and accessible – which is the work of the entire community – is a vision well worth pursuing.  Collaboration between multiple parishes will increasingly be an important strategy worth watching.

Utilizing the nearly two decades of experience in educating teachers and leaders through the ACE program, ACE Consulting helps operationalize the work of the Alliance for Catholic Education to make a system-wide difference in Catholic education. Learn more by visiting the ACE Consulting website.

To be Catholic is to Teach

on Wednesday, 02 February 2011.

Bishop David O’Connell is featured in a wonderful six-minute video in support of the Diocese of Trenton’s annual appeal fund drive.  The recurring theme of the video is, “To be Catholic is to teach.”  Numerous individuals – a teacher, a parent, a public policy advocate, a corporate CEO, and others – explain how, through their lives and work, they teach the Catholic faith.
The video concludes with an impassioned request from Bishop O’Connell for financial support for the evangelical and charitable work of his diocese.   In pledging that all of the diocese’s Catholic schools will re-open next school year, he acknowledges that the future sustainability of the Catholic school system will depend on the community:  “There is no other way to face this challenge but to turn to you.  Our success will be determined by your courage and your generosity.”
The video hits on a central belief of the ACE Advocates movement: 
Everyone has a role to play in making Catholic schools strong.  It’s easy to see how teachers and parents contribute to this mission, but the fact of the matter is that we all have a role to play.  The future of our schools depends on the Catholic community – along with others of goodwill – believing in the value of these extraordinary apostolates of hope, and working to ensure they remain faithful, excellent, and accessible.  
So, what can you do?  Here are some ideas:

With your help, ACE Advocates is mobilizing Catholic school supporters across the country.  Thank you for joining the movement!

From Catholic Schools to CBS News

on Wednesday, 02 February 2011.

Byron Pitts Champions Catholic Schools

Byron Pitts, CBS news correspondent and 60 Minutes contributor, is a Catholic school champion.

Mr. Pitts grew up in East Baltimore, the youngest of three children, and he struggled mightily in school.  By the time he was in second grade, his mother -- a strong, disciplined woman of deep faith -- saw that he was not getting the attention he needed in public school and moved him to St. Katherine’s, a Catholic school. 

Of that school, Mr. Pitts writes in his book Step Out on Nothing, “Most of the teachers were nuns. They treated me well. The strict discipline only seemed like an extension of [my mother’s] rules.  It was actually comforting to be in a school where nearly everyone was afraid of breaking the rules. There were never any more than 12 to 15 kids in a class. …There was a great emphasis on prayer and discipline. Reading, writing, and arithmetic seemed like second tier priorities…in this new environment, being polite was no longer enough to get by” (23).

Today Mr. Pitts is an energetic proponent of Catholic schools, serving as a member of Baltimore’s Archdiocesan Catholic School Board.  He appreciates the sacrifices many parents have to make to send their kids to Catholic schools, saying, “My mother was a single parent, a social worker making a modest living. ... She had to borrow from friends and family, and there were times when other bills went unpaid so she could pay for my tuition. But I thank God that my mother had the courage of her convictions and knew the value of a Catholic education. … I thank God she made the choice she did."

Find Byron Pitts' book, Step Out On Nothing: How faith and family helped me conquer life's challenges, here.

Meeting Halfway: Chicago and South Bend Co-Host Mid-Winter Retreat

Written by Meghann Robinson on Thursday, 27 January 2011.

Let's face it - life is busy, sometimes even overwhelming.

In the midst of a crazy week, or month, or semester, how many of us have found ourselves hungering for some rest, some time away from the grind, some quality time with friends and with God?

Members of the South Bend and Chicago regions willingly navigated the snowy Indiana Toll Road for just such an opportunity.

The Observer - ACE Teacher Attends President's Address as Honored Guest

on Thursday, 27 January 2011.

Taken from the University of Notre Dame's independent newspaper, The Observer.

While most of the nation was watching President Barack Obama deliver Tuesday's State of the Union address from the comfort of their own homes, one of Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) teachers had a once-in-a lifetime opportunity.

Speaker of the House John Boehner invited first-year ACE teacher Jack Kelly to attend the address as his guest. With this invitation, Kelly had a front row seat overlooking members of Congress, which he said was an incredible opportunity.

"I studied Political Science and Theology at Marquette University, so meeting the Speaker of the House and [Cardinal Donald Wuerl] at such a historic speech was a dream come true," Kelly said. "It was a blessing to sit with one of my students in witness to the advantage of Catholic education."

From the Director: Celebrate Catholic Schools Week "Early and Often"

Written by Chuck Lamphier on Wednesday, 26 January 2011.

If you’re an ACE Advocate, you know very well what starts this Sunday:  Catholic Schools Week 2011.  This year’s theme, “Catholic Schools: A+ for America,” speaks to a very basic belief of the ACE Advocates:  In addition to being good for the Church, Catholic schools are good for children, families, communities, and the nation.
Millions of children receive an education in Catholic schools.  Known for their high academic standards and impressive graduation rates, our Catholic elementary and secondary schools collaborate with parents to form children into the values-driven adults our country and our world badly need.  And let’s not forget that in providing this service to the country, Catholic schools save the government billions of dollars.

Speaker Boehner, ACE Representatives Together for School Choice Week

on Wednesday, 26 January 2011.

As we wrote last night, and just in time for National School Choice Week, Speaker of the House, John Boehner, sent a strong message about  his upcoming push for school choice by inviting a number of students and teachers—and Cardinal Donald Wuerl among others—to be present in the "Speaker's Box" at the State of the Union address.

Representatives from the Alliance for Catholic Education were present with the group. They included Jack Kelly, a first-year ACE teacher earning his master’s degree through ACE Service through Teaching, and Mike Thomasian, a graduate of ACE’s Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program.

Catholic School Representatives Join Speaker Boehner for the State of the Union

Written by Meghann Robinson on Tuesday, 25 January 2011.

ACE teacher and Remick Leadership graduate among the lucky few

This evening, Catholic school graduate and advocate John Boehner will hear the State of the Union Address from the Speaker’s box for the first time.  In an inspiring show of support for the good work of Catholic schools and of school-choice initiatives such as the Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), Speaker Boehner will be joined in his first Speaker’s box by Catholic school teachers, students, and parents.

Among these will be John P. Kelly, a first-year ACE teacher, and Michael Thomasian, a graduate of ACE’s Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program.  The group will be joined also by Donald Cardinal Wuerl of Washington, D.C., and school-choice advocate Virginia Walden Ford, head of D.C. Parents for School Choice.

An article published by National Review Online highlights Speaker Boehner's tireless support of school choice programs such as the OSP and emphasizes, "The presence of Wuerl, Ford, students, parents, and teachers will underscore the Speaker's commitment to not only these scholarships but a bipartisan effort to continue them in the 112th Congress."

The article includes biographies of Kelly, Thomasian, and their students and fellow educators.  Read to the bottom for a touching message to Congress, penned by eighth grader and Opportunity Scholarship recipient Lesly Alvarez, encouraging the continuation of the OSP.

Interested in more news like this? Sign up for our monthly newsletter.

ACE Graduate Named NCEA Distinguished Teacher

Written by Meghann Robinson on Tuesday, 11 January 2011.

Jennifer Kowieski (ACE 4) one of twelve honored nationwide

In the "About the Teacher" section of her classroom webpage, Jennifer Kowieski says, "I should have realized that I wanted to be a teacher when, in third grade, I'd rush home from school to teach my little sister all I could about writing in cursive, multiplying numbers, and photosynthesis."

Maybe it wasn't in third grade that Kowieski realized she was being called to the classroom, but luckily for the students and families who have been blessed by her service, that realization did eventually come.  Now, others across the country are also realizing what a gift she is to the Catholic classroom.

Announcing Our New Website!

on Tuesday, 11 January 2011.

With gratitude to God we are delighted to unveil the new ACE Advocates website-- one more effort to unify the hearts and hands of Catholic school supporters across the nation!
We invite you now to confirm your membership in the ACE Advocates movement by joining our online community. Then explore the site and its features, such as a new job board, networking opportunities, a growing library of resources, discounts on ACE Advocates programs, and more. The site also offers ideas for supporting your local Catholic school, public policy-related news and action alerts, and invitations to symposia and other professional development events. 
Until the site's official launch during Catholic schools week, we are still refining and adding features and we'd love your feedback. Email us with your comments and suggestions.

Student Art Helps Raise Funds for Jersey City School

Written by ACE Advocates on Monday, 10 January 2011.

For the second year in a row, the Christmas Card fundraiser sponsored by New Jersey ACE Advocates on behalf of their partner school raised over $1000.

Megan Watkins, chair of the New Jersey region, reports that Sacred Heart School in Jersey City, NJ, elected to put this year's revenues twoard a variety of small "wish-list" purchases.  She adds, "They were thrilled!"

Philadelphia: Supporting the Newest UCCE Teachers

Written by ACE Advocates on Monday, 10 January 2011.

On December 19th, members of the Philadelphia Advocates for Catholic Education (PHACE) came together for an Advent prayer service with the ACESJU community.

As Flannery O'Connor, an ACE 13 graduate and chair of PHACE affirms, "PHACE has made a commitment to support these first-year teachers in their Alliance for Catholic Education journey."  Catholic education supporters in the city are excited to have this new program working, as stated on the program's website, to "revitalize and preserve quality, Catholic education in the region."

Evidence of the Catholic School Advantage

Written by Anthony Holter, James Frabutt on Tuesday, 04 January 2011.

Decades of research affirm the positive, life-altering effects that Catholics schools confer on those who learn and grow spiritually and intellectually in their “privileged environment.” And yet, many of these precious national resources face mounting financial challenges, risk loss of their iconic Catholic identity, and more.

We could talk here about how many of these uniquely effective institutions, facing exceptional odds, are fragile and are at risk of closure. We could emphasize the fact that without Catholic schools, entire generations of children – especially children in our urban cities – will lose the only real opportunity they may have to earn a quality, transformative education.

Support Catholic Schools by Supporting ACE

Written by Fr. Tim Scully, CSC on Tuesday, 04 January 2011.

Dear Friends,
Greetings from Notre Dame and the Alliance for Catholic Education!  As we celebrate Advent, I am mindful of how blessed we are for the mission that we share and for the support of so many whose generosity enables us to serve needy families and children.  Thanks to your generosity, last year’s annual appeal raised over $90,000, enabling ACE to pursue two timely and crucial initiatives—1) to support our implementation of the recommendations in To Nurture the Soul of a Nation, the report of the Notre Dame task force on the participation of Latino children and families, and 2) to advance our efforts to respond to the acute educational needs of the Congregation of Holy Cross in the wake of the earthquake that wreaked widespread devastation in Haiti.  Allow me a brief word on each of these important initiatives.

Current Events and Character in the Classroom

Written by Meghann Robinson on Tuesday, 04 January 2011.

When Whitney Ingram joined the pilot cohort of the ACE Teaching Fellows program, her goal was to enhance the moral education that she and her fellow teachers integrated into their regular classroom lessons.

The question of how to teach and promote positive character development while at the same time covering the necessary curriculum is one that has plagued many talented Catholic school teachers.  Ingram has found much success this year using a strategy she dubs "Character Clips," and the recent annual conference of the Georgia Independent Schools Association provided her with an outstanding opportunity to share her work with fellow educators.

Chicago Advocates Sponsor Local Family

Written by Ricky Austin on Tuesday, 04 January 2011.

Each December for the past several years, the Chicago ACE Advocates have come together to sponsor a family in need from St. Ann School, the ACE Magnificat school in Chicago. Through Frankie Beecroft (ACE 11), the Director of Development at St. Ann, the group identifies one family that has had a particularly difficult year. 

A Busy Month for Boston Advocates

Written by ACE Advocates on Tuesday, 04 January 2011.

Greetings from Boston and the Boston Advocates for Catholic Education (BACE)!
We have had a very blessed and fruitful November.  On Thursday, November 4, over fifteen BACE volunteers gathered at Trinity Catholic High School to help about 40% of the senior class with their college essays.  Many of the Trinity students are the first in their family to go to college, so the time that the volunteers spent with them, imparting wisdom and guidance about the college application process, was greatly appreciated.

Waiting for Superman?

Written by Chuck Lamphier on Tuesday, 04 January 2011.

That's You and Me!

The movie “Waiting for Superman” has taken the country by storm, igniting conversations in homes and work places about the state of education in the United States.  If you haven’t seen it  - and I hope you do – it chronicles the struggles of families who want a better opportunity for their children.  In some of the film’s most dramatic moments, we see moms, dads, and kids waiting for the luck of the draw as they sit through an excruciating game of “will my name be called?”
Advent is a good time to consider the idea of “waiting for Superman.”