In establishing the Notre Dame ACE Academies, Notre Dame and the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) empower partner Catholic schools to respond to the U.S. Bishops call to provide parents with “the choice of an education that no other school can supply—excellent academics imparted in the context of Catholic teaching and practice” (Renewing Our Commitment, 2005). The goal of this university-school partnership program is to provide a Catholic education of the highest quality to as many children as possible. Through a unique model of urban Catholic schooling supported by parental choice scholarships and the mobilization of the resources of ACE, the University, and partnering dioceses, ACE and parish schools collaborate to put more children on the path to college and heaven.
Catholic School Culture
The unique Catholic school support model employed by the Notre Dame ACE Academies university-school partnership emphasizes continuous improvement in the multiple dimensions of schooling, including Catholic identity, advancement, and teaching and learning.
Through the emphasis on Catholic identity, the Notre Dame ACE Academies partnerships cover areas like school culture and personal formation.
A strong, positive, authentic Catholic school culture forms in children not only knowledge, but also a worldview that defines their understanding of their purpose in life: that they were made by a God who loves and knows them, and that they are all called to serve others. Notre Dame ACE Academies distinctive approach to articulating and nurturing school culture flows from the deeply Catholic belief that our actions and our choices define us more than circumstances do.
School leaders, teachers, and Notre Dame ACE Academies team members collaborate to articulate the schools' beliefs and values, so that every member of the school community understands and communicates the same, consistent messages to the children we form. Through reinforcement from teachers, daily routines and practices, rituals, and even classroom rules and decorations, core values and root beliefs are clearly, consistently, and effectively communicated to each child in our care.
While the culture of each individual Notre Dame ACE Academy is unique, there are certain features that are common to each of our partner schools, and each partner school participates in an ongoing process of culture-building.
"God in all things" is the central root belief shared across our schools. This belief defines the way we view the world and allows us to speak the same language about life, about God, about our relationships and our purpose.
In the Notre Dame ACE Academies the most important root beliefs are explicitly and consistently articulated. Notre Dame ACE Academies leaders and teachers establish a set of root beliefs, unique to each school, and they work hard to ensure that those beliefs guide daily school operations. The examples below are from the Notre Dame ACE Academies schools and team.
All of us will learn.
Whatever it takes is what it takes.
The small things matter.
Jesus is the center of our lives.
Our values consist of the actions we perform habitually that make our beliefs known to others. In the Notre Dame ACE Academies, values are stated as verbs so that students and teachers alike conceive of them as concrete activities that are done on a daily basis, rather than abstract ideals.
Children are immersed in a culture of continuous improvement that instills a life-long love of learning.
Effort trumps ability. Students learn to overcome challenges to achieve their dreams and every teacher is committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure that each child succeeds.
The Notre Dame ACE Academies set forth two goals for each child: College & Heaven. Students receive a rigorous, college-preparatory education as they develop a living relationship with Jesus Christ.
Each Notre Dame ACE Academy is a family, providing a safe, loving environment where each child learns to thrive in community with others.
To whom much is given, much is expected. Notre Dame ACE Academy students are prepared for lives of service to others, the community, and the Church.
Notre Dame ACE Academies provide numerous opportunities for spiritual and faith formation to students, members of the school faculty and staff, and school administrators throughout the school year.
Throughout the year students are invited to grow in their personal relationship with God, serve others, learn about the Catholic faith, receive the sacraments and worship together. They participate in weekly Masses, prayer services, sacramental preparation, Advent, Lent and other celebrations of the Church Year. Students put their faith in action through Campus Ministry where they collaborate with teachers and priests to lead and participate in community outreach, service projects and retreats that unite and strengthen their class communities and provide creative opportunities to explore their spiritual relationship with God.
Notre Dame ACE Academies leads a daylong spring retreat for each regional cluster of academies. Teachers and staff members come together to reflect on their own faith journey and are renewed in their shared mission. These retreats help foster the larger Notre Dame ACE Academies community, connecting participants through prayer and reflection to the larger network and ministry.
Notre Dame ACE Academies Principals gather each fall for a retreat offering both rest and renewal, while centering on faith, fellowship and their communion in their shared ministry of Catholic school leadership. The principals also participate in monthly professional learning community calls that stimulate honest and open conversations that involve authentic sharing of successes and challenges being experienced in their respective communities.
The unique Catholic school support model of the Notre Dame ACE Academies emphasizes continuous improvement in many dimensions of schooling, including Catholic school culture, advancement, and teaching and learning.
Through our advancement efforts, Notre Dame ACE Academies partnerships address such areas as financial management, marketing, and governance. The Notre Dame ACE Academies model also emphasizes support from parental choice scholarships and benefits from the mobilization of the resources of ACE and partnering dioceses.
Relationships begin when ACE, at the invitation of a diocese, creates and supports partnerships with existing parish schools. ACE provides structured and comprehensive support to principals and teachers to foster growth in critical areas, especially catholic identity, advancement, and teaching and learning. Throughout the partnership, pastors retain ultimate responsibility for the school, however they do delegate certain executive responsibilities to a regional board of limited jurisdiction.
Parents are the primary educators of their children. This means, among other things, that parents have the right to access high-quality Catholic schools. The Notre Dame ACE Academies are committed to minimizing cost as an obstacle to families who wish to give their children the Catholic School Advantage. The Notre Dame ACE Academies model is designed to ensure partner schools are able to take advantage of every opportunity to first gain access to resources and then use them effectively. Notre Dame ACE Academies provides dedicated advancement support to enhance student recruitment efforts and access and supports the management of school finances.
Notre Dame ACE Academies operates on the belief that parish schools can be sustainable in states with strong educational choice programs. Tax-credit scholarships and vouchers allow parents to choose a quality Catholic education and provide schools with the resources to be excellent. ACE Academies aim to be a proof point of what is possible for faith-based schools with strong parental choice.
Teaching and Learning
The Notre Dame ACE Academies Model emphasizes continuous improvement in the multiple dimensions of schooling, including Catholic school culture, advancement, and teaching and learning.
Through targeted efforts in teaching and learning, Notre Dame ACE Academies partnerships address areas such as leadership, family/community engagement, learning environment, and instructional guidance.
Notre Dame ACE Academies provides on-going leadership formation for principals and research-based evaluation tools that give school leaders concrete feedback for improvement and assist the School Leadership Committee of the regional Notre Dame ACE Academies board in holding principals accountable for school improvement.
Notre Dame ACE Academies also facilitates access to the expertise of Notre Dame faculty, and provides principals with intensive, on-going support in curriculum, instruction and coaching, assessment, school culture, and Catholic identity.
Notre Dame ACE Academies have access to annual instructional and curricular resource upgrades, and Notre Dame ACE Academies provides teachers with training and support in use of new materials. Teachers are prepared to constantly reassess and meet their students’ needs.
Notre Dame ACE Academies conducts regular Teacher Leadership Formation (TLF) workshops to implement the Notre Dame ACE Academies Framework for Excellent Teaching, and facilitate the development of professional learning communities both within and across school communities. The Framework for Excellent Teaching and professional learning communities together establish a professional culture of excellence and provide teachers with support to meet all their students’ needs.
Parents are the primary educators of their children. Notre Dame ACE Academies honors this and creates opportunities for families to be engaged in their children’s education by hosting community events and developing family programming. In addition, Notre Dame ACE Academies connects regional Notre Dame alumni and the ACE Advocates to Notre Dame ACE Academies communities.
Each Notre Dame ACE Academies region employs a Teaching and Learning Specialist who provides regular 1-on-1 teacher coaching and advises the Principal on curricular and instructional issues. In addition, Notre Dame ACE Academies provides researched-based feedback and evaluation tools to assist principals in holding teachers accountable for constant improvement in planning, instruction, assessment, and school culture.