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"ACE Collaborative" Brings Structure, Resources to Teams in Additional Dioceses

Written by William Schmitt on Friday, 24 August 2012.

Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment Are the Focus of ACE Collaborative for Academic Excellence

Four dioceses are the newest partners in an Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) initiative that empowers teachers for teamwork that will shape the future of instruction at their schools.

The ACE Collaborative for Academic Excellence (ACAE) began conducting workshops this summer with Catholic school leaders and teacher teams in the Dioceses of Camden and Paterson in New Jersey; the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi; and the Diocese of Savannah, Georgia.

The ACAE, based at the University of Notre Dame, continues to work with educators in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, the Diocese of Reno, and the Diocese of Tucson. The collaborations are a sustained professional development program, providing a framework to strengthen curriculum, instruction, and assessment in Catholic schools.

Over a two-year period, the ACAE holds extensive workshops and other instructional gatherings at the diocesan level, bringing teachers together for a structured, informed discussion of current practices and possible next steps.

These teams are supported as they take greater ownership in their pursuit of continuous improvement in curriculum and instruction. The ACAE also supports the administrators in implementing the plans that emerge, but the plans and the ongoing assessments are generated by the local educators.

Schools around the country are looking at their own practices and needs in light of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which sets national guidelines for what students should learn in different grades. Collaborative training helps educators build upon the new common core.

The ACAE team members recently have begun the two-year process of collaboration-building in Camden, Paterson, Jackson, and Savannah. The latter diocese announced on its website that teachers from all diocesan schools began training in curriculum, instruction, and assessment on July 30.

ACAE assistance for the collaborative teams of educators comes in many forms. The support includes exclusive digital resources—a wiki for discussions spanning multiple schools, plus video clips and other links to be shared among these collaborative communities. The Alliance for Catholic Education has developed a computer application (app) that helps teachers and principals gather data about classroom situations that can lead later to fruitful assessments of instructional practice.

"The treasure of Catholic schools lies in the committed teachers and principals who staff them," says Tom Doyle, Ph.D., founder and coordinator of the ACE Collaborative as well as senior director of ACE's M.Ed. program.

"Their aspiration for excellence is best served when they engage together in sustained discussions about essential issues and implement subsequent decisions as professional teams," Doyle continues. "The purpose of the Collaborative is to facilitate these discussions and the decision-making that follows."

The ACE Collaborative will follow up its summer workshops with its annual fall conference, to be held in early November. The conference brings together curriculum coordinators from participating dioceses for sharing and also introduces the Collaborative to new dioceses.

ACE offers the Collaborative's resources to dioceses through Doyle and other experienced educators. The ACAE builds upon expertise from Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education, a leading provider of talent and resources for Catholic schools around the country. ACE conducts several initiatives with the overall mission to sustain, strengthen, and transform Catholic schools.

The ACE Teaching Fellows (STT) initiative, which grants the M.Ed. degree, has sent forth some 1,500 graduates to teach in Catholic elementary and secondary schools since it was founded in 1993. STT teachers currently serve in several elementary and secondary schools in the Diocese of Jackson.

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