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The Difference a Catholic Middle School Makes

on Wednesday, 05 December 2012.

Chicago Jesuit Academy (CJA) is a full-scholarship Jesuit school that serves young men from modest economic backgrounds in grades 5-8. Following the Nativity model, the west-side school begins its day at 7:30 am and ends at 6:00 pm. The school year lasts nearly 11 months, and students learn in small class sizes to prepare for success in college prep high schools, universities, and positions of community leadership. The school opened in 2005, and thanks to the unwavering dedication of its staff and teachers—four of whom are graduates of ACE Teaching Fellows—student success rates have been staggering.

"We're fortunate to have an extraordinarily talented faculty and staff," said CJA President Matthew Lynch. "They have the education and the work ethic to do whatever they want in their professional lives," he went on to say. But they choose to dedicate themselves to the students of CJA instead. This is true of ACE grads Matt Houlihan, Teresa Haggerty, Sarah Finch, and Katie McDonnell who, with approximately 75% of all ACE graduates, have chosen to stay in Catholic education.

Of their experience at CJA, these teachers have nothing but praise. Matt (ACE 12) said, "CJA is one of the few [schools] I've ever heard of that continually hires standout teachers and individuals. The camaraderie, teamwork and selflessness exhibited in the staff at CJA are nearly singular. For [any] teacher used to being a bit of an island, CJA is inspiring."

Katie (ACE 16) added, "ACE got me hooked on service in urban Catholic schools. I looked for a school that offers holistic opportunities to students who otherwise may not have school choice and CJA was the perfect fit."

"Our mission resonates powerfully with ACE alumni," Mr. Lynch said. "Our job is to help our students discover and develop their God-given gifts. This is at the heart of who we are."

Their mission is working. On average, incoming CJA fifth-grade students test at the mid-third-grade level in reading and mathematics. Upon graduating, eighth-grade students test at the mid-tenth-grade level in those subjects, and many go on to attend rigorous college prep high schools in Chicago such as Loyola Academy and St. Ignatius and prestigious boarding schools such as the Thacher School in California, Culver Academy in Indiana and Episcopal High in Virginia. To support them, CJA offers a College-Persistence Program that collaborates with families, high schools and colleges to ensure that these young men receive the same high level of care long after they have graduated eighth grade.

CJA currently serves close to 100 young men but will have the capacity to serve twice that number when a renovation and expansion project is completed in September of 2013.

For more information about the school, call (773) 638-6103, visit the website or follow on Facebook.

Happy Advent! Teachers on Retreat Embrace Community, Spirituality

Written by William Schmitt on Thursday, 29 November 2012.

Support for Formation and Life Planning in ACE Teaching Fellows

One of the longest traditions in the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) was convened for the nineteenth time on Nov. 30, 2012. Members of the two current cohorts in ACE Teaching Fellows gathered over the weekend at a retreat center outside Austin, Texas, for the annual ACE Advent Retreat.

About 170 teachers serving in 26 dioceses marked the half-way point in the school year with a three-day experience of prayer, personal reflection, community-building, and fun. They entered the Advent season together as their Sunday liturgy began the new liturgical year and opened up a season of expectancy.

The ACE 18 and ACE 19 cohorts were joined by numerous faculty and staff members who support them throughout the year. Current teachers in the Alliance were also joined in spirit by alumni for whom the retreat has generated many good memories in the past. This annual gathering is a milestone for everyone formed as a Catholic school educator in ACE Teaching Fellows.

"Any ACEr, thinking back to their time in formation, would happily recall the December Retreat, now explicitly the ACE Advent Retreat," says Chuck Lamphier, director of ACE Advocates for Catholic Schools. The tradition goes back to the Alliance's first cohort, formed in 1994, he says. It is inseparable from the character of this initiative to serve children—and the movement that has grown from it—because "ACE is so based on relationship, on knowing each other."

The annual tradition starts on Friday with a focus on reuniting—a renewal of friendships that grew during the summer of ACE courses at the University of Notre Dame. Alongside the individual get-togethers, people celebrate that they are part of a broad ACE community. Events of the day alert people to the latest news of the ACE movement and nurture everyone's professional and spiritual growth.

Much of Saturday is devoted to a mix of recollecting, preparing for the future, and embracing the formation journey within the Alliance for Catholic Education family. Teachers' discussions look back at the experiences of the first semester, look ahead to career planning for life after ACE, and address the challenges of community life.

ACE teachers live in intentional faith communities in houses near the schools where they serve. Community and spirituality complement professional service as pillars of ACE, and all three are affirmed during the three days.

Teachers gather again Sunday morning for Mass, celebrating the Advent spirit of welcome for Jesus in their hearts, in their classrooms, and in the Christmas season.

Then, the retreatants must start getting back to their local communities—in Florida and California, in Texas and Tennessee, and many places in-between—in time to welcome schoolchildren back on Monday morning.

The Austin area has been the site for these retreats since 2004, largely because it is within reasonable driving distance of many ACE partner dioceses. Whatever means of transportation they use to attend the retreat, participants' expenses are paid for by ACE because it is such an important part of every teacher's formation.

The ACE Advent Retreat of 2012 again offered testimony to the diverse experiences and pastoral care that make ACE a unique, supportive preparation for teachers and a providentially gifted instrument for sustaining and strengthening Catholic schools. Like Advent itself, it's a time for looking ahead with hope.

Catholic Education Report Explores Leadership, Innovation & Faith

Written by William Schmitt on Wednesday, 28 November 2012.

Success Stories Celebrating Children and Education Fill 2011-2012 Annual Report

Good news about the present and future of Catholic schools fills the pages of the 2011-2012 Annual Report from the Alliance for Catholic Education. That report, released today, is available online—the first fully digital version of an ACE annual report.

This fresh collection of compelling stories about ACE's activities explores successes in leadership formation, professional services, research-based innovation, and partnerships around the United States.

Faculty and staff have shared expertise in school governance, strategic planning, Latino enrollments, and parental choice, among other issue areas. Nearly 80 bishops have engaged in ACE-sponsored conferences on advocating for parental choice policies.

The report also offers highlights of the 2011-2012 academic year for numerous initiatives through which the Alliance for Catholic Education responds to the needs of dioceses—and to the call to serve children by sustaining, strengthening, and transforming Catholic schools.

During the year, ACE offered services in 74 archdioceses and dioceses. ACE teachers and principals impacted the lives of 38,000 students.

Supporters of Catholic schools will find a valuable resource in this update on ACE's growing list of activities. Paper copies of the 2011-2012 Annual Report are available by contacting communications specialist Bill Schmitt.

ACE Consulting in the News: A Partnership in Stockton

Written by William Schmitt on Tuesday, 20 November 2012.

Strategic Assessments in Diocese to Bolster Effectiveness for Catholic Schools

The Diocese of Stockton, CA, has launched a partnership with the University of Notre Dame to help ensure a long and strong future for Catholic schools.

The Most Rev. Stephen E. Blaire, bishop of the diocese, announced that Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) will engage its ACE Consulting team in an in-depth assessment of 12 schools, starting this month.

See coverage of the announcement in The Modesto Bee and The Lodi News-Sentinel.)

The strategic assessments to be conducted by ACE for each school are designed to provide an objective, external, diagnostic analysis of the school in specific domains while providing appropriate recommendations to bolster the overall effectiveness of each school.

The specific domains to be included in the assessment are:
• Catholic identity
• Academic Excellence
• Ownership/Governance/Administration
• Institutional Advancement
• Enrollment, Demographics and Educational landscape
• Financial/Business Operations
• Access to Federal Grants

"The Catholic schools in our diocese are an important resource, as their continued success can help our community break the cycles of poverty, violence and social injustice. ACE Consulting will help us discern how to enroll more students in better schools... schools that can offer both a values based and a rigorous academic education," Bishop Blaire said.

In the Spotlight: Superintendent Cris Carter Leads Oklahoma City Catholic Schools

on Thursday, 15 November 2012.

How long have you been involved in Catholic schools and in what capacity?

For seventeen years, I have been proud to minister in Catholic schools. I began my career teaching high school English at a wonderful public school, but when my son entered Kindergarten at our parish school, I fell in love with the place. The following year, the school needed a principal, and our Deacon and his wife asked me if I would consider applying for the job. I thought "No way I could ever be a principal," but the more I reflected on the wonderful faith my son was developing, I felt I couldn't say no. I served the school as principal for six wonderful years.

Throughout that time, our superintendent, Sr. Catherine Powers, was a fabulous mentor, helping me grow and learn in so many ways. One day, she asked if I would consider becoming the associate superintendent. For ten years, I worked with her; during the last four, I learned about ACE Collaborative.

What has been your experience with ACE Collaborative?

What a gift that has been. Dr. (Tom) Doyle and Sr. Gail Mayotte first shared the curriculum development process, unit planning, and data based decision-making strategies at a conference for administrators, and immediately I recognized that our Archdiocese, the children, principals and teachers could really use this program. I thought, "This is what we need to grow and become excellent."

I am so pleased with our participation and appreciate the boost ACE Collaborative has given our schools. Our teachers have grown close to one another and begun to network, creating Facebook pages to share ideas, and calling each other to ask questions. I love that they don't feel isolated and alone; that they are talking about what they do well and about where they would like to improve. The energy and enthusiasm they bring to the process is electric. It is a delight to watch teachers capture an idea and run with it. That excitement animates us, and that in turn inspires our students.


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