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National School Choice Week Resonates at ACE

Written by William Schmitt on Tuesday, 24 January 2012.

The Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) is marking National School Choice Week, which spans January 22-28, 2012.

Rooted in Catholic Social Teaching, ACE supports school choice policies, also called parental choice policies, that give all children effective options for obtaining a high-quality education.

Official Church teaching has repeatedly and consistently reaffirmed the vital importance of Catholic schools and school choice. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, "Parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own personal convictions." The Catechism adds that "public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and ensuring concrete conditions for its exercise" (CCC #2229).

schoolchoiceweek logo teaserAs part of our support for principles of school choice, ACE's Program for K-12 Educational Access (PEA) is dedicated to empowering low-income families with access to a quality education, with a particular focus on parochial schools. PEA advances educational access through teaching, research, and outreach, and it seeks to cultivate data-driven, parent-centered education reform.

The Notre Dame ACE Academy initiative, currently operating innovative, in-depth partnerships with three Catholic schools in the Diocese of Tucson, strives to remove the cost barrier for families whenever possible. As a result of Arizona's parental choice policies, allowing scholarships funded by tax credits, Notre Dame ACE Academies can provide tuition assistance to families facing financial hardship.

During the past year, the state of Indiana—where ACE is headquartered as an initiative of the University of Notre Dame—has been a center of action on school choice through a new voucher program.

The Indiana Choice Scholarship Program experienced unprecedented success in 2011. National experts indicate this is the most successful first year implementation in the history of the parental choice movement. More than 3,900 students across the state have received Choice Scholarships, and more than 2,500 of those are now attending Catholic schools. The new program's benefits were most deeply felt by the families facing economic struggles, as 85% of voucher recipients qualify for free or reduced-cost school lunch.

Support for the principles of school choice, or parental choice, finds affirmation in Catholic thought.
In 1965, the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on Christian Education stated: "The public power, which has the obligation to protect and defend the rights of citizens, must see to it, in its concern for distributive justice, that public subsidies are paid out in such a way that parents are truly free to choose according to their conscience that schools they want for their children."

In 1987, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith expressly communicated that "whenever the State lays claim to an educational monopoly, it oversteps its rights and offends justice.... The State cannot dwithout injustice merely tolerate so-called private school. Such schools render a public service to civil society and therefore have a right to financial assistance."

The 2004 Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church focused attention on the lack of public funding for non-public schools: "The refusal to provide public economic support to non-public schools that need assistance and that render a service to civil society is to be considered an injustice."

Pope Benedict XVI, in a 2008 Address to Catholic Educators, declared: "Everything possible must be done, in cooperation with the wider community, to ensure that [Catholic schools] are accessible to people of all social and economic strata. No child should be denied his or her right to an education in faith, which in turn nurtures the soul of a nation."

You can find out more about the official events and messages accompanying National School Choice Week at http://schoolchoiceweek.com.

Catholic School Champion: Antonio Ortiz

Written by William Schmitt on Friday, 20 January 2012.

Antonio Ortiz, a graduate of the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) who has embodied a commitment to Catholic schools throughout his career, will become president of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago, effective June 25, 2012.

The school's board of trustees and presidential search committee announced recently that Tony had been elected to succeed Rev. Jim Garland, S.J. The announcement is headlined at the school's website.

Cristo Rey Jesuit, founded in 1996, enrolls more than 500 students. Located in the Pilsen/Little Village neighborhood, it serves low-income Latino communities. The school is part of a distinctive network of Cristo Rey schools that offer a college preparatory education to children for whom other private schools are not a financial option. Indeed, the Cristo Rey school model started at this Chicago site, and there are now 24 Cristo Rey schools across the country, of which Cristo Rey Jesuit High School is the largest.

"If you look at the education and experience that have prepared me for this very important responsibility, I would have to credit Notre Dame—both my undergraduate studies and the ACE Program—as having inspired me to focus on the mission of Catholic schools," Tony commented following the Cristo Rey announcement. "As enthusiastic as I am about the opportunity, I'm also a little bit nervous to be the first lay president. However, I know I have the ACE Program, resources, and ACE Advocates to lean on for support and prayers!"

Tony previously served at Cristo Rey Jesuit for ten years, with titles including Associate Principal and Director of Foundation and Corporate Relations. His experience in the ACE Teaching Fellows program, during which he earned a Master of Education degree, included teaching for two years at a Catholic grade school in the border area of Mission, Texas. He graduated from ACE in 1999 as a member of the program's fifth cohort.

In 2010, Tony received ACE's Michael Pressley Award for Excellence in Catholic Education.

"I was raised in a family where my parents emphasized Catholic education as our absolute number one priority," said Tony in his recent email. "My experience in the ACE Program shaped my value system, work ethic, and spiritual life. I am now eager for the opportunity to return and continue advancing [Cristo Rey Jesuit HS] as one of the most important works of hope and opportunity for so many families who simply want the best education for their children."

Tony was among the ACErs profiled in the 2010-2011 ACE Annual Report. At that time, he was serving as director for partnerships and outreach at the Big Shoulders Fund. The fund provides millions of dollars annually for scholarships, instructional equipment, and facility improvements in Catholic schools in Chicago's neediest areas.

In the profile, Tony described his vision of ACE's future—providing more and more graduates the opportunity to enter leadership positions in education and public policy and giving more children access to the transformational benefits of excellent schools.

"The most important expression of ACE's mission," he said, "will be when traditionally underserved students, who have benefited from ACE teachers, reach their personal and professional dreams, as well as improving the quality of life for families and communities."

Tony holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA from Loyola University Chicago. He and his wife Brenda have two children, Gabriela and Antonio.

Using the Cristo Rey model adopted in other cities, Cristo Rey Jesuit utilizes the Corporate Internship Program. All students participate in this work-study program, through which they work five days per month in entry-level jobs in Chicago firms. In this way, they fund a majority of the cost of their education.

ACE congratulates Tony and joins in prayers for his continued success in service to young people through Catholic education.
# # #
Photo above: Antonio Ortiz at center.

From the Field: Grainne Carroll

on Thursday, 19 January 2012.

Recently we asked Grainne Carroll, who hails from Ireland, to tell us about her experience with ACE. Grainne is a graduate of ACE Teaching Fellows (STT, cohort 16) and has completed one semester of ACE's Teaching Exceptional Children (TEC) program. Here's what she had to say.

carroll g 2My experiences with ACE and ACE TEC have been truly wonderful. From the joyous moment I received my letter of acceptance to the master's program in 2009, to sunny summers of intense studying at Notre Dame, to late night TEC assignments this fall, ACE has truly challenged me, pushing me to reach my potential as a teacher and minister of Christ.

During my undergrad years in Dublin, Ireland, where I gained my bachelor's degree in education, and the two years I spent in Texas completing my master's degree, one area that really intrigued me was special education. In my few years of teaching, I have encountered so many beautiful and talented children of God who have been denied their right to an equal and adequate education, specific to their individual needs. This reality hit home when one of my students in Texas left for the public school system due to insufficient funds and resources available at our Catholic school. It was heartbreaking to realize that we were unable to provide that student the education he needed in a Catholic environment. During this time, I decided to apply for ACE TEC.

ACE TEC has been a tremendous gift to me. It has provided me with the tools and information needed to actually make a difference in my classroom and in my school. Many times in my (short) teaching career, I felt unsure and unaware of the best approach to take with a student with special needs. But after just one summer and one semester of ACE TEC, I feel a greater sense of comfort working with these students, because ACE TEC has given me strategies that can help them succeed. For example, I am now a member of my school's Intervention Assistance Team, which exists to provide support of and/or guidance for teachers and parents of students with special needs. In the first two quarters of the year, our team met to address the unique learning needs of seven different students. We created implementation strategies for the teachers and parents to help these students achieve success.

ACE TEC has reinforced my belief that teachers must be equipped to address the unique needs of every student, because all students are special. I am grateful for the tools and encouragement the program provides so that an equal and excellent Catholic education is available to all.

ACE Graduate to Serve as President of Cristo Rey Jesuit HS in Chicago

Written by William Schmitt on Thursday, 19 January 2012.

Antonio Ortiz, a graduate of the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) who has embodied a commitment to Catholic schools throughout his career, will become president of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago, effective June 25, 2012.

The school's board of trustees and presidential search committee announced recently that Tony had been elected to succeed Rev. Jim Garland, S.J. The announcement is headlined at the school's website.

Cristo Rey Jesuit, founded in 1996, enrolls more than 500 students. Located in the Pilsen/Little Village neighborhood, it serves low-income Latino communities. The school is part of a distinctive network of Cristo Rey schools that offer a college preparatory education to children for whom other private schools are not a financial option. Indeed, the Cristo Rey school model started at this Chicago site, and there are now 24 Cristo Rey schools across the country, of which Cristo Rey Jesuit High School is the largest.

"If you look at the education and experience that have prepared me for this very important responsibility, I would have to credit Notre Dame—both my undergraduate studies and the ACE Program—as having inspired me to focus on the mission of Catholic schools," Tony commented following the Cristo Rey announcement. "As enthusiastic as I am about the opportunity, I'm also a little bit nervous to be the first lay president. However, I know I have the ACE Program, resources, and ACE Advocates to lean on for support and prayers!"

Tony previously served at Cristo Rey Jesuit for ten years, with titles including Associate Principal and Director of Foundation and Corporate Relations. His experience in the ACE Teaching Fellows program, during which he earned a Master of Education degree, included teaching for two years at a Catholic grade school in the border area of Mission, Texas. He graduated from ACE in 1999 as a member of the program's fifth cohort.

In 2010, Tony received ACE's Michael Pressley Award for Excellence in Catholic Education.

"I was raised in a family where my parents emphasized Catholic education as our absolute number one priority," said Tony in his recent email. "My experience in the ACE Program shaped my value system, work ethic, and spiritual life. I am now eager for the opportunity to return and continue advancing [Cristo Rey Jesuit HS] as one of the most important works of hope and opportunity for so many families who simply want the best education for their children."

Tony was among the ACErs profiled in the 2010-2011 ACE Annual Report. At that time, he was serving as director for partnerships and outreach at the Big Shoulders Fund. The fund provides millions of dollars annually for scholarships, instructional equipment, and facility improvements in Catholic schools in Chicago's neediest areas.

In the profile, Tony described his vision of ACE's future—providing more and more graduates the opportunity to enter leadership positions in education and public policy and giving more children access to the transformational benefits of excellent schools.

"The most important expression of ACE's mission," he said, "will be when traditionally underserved students, who have benefited from ACE teachers, reach their personal and professional dreams, as well as improving the quality of life for families and communities."

Tony holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA from Loyola University Chicago. He and his wife Brenda have two children, Garbiela and Antonio.

Using the Cristo Rey model adopted in other cities, Cristo Rey Jesuit utilizes the Corporate Internship Program. All students participate in this work-study program, through which they work five days per month in entry-level jobs in Chicago firms. In this way, they fund a majority of the cost of their education.

ACE congratulates Tony and joins in prayers for his continued success in service to young people through Catholic education.

Study of Students' Gains from Good Teachers Affirms ACE's Focus

Written by William Schmitt on Thursday, 19 January 2012.

A major new study of teachers' long-term impacts on their students affirms ACE's commitment to form and support excellent teachers as a key part of its mission to sustain, strengthen, and transform Catholic K-12 schools.

The New York Times summarized the results of the study in a January 6, 2012, story: "Elementary and middle-school teachers who help raise their students' standardized-test scores seem to have a wide-ranging, lasting positive effect on those students' lives beyond academics." The effect includes higher college enrollment rates, higher earnings, and lower teenage-pregnancy rates.

The study, conducted by three Ivy League economists who monitored 2.5 million students over a period of 20 years, asserts that high-quality teachers can make a large, measurable difference for their students over time. The scholars have been disseminating their results in a report, The Long-Term Impacts of Teachers: Teacher Value-Added and Student Outcomes in Adulthood, not yet peer-reviewed but available online. Value-added is measured here by students' improvements in standardized-test scores.

The report "underscores that by focusing on teacher quality, ACE has been investing in all the right things," comments Dr. Christian Dallavis, director of the Notre Dame ACE Academy initiative in the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) at the University of Notre Dame. "And the study highlights the urgency of our mission to help teachers focus on student growth."

ACE's formation programs have been educating teachers for service In Catholic schools since it was founded in 1993. Participants in the ACE Teaching Fellows program are selected in a competitive process from among talented college graduates across the country who are passionate about serving young people through Catholic education. Three "pillars" in ACE's approach to formation of educators emphasize professional service, community life, and spiritual growth.

Other ACE programs also support the teaching function in a range of ways. One program, the Notre Dame ACE Academies initiative, currently supports three under-resourced elementary schools in partnership with the Diocese of Tucson. The commitment to provide an excellent education to the at-risk children in these schools emphasizes resources for high-quality teaching and measurement of student performance.

"This research informs our Notre Dame ACE Academies efforts by helping us deploy our resources more effectively," says Dallavis. "We use value-added test scores to identify both the teachers who need the most support as well as the teachers whose skills qualify them to mentor their colleagues."

The study—by Raj Chetty and John N. Friedman, both of Harvard University, and Jonah E. Rockoff of Columbia University—can be accessed at the harvard.edu website. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof highlighted the importance of the findings in a Jan. 11 op-ed piece.

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