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ACE Service to Catholic Schools Shines Light in Summer Conferences

Written by William Schmitt on Tuesday, 15 May 2012.

The University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) will once again welcome hundreds of visitors to the campus this summer for a unique series of conferences, all advancing ACE’s mission to sustain, strengthen, and transform Catholic schools.

The conferences, some of which are currently accepting registrants, constitute a growing part of the busy summer to be enjoyed by ACE participants. Hundreds of those participants will receive skills and personal formation to earn master’s degrees as K-12 Catholic school teachers and leaders.

Various units of ACE, which have multiplied during 19 years in response to the needs of children in under-resourced Catholic schools, host conferences that address today’s urgent issues. These include galvanizing top-notch teachers and school leaders; encouraging parental choice policies and informed financial strategies for Catholic school sustainability; promoting athletic coaching that ministers to young people; and introducing parents and South Bend-area educators to the summertime wellspring of Notre Dame’s commitment to K-12 schooling.

These conferences are coming up in 2012:

ACE Teaching Fellows Annual Conference (June 5-10). Participants in the Melody Family ACE Teaching Fellowship program convene to assess and catalyze their growth as master teachers, educational leaders, and generators of problem-solving research. Several benefactor-supported fellowships support highly promising educators who wish to continue their careers in Catholic classrooms while pursuing advanced knowledge and skills. Fellows cultivate these leadership assets along with their mentors during the conference. Read more about the ACE Teaching Fellows Annual Conference.

Advocates for Parental Choice Symposium (June 15-20). This intensive formation experience gives participants a first-hand experience of people and places on the cutting edge in implementing school choice policies. Catholic school supporters will receive skills, insights, and working relationships to equip them as advocates in the parental choice movement. Major speakers and visits to Wisconsin and Florida will increase these future leaders’ understanding of the legal, social, constitutional, political, and moral dimensions of parental choice.

Hope in Action: Transforming Haiti Through Catholic Education (June 19-20). A select group of Church, education, philanthropic, and international developmental leaders will gather to probe how a stronger Catholic education system can transform Haiti's education sector and advance the nation's social and economic development. Forum hosts and partners will introduce innovative pathways for quality Catholic education in Haiti. Partners in this international leadership forum include Catholic Relief Services, the Congregation of Holy Cross, the Haitian Episcopal Commission for Catholic Education, as well as three units of the University—the Alliance for Catholic Education, the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. Learn more about ACE in Haiti.

Play Like a Champion Today Sports Leadership Conference (June 22-24). This annual conference, titled “Champion Character in Sports” for 2012, emphasizes developing the whole person through sports. Guest speakers offer professional development for coaches and athletic administrators at both the youth and high school levels. Hosted by ACE’s Play Like a Champion Today® experts in sports as ministry, the conference gathers representatives of parochial leagues around the country to network and share best practices. Register for the Play Like a Champion Today Sports Leadership Conference.

Superintendents Strategic Leadership Conference (June 24-27). ACE Consulting will host its annual Superintendents Strategic Leadership Conference, inviting educational leaders from dioceses across the country. This year's conference is titled "Together in Mission: Creating a Culture of Hope." Expert speakers and in-depth conversations will explore key issues faced by school leaders. Learn more about the Superintendents Strategic Leadership Conference.

Principals Academy (June 26-29). A four-day enrichment experience for Catholic school principal will focus on identifying and shaping a school’s culture to benefit leadership and learning. The values of a school, expressed actively and nurtured in a culture, provide a framework in which teachers can reduce students’ achievement gaps and leaders can promote continuous improvement in a school. This academy, hosted by ACE Consulting, will help principals develop action plans to improve and utilize their school culture. Register here for the Principals Academy.

Equitable Services Institute (July 8-12). Students in Catholic schools across the country are not getting federally funded services to which they’re entitled; the Equitable Services Institute assists diocesan superintendents, principals, and other educational leaders to solve this problem. Attendees will receive updated information about complex federal funding policies plus practical roadmaps for the process of consultations by which educators obtain equitable shares for their students from Title 1, Title 2, and Title 3 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Learn more about, and register for, the Equitable Services Institute.

School Pastors Institute (July 17-20). Pastors whose parishes include schools are invited to this annual institute to learn to manage and leverage better the distinctive relationship between a parish and its school. The Institute develops many skills and perspectives that a pastor will need in overseeing a parish school, its people, and its finances. It provides insights for valuable reflection on the value of Catholic schools to the children and parents of a parish and to the future of the Church as a whole. 

ACE Parent Retreat (July 25-27). Parents whose sons or daughters have just finished their first year in ACE Teaching Fellows often have many questions about these first-year teachers’ experiences. ACE Advocates hosts a special retreat for these parents at Notre Dame to get their questions answered and to see the broader context of the journey their ACE teachers are taking. The retreat also allows these parents of the ACE 18 cohort to hear presentations, worship together, and swap stories. Learn more about the ACE Parent Retreat.

Mary Ann Remick Leadership Conference (July 13). This conference, a capstone event for those earning their master’s degrees in educational administration through the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program (RLP), is a unique and informal venue for South Bend-area educators to discuss current research with ACE leaders and experts from across the country. The RLP participants present the action research they have conducted to help address key day-to-day issues facing Catholic schools, and local educational leaders attending free-of-charge may exchange useful ideas. Read about last year’s Remick Leadership Conference and read about the value of action research.

In the Spotlight: Laura Knaus

on Thursday, 10 May 2012.

sacredheart smallThe Holy Spirit won't take "No" for an answer. Just ask Laura Knaus. Early in her career as a teacher in Chicago's inner-city, she felt the nudge toward administration. But she explored other opportunities in education first. Still, the call to administration beckoned, and eventually she became principal of Sacred Heart School in Lincoln, Nebraska—and landed in the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program (RLP) at ACE.

Hearing Laura speak about Catholic schools reveals why the Spirit must have led her to a position of leadership. "The Church speaks of Her schools in such a beautiful way—as places that foster the growth of minds and souls, that help students grow intellectually, socially and spiritually...[They are] 'at the heart of the Church.'"

And not only that, Laura says, but Catholic schools are at the heart of society has a whole. Thus, her commitment is "to fully participate in the movement to strengthen and restore our Catholic schools, especially those that serve under-served populations."

As principal, Laura brings that commitment to her Diocese, staff, parents, and students. (One example, as pictured above: She has instituted "Kingdom-Builder Awards." Each quarter, one student per grade is recognized for this honor.) She also brings what she's learned in RLP, such as professional development for her staff, and modified policies to move her school forward for the benefit of its children. And Laura is using her Action Research at Sacred Heart "to revamp our approach to parent involvement and to more effectively collaborate with parents, who are the primary educators of their children."

This leader in the Alliance for Catholic Education concludes, "I believe wholeheartedly in what ACE and ACE-modeled programs are accomplishing across our nation. Bringing awareness to [this work] is critical to the expansion and sustained success of the ACE mission." We are grateful for the central role Laura and others like her are playing to strengthen the heart of the Church--and the soul of our nation.


Education Journalist Scrutinizes "Myths" in CREO Seminar

Written by William Schmitt on Tuesday, 08 May 2012.

John Merrow Tells ACE/IEI Audience Clearer View of Goals is Needed

Many of the judgments Americans commonly accept about our educational system are myths, according to an award-winning education journalist who addressed an Institute for Educational Initiatives (IEI) audience on April 30.

Veteran reporter John Merrow, whose stories appear on the PBS NewsHour and a range of other media, critiqued a list of myths—and spotlighted numerous problems in schooling—during his lecture, which capped the 2011-2012 Center for Research on Educational Opportunity (CREO) Seminar series.

"I wish, after 37 years of reporting, I could be optimistic [about the future of education]," he said, but little real progress will be made unless strong leaders and the whole nation engage in a sweeping "conversation about what we want for our kids" and the best ways to achieve those goals.

On the subject of today's educational myths, Merrow rejected the notion that the biggest challenge in schooling is an "achievement gap" between rich and poor students as defined by test results.

Focusing a school's efforts on raising those test scores ignores the fact that the problem grows out of less-recognized phenomena in society, he said—an "opportunity gap" reflected in schools of differing quality, an "expectations gap" derived from asking little of students, a "leadership gap" fed by a lack of the courage to solve more systemic problems, and an "outcomes gap" that is measured and addressed statistically and simplistically.

Among other points he made:
• Charter schools are not a big part of the solution for America's education problems, although they could offer some answers—"I'm not so sure about profit-making charter schools."
• Over the past 40 years, the average teacher salary, adjusted for inflation, has risen less than 1% annually.
• "America's children are the most tested in the world.... Oftentimes, we're testing our kids because we're trying to keep track of the teachers." Americans spend too little of the education dollar to see if their expenditure of $12,000 a year per student has worked well, he said.
• Schools must realize their purpose is to prepare students for their careers and for life, not just college, Merrow said. He noted that Notre Dame ACE Academies speak of preparing students for college and heaven. "That's cool," he said. "It's not how I would phrase it, but it's a wonderful construct" because it reflects a deep, long-term purpose.

Merrow added that his audience shouldn't go away from the talk feeling too distressed. After his visit to Notre Dame, including meetings with University President-Emeritus Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C, and leaders of IEI units such as CREO and the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) who are working to change things, "I'm going to go back feeling a lot better."

CREO director Mark Berends, a distinguished sociologist of education at Notre Dame and a Fellow of the Institute for Educational initiatives (IEI), called Merrow "the premier influential, thorough, thoughtful education reporter in the United States."

In the Spotlight: Roseanne Villanueva

on Thursday, 03 May 2012.

TucsonInTheSpotlightMay2012 SmallOne never knows what brings Catholic school principals to their positions.

When Roseanne Villanueva moved to Tucson seven years ago, she says, "I didn't know about Catholic education. I didn't go to Catholic school. I didn't think I could afford it, and it wasn't something I really believed in."

So when she enrolled her two youngest (of four) sons in the preschool at St. John the Evangelist, she was initially happy just to have a place for them to go.

Within the first month, though, "I noticed a difference between the two older boys, who were in public school, and the two younger ones. The two little ones were talking about God in a way that I never had heard little kids talk, and I hadn't realized that could happen at that age. I liked the way they treated each other and the topics they brought up to talk about."

Naturally, Roseanne brought her older children to St. John the Evangelist as well. A teacher in a public school at the time, she asked the principal to keep her in mind for any future openings. That very spring, a position became available, and despite the pay cut on top of the expense of sending all four boys to Catholic school, her family decided to make the switch.

This teacher who once had never considered Catholic education was now teaching in a Catholic school--and loving it. She especially appreciated subbing in religion classes: "You learn about something when you teach religion in Catholic school," she says, "and I learned about my faith when I taught it. It's still one of my favorite things, to get to sub religion if a teacher is out."

Roseanne became principal of St John the Evangelist, a Notre Dame ACE Academy, in 2009. About it she says, "There's no school anywhere where the teachers are getting the kind of training our teachers are getting. The quality of education has gone up here. All the resources have made such a difference for the kids." Roseanne also points to the collaborative culture of the Academies, where the principals of the three schools can turn to each other and teachers who once worked in near isolation can share ideas, as a major factor in the success of St. John the Evangelist.

This is how the Holy Spirit works. Under Roseanne's leadership, the school where she first enrolled two of her children simply because it was a good place for them has gone from struggling to thriving. Under her leadership, the school about which she initially knew so little is now on a steep upward trajectory with enrollment increasing, school culture growing stronger and more defined, and student achievement scores up as much as two years in some classes. This is how the Holy Spirit works. Thanks be to God!

Research Award for Director of Notre Dame ACE Academies

Written by William Schmitt on Wednesday, 02 May 2012.

Dr. Christian Dallavis Honored by AERA Catholic education Scholars

Christian Dallavis, director of the Notre Dame ACE Academies initiative, has been honored for best dissertation by the Catholic Education special interest group (SIG) of theAmerican Educational Research Association (AERA).

The SIG, which brings together scholars from around the world who conduct research in the field of Catholic education, bestowed the award on Dallavis as the group gathered at the AERA annual conference, held April 13-17, 2012, in Vancouver, Canada.

Dallavis's dissertation, titled "Extending theories of culturally responsive pedagogy: An ethnographic examination of Catholic schooling in an immigrant community in Chicago," explored the capacity for Catholic schools to be culturally responsive to their students as ethnicity in a community changed over time.

He studied a particular Chicago-area Catholic school during two time periods—its early days after its founding in 1903 to serve the local Polish immigrant community and its recent days serving a community that has become virtually all Hispanic.

His ethnographic and historical research showed that the key tenets of what scholars now call "culturally responsive pedagogy" were present in the school during its early days. "Polish culture, literature, language, and history were at the heart of the school, right alongside American history and literature, English, and religion," Dallavis commented in a recent interview. But contemporary teachers don't emphasize the home culture of their students in the classroom in the same ways today.

This shift is symptomatic of a broader trend in American classrooms in recent years, as the minority composition of student bodies has increased dramatically but the teaching force has not. Dallavis said his study "identifies missed opportunities" for teachers and principals in Catholic schools to enrich cultural connections with students, because a growing body of research suggests that culturally responsive teaching is an effective approach to improving minority student achievement. Dallavis contends that faith-based schools have a unique opportunity to be culturally responsive, because faith is a critical part of the home culture for families who choose Catholic schools.

"Many Catholic schools were extraordinarily culturally responsive to the immigrant communities from Europe that founded the schools a century ago. Today, Catholic schools ought to look to that legacy to prepare teachers and principals to be culturally responsive to today's children in similar ways," Dallavis said, summarizing the take-away points from the dissertation. The research was part of his graduate work at the University of Michigan, where he earned a joint Ph.D. in English and Education.

The study received the SIG's inaugural dissertation award; the SIG was authorized by the AERA only in 2010, an act affirming the validity of Catholic education as a field of scholarly research. The SIG is chaired by Shane Martin, professor and dean of the Loyola Marymount University School of Education.

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