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Science and Math Teaching: A Formula for National/Local Dialogue

Written by William Schmitt on Monday, 21 May 2012.

Registration Open for ND Forum Event on "STEM" Disciplines

A day of discussions and workshops devoted to one of the most crucial issues in education—bringing world-class aptitude in science and math to the next generation of U.S. citizens—will cap the Notre Dame Forum series on "Reimagining School" on June 12.

Leading experts in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education from around the country will join with local practitioners at a "Forum on K-20 STEM Education" to focus on recent developments in the teaching and learning of those fields. They will pay special attention to K-12 contexts while also considering the years (K-20) spanning graduate studies. Registration for this STEM event is under way.

"Improving the nature of science and math education in the United States is essential for the country to maintain its leadership in the global economy and for individuals to navigate an increasingly complex world," said Karen Morris, a member of the Institute for Educational Initiatives (IEI) task force planning the all-day event.

"At a time when the United States lags behind in STEM education achievement and interest in STEM careers, improving the curriculum, instruction, and assessment around STEM disciplines is paramount."

From the Field: Julianne Corroto

on Friday, 18 May 2012.

At a time when teachers are the whipping post for all that ails America's schools, Julianne Corroto (ACE 18) brings hope, embodying as she does the Holy Cross ideal to educate, expand, and enlighten minds and hearts.

"I lead my students from behind," writes the teacher in ACE STT cohort 18, "supporting, encouraging, sometimes shouting directions to those at the head of the pack." Covering 8th grade science, 10th grade religion, and high school chemistry, Julianne also seeks to lead by example. "I learned really quickly," she says, "that sophomores in my morality class are more likely to watch me than they are to actually listen!"

Ultimately, her aim is to help students find—and use—their gifts, and Julianne attests to the importance of doing this in the context of a Catholic school classroom. "We talk about faith, vocation, life-plans, God at work in our lives--on an almost daily basis," she says. "Hopefully I inspire [my students] to do more than just pass chemistry: to problem solve, to look and listen for God, to find life in service, to love our neighbors, and to ultimately be the people that God created them to be."

Julianne's students frequently ask her if she likes teaching at their small Mississippi school. Her answer is always the same: "I love it." She tells us, "The other day one asked me why I didn't go to medical school or become a researcher to find the cure for cancer. And another student chimed in, 'She's here to teach us how to find the cure for cancer!'"

Julianne Corroto, a teacher with hope to bring, is pictured above with her housemates, also ACE teachers in Biloxi. Learn more ACE Teaching Fellows program here.

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."

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