Tag: resources (page 1 of 2)

Teaching Easter in Classrooms

Easter is the culmination of the most important week in the Christian calendar, and marks the grand, triumphant culmination of the season of Lent.

 

Although Easter is commonly associated with bunnies and eggs, chicks and flowers, the true meaning of Easter centers on the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. When teaching Easter in the classroom, it is a good idea to strike a clean balance between these two contrasting themes.

 

The colorful pastels and baby animals of Easter are playful and friendly for young students, but teachers should not neglect to tell the story of Jesus and his amazing gift to humanity.

 

In the days leading up to Easter, it is common to read from the Bible the appropriate events pertaining to Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, his subsequent betrayal, and his crucifixion on the Cross.

 

Reading directly from the Bible is appropriate for older students, but younger ones may have a difficult time responding to the formal language of the Scriptures. Find a careful translation of the relevant Bible accounts in a language easy for young students to understand.

 

Another thing you can do is engage your students in a discussion. Ask them questions about what Jesus death and resurrection mean to them. In the days leading up to Easter (possibly on the Friday before), arrange a slideshow of the Stations of the Cross and ask them to explain what is happening, if they can.

 

Of course, Easter should be a fun and exciting day as well. Perhaps you could stage an Easter egg hunt in the classroom, or simply bring in some candy to share. If you have kids, especially younger ones, you could print off a collection of images and allow them to pick their favorite ones to color.

 

Many of these examples primarily pertain to younger students. What can you do to engage high schoolers in a holiday that is often geared towards children? Encourage your students to write. Perhaps they could write about what Jesus’ sacrifice means to them personally. Another idea would be to have them reflect on how they have changed and grown from children to young adults. Perhaps incorporate some reflective music and some meditation.

 

These are just a few ideas. The links below will refer you to all the resources cited above and a few more.

 

Resources:

Pinterest for Catholic Teachers

Not too long ago I did a summary of some resources found around the web for Catholic educators. One of the resources linked to was Pinterest, but I felt as though the brief summary didn’t get it’s due for how useful Pinterest can be to teachers and faculty in classrooms of all ages.

 

What is Pinterest? Think of your home corkboard, a place where you pin up recipes found in magazines, pictures, to-do lists, and inspiration. Pinterest is a digital, collaborative version of that board. It is an incredible wealth of creative and inspiring projects, insights, and wisdom. Pinterest consists of visual bookmarks, called “pins”, as links to websites, blogs, and articles, attached with a picture. You can sort “pins” into “boards” that you create and label. You can have boards for different grades, different holidays, different lesson plans, and more. Visual, easy, and intuitive to use, it is an excellent resource that you are sure to pick up quickly.

 

Technology in the classroom is a constant discussion in all schools, and Pinterest is a great example of ways to utilize it. This blog from Kelly Kraus on the National Catholic Educators Association webpage even talks of creating an account on Pinterest that the entire class has access to, in order for students to share ideas and resources for projects together in one place.

 

With the success of C3 (Catholic Communication Collaboration – a conference for Catholic teachers, parish staff, and educators about technology and it’s uses in a Catholic education) growing every year in attendance and in offerings, this conversation is becoming ever more relevant.

 

Pinterest has become an important venue for professional development for thousands of teachers. Teaching tips, lesson plans, craft projects, source material research, and even classroom decoration can be found on Pinterest. There are tips for teaching math to dyslexic or visual learners, to middle school science lessons, to ways to teach math concepts through dance moves.

 

When professional development training varies drastically based on school, and may be too rigorous on classical teaching while leaving creative ideas behind, or focus too much on inclusivity of the children’s learning styles while not focusing on concrete lesson plans, Pinterest is a great “There when you need it” well to draw from for just about any kind of teaching issue. It is by no means a replacement for lack of teacher education and development, but as an educator, Pinterest might just be the most inspiration available in one place.
Back to Kelly Kraus, who says: “Another thing I love about Pinterest is the material provided when searching for specific lesson ideas. A quick search for a lesson subject, such as “Good Samaritan,” showcases lessons for Catholic classrooms, as well as lessons from other faith traditions. These activities and lesson plans can serve as guides for catechists to create lessons that are specific to their classrooms and their lesson plan objectives.”

LEADERSHIP and VISION CRITICAL TO SCHOOL SUCCESS

Proverbs 29:18 clearly states, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  All memorable achievements are brought about by leaders with a vision.

Each year as Catholic school leaders prepare for the new year, the successful ones recognizes that flying is not enough.  These leaders know that it is God’s work they do and to just fly is not enough, as they need to soar. To soar requires school leaders to establish and articulate an inspirational vision for their school. God uses visions to excite school leaders because excited leaders motivate teachers and staff to exceed their comfort zones. I’ve seen it with my own eyes – with vision, teachers feel empowered and vibrant. And when teachers are empowered and vibrant, student achievement increases exponentially.

Last week I had the opportunity to speak with newly hired  teachers in the Archdiocese of New York – many of them are first time teachers. I spoke to them about the Trinitarian aspects of a Catholic School and how successful Catholic schools are about relationships – relationships – relationships.  By the time the day was done, some the cohort of new teachers adopted a mantra of “Not Under my Watch.” Imagine nearly several dozen new Catholic school teachers being asked:

  • Will it be said that in your classroom children were denied an opportunity to encounter the Risen Christ?

 

  • Will it be said that the test scores of your children declined during the 2016-2017 school year?

 

  • Will students in your classroom withdraw from school because parents are dissatisfied with your willingness to partner with them on behalf of their child’s education?

 

And all responding with an unequivocal – “Not Under My Watch.”

 

Teaching is a noble profession! Nobility includes in its meaning the very notion of beautiful. Therefore, noble work is beautiful work. But what is beautiful can be sullied. While working at the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education Program I was often presented with opportunities to speak with new Catholic school teachers. Below are some of the thoughts I would share with them in an attempt to help each new teacher maintain the beauty and luster of his/her own vocation as a Catholic school teacher. I provide you with them today so that Catholic school leaders everywhere can use as appropriate in sharing with new teachers.  Some of the thoughts might be good for veteran teachers to hear again as well.

 

14 TIPS FOR CATHOLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS

  1. Put your own oxygen mask on first and stay close to the Lord. Throughout your career, you will experience crises of confidence, exasperation, frustration, unreasonable parents, troubled students, bad classes, poor liturgies. You will be misquoted, misrepresented and for some periods of time, mistrusted. But you will also get the unparalleled gift to see the world with wonder again, through the eyes of young people. You will be made a confidante by a young person seeking advice, feel the joy of a weak student who does well on an assignment, cheer for your students in athletic contests, beam with a near parents’ pride as your students graduate. To keep yourself rooted, to keep your ideas fresh, to be the kind of faithful person our young people need to see firsthand, stay close to the Lord, both in your daily prayer and in the reception of the sacraments. If you do, the Lord will bless you in your work and you will go to bed each night exhausted, but with a smile on your face.

 

  1. Be yourself.  If you’re young, you’ve probably never been called Mr. Jones or Ms. Smith, and that will take some getting used to.  But you can be yourself within this role. I have never agreed with the maxim “Don’t let them see you smile until Thanksgiving.”  The fact is, students respond better to authenticity. It’s OK to laugh at something the students say which is amusing—in fact, it’s quite disarming to them. It’s OK to let the students see you having fun. 

 

  1. Admit your mistakes and learn from them. Zero in on your strengths, not your weaknesses. (Remember — nobody’s perfect!) Principals also suffer from human frailty and need time to learn. School leaders need to be supported not weakened by behavior which is destructive to the Catholic School community.
  2. Remember, it’s not about you; it’s about the students. So learn how to spell the word “concupiscence”. Concupiscence is a tendency to put yourself first. Only divine grace enables us to rise above it. But unless you declare war on it, you are bound to succumb to the illusion that teaching is all about you.
  3. Be professional. Model desired attitudes and behavior. Make sure you dress in professional attire. Remember that you teach students first, and then you teach whatever academic discipline you learned. You are a role model for the children and partner with the parents in the formation of each child.  
  4. Empower your students and engage them in the teaching/learning process.  Listen — both to what the kids are saying and to what they’re not saying. Make sure  that assessments are frequent and fair, that work is graded in a timely fashion, and that classes are well prepared and taught from beginning to end  – every minute matters!
  5. Don’t “go it alone.” Get to know all the teachers in your school and make friends with the cooks, custodians, aides, and secretaries. We are all formators of children, just each with a different role to play. Volunteer to share projects and ideas, and don’t be afraid to ask others to share their ideas with you. Understand that the learning process involves everyone — teachers, students, colleagues, and parents — and get everyone involved. Seek the advice of your colleagues, share your frustrations with them, and ask questions. Remember we are promised that whenever two or more are gathered in His name that he will be with us to enlighten and guide us.
  6. Dive in! Don’t be a person who clocks in at 7:30 and clocks out at 4 each day. Come to afterschool activities. Nothing connects you with your students faster than to be able to say “Nice hit,” or “great singing,” or “I was impressed with your artwork at the show.” You can’t be at everything; but make a point some days to just stop in at after school care to say hello.  You’ll see kids in a whole new light, and I think you’ll enjoy it, too.
  1. Pray for your students and their families. Your most important work is to bring a piece of heaven into the classroom with you. Think of your roll book as your prayer group. Never open it without praying for your young scholars and their families.
  2. Think before you speak; if you do, you won’t speak very often, for there is a great deal to think about in education. Have the courage to try something else if what you’re doing isn’t working.
  1. Thirty plus years from now, your students will not remember all that you taught them, but they will remember who you were and how you treated them You have a choice to become a minister of justice or an angel of peace. Be an angel of peace.
  2. All the knowledge we give our students is in vain if they receive it without knowing they are good and loved by God. Each day is an opportunity to channel the divine love. Don’t waste an opportunity to do so. Every minute counts!
  3. Keep a journal and take pictures. Some highly regarded Catholic school teachers share excerpts from their journal and images from the week with parents in a weekly email blast.
  4. Remember that a good day is not necessarily smooth, painless and hassle free.

May God bless you during these last days of summer especially as you formulate a vision for your school and work with teachers to prepare for the return of our young scholars and saints in formation.

Not On My Watch

“Not on my watch” is the mantra of the  new Catholic School Principals mentored under Steven Virgadamo.

Test scores and enrollment will not decline, nor will the Catholic identity be curtailed in Catholic schools across the Archdiocese of New York, assure the 21 new elementary school principals as they embark on building up the Church through the schools and pupils entrusted to their care…”

According to Virgadamo, the homework has been done to adequately prepare for the inevitable generational shift in leadership that has become a reality.  Nearly seven years ago, with the help of benefactors, the Curran Catholic School Leadership Academy was established. Virgadamo, the executive director, describes the academy as the equivalent of a naval war college for school leaders.

Fifty years ago, a sense of mission and identity in Catholic schools was taken for granted because the teachers came from the same religious community, Virgadamo noted. Thirty years ago, as the number of religious in the schools diminished, a new generation of lay school leaders emerged who were mentored and formed by members of the religious community who staffed the school. Today, programs such as the Curran Catholic School Leadership Academy are needed, he said, to prepare school leaders to create the same kind of unified school culture that ultimately becomes the charisma of the school.

More than 200 individuals from across the country applied for the 21  Catholic school principal positions in the archdiocese for this year, Virgadamo noted. Many cited the opportunity to be part of the team history will remember as those who rewrote the script of Catholic schools from a declining system to one which is growing and flourishing, he added.”

Bullying in Catholic Schools

Bullying in schools is as much a problem today as it has ever been. Perhaps even moreso than it used to be. But how do Catholic schools handle the problem? How do you teach and reprimand in the Catholic way? In the last few years, there has been an increase in a technique called Virtue-Based Restorative Discipline. “This faith-filled approach to addressing bullying and other disruptive behaviors stands as an exemplary model for our parishes, homes and schools.” says Reverend Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis

 

Designed to minimize the anti-social behaviors that can so often cause problems in schools, while simultaneously increase faith practices. Developed in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, it focuses on the root cause of bullying and other harmful behaviors, rather than punitive repercussions after the fact. It focuses on inspiring children to perform acts of kindness, lay a foundation of spirituality in children and parents alike, helping teachers to recognize and understand warning signs, and create accountability and responsibility for preventing and solving conflicts with the children themselves.

 

And rather than just focusing on addressing the issues of bullying, it focuses instead on leading a life in the way of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a better, kinder way of living. By asking children “How do you see the God in others?” you take them out of their own mindset and immediate circumstances and lead them towards a more forgiving and generous way of thinking.

 

The Catholic Education Office offers training in this program now, and over 200 educators from the Archdiocese of St. Louis and seven other surrounding states can attend comprehensive training in VBRD, School teams will be trained to prevent and reduce antisocial behaviors through virtue education and restorative practices, resulting in a consistent message that upholds the dignity of the human person. “This is our fourth year for this unique training,” said Lynne Lang, director of School Climate at the Catholic Education Office. “Our returning schools are a testimony to the success of this work and reflective of the archdiocesan beONE initiative goals.”

 

For a full list of resources on this program, visit VirtueBase.org for books and press that can help you bring this into your own classrooms and schools. You can also look there for information on keynote presentations for diocesan retreats, workshops, training services, or presentations for faculty, parents, or students at that same website.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DdUTXFU4sg

Keep Your Kids Catholic: Sharing Your Faith And Making It Stick

Note: This post is from The CatholicKey Online. Please check out this and more work over at their website!

Review by Scott McKellar

Marc Cardaronella, diocesan Director of the Bishop Helmsing Institute, has written a very timely book about the need for parents to share their faith with their children. The sad truth is that the majority of Catholic children will leave the church before the age of 21. As Catholic parents, this is not the outcome we hope for. What can be done?

Cardaronella suggest that there are three things we can do to avoid this outcome. First, secure your own faith. The example of our own faith as parents is essential. We cannot just passively expect the parish education program to do this job for us. If we value our own children’s faith, we will work on our own faith life. Cardaronella shares his own faith journey to illustrate how to grow in faith. The most essential component is to foster our own personal adherence or voluntary commitment to Christ. Only then can this be shared with our children. He notes, “The child must also be led to understand this great gift as a personal invitation to share in the Christian life. . . accepting the invitation leads to conversion” (p. 14). This theme is developed in detail in Part II of the book, “Is your own faith secure?” This section forms a kind of self-guided retreat on the condition of the heart. Cardaronella gives prayers and reflection questions and practical advice on how to deepen your personal faith.

The second component is to educate to foster faith. Very often parish education programs focus exclusively on passing on information about the faith. Clearly learning about the faith is important and it is necessary to gradually give our children a systematic understanding of the faith, but without a second component this type of learning can fall flat. Turning to Blessed John Henry Newman, Cardaronella suggests a different model which focuses on personal influence and witness. This theme is expanded in Part III, “What kind of education fosters faith.” Again giving the reader practical reflections, prayer questions and further resources Cardaronella highlights those aspects of learning that are crucial for developing faith. This section is divided into three topics. The first in understanding the Bible as the story of salvation. Cardaronella gives practical advice on how to approach the Bible and pass on the faith to our children. The second section involves the story of the liturgy in which he helps the reader to understand Mass and the liturgical year more deeply. He concludes this section with helpful guide to mentoring relationships.

The final component is to create a home of faith. Once again it is clear that Parish and school programs only have a tiny influence in our children’s lives. Our home is the primary influence. Cardaronella suggest four ways that parents are vital for passing on the faith to our children. The first is influence. Parents have far more effect on their children than they are aware of. Cardaronella notes, “If you want your children to grown up to be good Catholics, be one yourself! (p. 28). The second is to teach through relationship. Cardaronella notes that although parents might assume they are too “uncool” to teach their children, researchers have shown that even teen children are still listening and open to being taught even if they act uninterested. But in order to do this you need relationship with your children. The third vital parent behavior is to talk about faith. The experience of talking about our faith makes it something that is not vague but specific and challenging. Cardaronella warns “In order to articulate faith, you have to internalize it and understand the reasons why you believe it” (p. 31). We need to be open to honest discussions and not merely appeal to the rules. The final component is religious practices. Adolescent faith is activated through specific spiritual and religious practices. This theme is expanded in Part IV, “How to create an environment of faith?” In this section Cardaronella discusses the topics, ‘Training in godliness,’ ‘Seeking personal relationship with God,’ ‘Praying from the heart,’ and ‘Structuring life to support faith.’

A final important section involves helping your children to make an act of faith. Cardaronella applies the tools of evangelization to the family. What is the message of the Gospel and how do we present it to our children? He presents three different moments of Catholic commitment, the age of reason, early teens, and late teens.

Overall this is a very practical guide for parents that will help them to get the most out of their family faith experience. Each section of the book ends with reflections, prayers and applications that make the book a life changer.

Scott McKellar is associate director of the Bishop Helmsing Institute.

 

Catholic School Leaders Leaving it all on the Field of Play

Much has transpired since we opened this school year. Some great days, some challenging days and we have even witnessed some days of minor miracles. And yet for most Catholic school leaders, especially those who have already given everything they have, these last few months or weeks of school can seem like an eternity. No matter how hard you try to pace yourself, a Catholic school leader who is dedicated to giving teachers, students and parents their all, sometimes doesn’t have much left when May and June roll around. Every Catholic school leader needs to approach the end of the year in a way that works best for him or her. But then again, every Catholic school leader needs to remind themselves in May/June to not “spike the ball on the 5 yard line”. Every Catholic school leader will feel better about summer vacation if they know that they have left it all on the field as they cross the finish line of another academic year.

The following strategies are important all year round but even more important to help Catholic school leaders be more effective and focused on myriad professional demands during the last lap of the academic year:

Find Time for Yourself

Doing something that allows you to get away from education-related stuff is important. It’s great to have this hobby as a regular part of your life to keep your stress levels down over the course of the year. This hobby doesn’t have to be a solo activity. It could be something that you do with your spouse, friends, children, or whomever you want. The idea is devoting time to something (other than be a school administrator and minister) that makes you happy.

Partner with Another Catholic School Leader

It’s always good to have someone whom you can count on to be there for you when things get stressful. It’s even better if this someone is also a Catholic school leader, because he or she will have a better understanding of what you’re dealing with at the moment.. He or she can walk you through problems that would have been easy to deal with in September, but seem to be impossible by May. The other side of finding a teammate is being a teammate in return. As much as you receive, you’ll need to give as well. This might sound like more of the stress that’s been leading you to burnout, but helping others can actually make you feel great. It can also help you understand other problems that you deal with at school. Having a partner with whom you can share stressful situations helps prevent you from “crashing and burning.”.

Journal

Writing on a regular basis is a wonderful way to keep the fire burning throughout the school year. This can be in a private journal or on a blog for the world to see. Writing helps get ideas out of the head and safely memorialized. I often require new school leaders to journal in their first year of service and have even encouraged some to do so with a spouse as serving as a Catholic school leader is a family commitment. The writing process can be very powerful for people dealing with high levels of stress. Writing can sometimes provide a different perspective.

Laugh

As the Jimmy Buffet song says, “if we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.” Find the things that make you laugh and do them. The Mayo Clinic lists many of the positives of laughter when it comes to stress. The short-term benefit of laughter can “stimulate many organs, activate and relieve your stress response, and soothe tension.” The long-term impact of laughter can “improve your immune system, relieve pain, increase personal satisfaction, and improve your mood.”

Traits of Successful, Organized Catholic School Leaders

Catholic School Leaders have way too many demands on their time. Recent research suggests that a Catholic school Principal performs myriad tasks during the day, but none for longer than 15 minutes.  It is no wonder some say….”the Catholic School Principal – Will Jesus do?”

Yet, there are some Catholic school leaders that always mange to meet the challenges of the job. What each of these school leaders have in common are:

  • Have a clear understanding of deliverables and a vision of what success will look like

o   Each school leader has a job description and an idea of the appraisal process, but high performing school leaders understand the key deliverables and what they will ultimately be measured on.

 

  • Understand how they spend their time

o   Effective school leaders regularly analyze how they are spending their time and ask themselves am I spending my time to achieve my key deliverables. These leaders identify the mismatches between their activities and desired deliverables and then take action to align time on task with achieving the desired deliverables.

 

  • Monitor results

o   Focusing on deliverables delivers results. Successful Catholic school leaders measure their own performance against goals on a quarterly basis and are willing to realign objectives to achieve the results desir

Common Core in Catholic Schools: The Big Debate

There has been a lot of talk in secular and nonsecular schools, both public and private, about the Common Core learning standards set in public schools. Private schools are not obligated to use the Common Core standards, while public schools do not have the option. Initially, about half of the 195 diocese in the United States adopted Common Core at the initial roll-out, but we are seeing more and more Catholic Schools opt-out of Common Core practices as time goes on. Why?

There are letters upon letters online and in publications about Common Core and how it relates to the Catholic faith, but education centers around so much more than English and math. It is up to the families, the parents, and the communities as well as the schools in the church to raise children in the faith. Faith based curriculum can live alongside many methods of teaching math and English in schools. While there are many positive things to be said about Common Core Curriculum, there are also many detractors. Can Catholic schools work standardized curriculum into a well rounded Catholic identity?

It is no secret here that Catholic schools have performed exceptionally in academic success, with statistically astounding rates of graduation (students from Catholic schools are twice as likely to graduate college with a Bachelor’s degree when compared to children who graduate public high school) and that, comparatively, virtually no students drop out of Catholic School compare with the rates of public and non-Catholic private schools. Does Common Core improve or detract from these impressive stats?

Common Core often uses more creative, artistic/hands-on, and spatial parts of the brain to teach concepts that standard math textbooks often did not. It is immersive and rigorous, enforcing more critical thinking and allowing for less “guessing” work. It is more collaborative and encourages discussing problems to solutions to work them out. It is also specially designed for advancing equity amongst children from all backgrounds, being held to the same methods, taught the same way, regardless of city, state, affluence, or previous knowledge, and allows teachers to serve students more equally, with less room for favoritism or inequality in teacher. The consistency allows for flexibility in moving schools, and later entering college with the security of having the same baseline information wealth as your peers. It can also be a feather in the cap of an already well-performing school who can now perform just as well, but now has hard, statistical data of success.

Detractors for Common Core (particularly in Catholic education) are concerned that focus on keeping up pressure on math and English scores in Common Core will push faith to the wayside in classes. There is concern that a constant focus on taking tests and “test prep” throughout the year does not educate children, merely sends them through an endless cycle of “absorb and regurgitate” and does not leave lasting educational foundations. There has also been a lot of discussion in secular and nonsecular schools alike, that the age at which Common Core starts for children is too young when compared with the complexity of the problem-solving, leading more children to feel overwhelmed and under-equipped for the work and phobic about those subjects later on in life.

There is also the factor of losing students to public, private, and charter schools, which has been a concern in Catholic education for quite some time. Do you avoid Common Core curriculum in order to potentially attract the parents and students who are unhappy with Common Core Standards in public schools, or do you use Common Core for the exact opposite reason, proving the tuition bills are worth it, and that your school is competitive with any other school academically?

Many Catholic schools are opting in for partial Common Core participation, with a focus on end of the year tests to make sure that children are meeting the standards, with few to no tests in between and much less focus in the classroom curriculum on the standards themselves. Because private schools are not beholden to the Common Core standards, they are able to pick and choose more freely in the amount of Common Core being taught, in order to not leave any stone unturned.

In this 2013 letter printed in the Washington Post, 132 Catholic professors wrote a letter which was sent individually to each bishop in the United States, beseeching them to help course-correct education in Catholic schools and universities across the country. From the letter: “In fact, we are convinced that Common Core is so deeply flawed that it should not be adopted by Catholic schools which have yet to approve it, and that those schools which have already endorsed it should seek an orderly withdrawal now.” “We find persuasive the critiques of educational experts (such as James Milgram, professor emeritus of mathematics at Stanford University, and Sandra Stotsky, professor emerita of education at the University of Arkansas) who have studied Common Core, and who judge it to be a step backwards. We endorse their judgment that this “reform” is really a radical shift in emphasis, goals, and expectations for K-12 education, with the result that Common Core-educated children will not be prepared to do authentic college work. Even supporters of Common Core admit that it is geared to prepare children only for community-college-level studies.”

In March 2014 Bishop David Zubek sent a letter assuring parents and educators that the Diocese of Pittsburg is not using the Common Core State Standards in any of it’s schools. “The Common Core is a set of minimum standards, intended to help public schools with their effort to prepare students for higher education and the workforce,” wrote Bishop Zubik. “Schools in the Diocese of Pittsburgh have always set higher standards, and we continue to challenge students to exceed those standards.”

Kathleen Porter-Magee, Superintendent of Partnership Schools, a group of six urban Catholic Schools residing in Harlem and the South Bronx in NY has decided that the dangers of opting out as a school greatly outweigh the arguments against Common Core. Her schools choose to utilize the curriculum to it’s fullest, ensuring that they standards they hold for the students are kept high and regularly achieved. She speaks about the John Hopkins study on race biasing the expectations teachers have of student’s academic achievement. She believes that the benefit of bias-free benchmark testing, and that many of complaints against frequent testing are really masking the root of the issue: the problem lies in poor implementation decisions from school faculty.

In the end, it is up to the schools, the faculty and leaders, and the Diocese to determine the best fit for their schools. Catholic schools have the privilege to make that choice rather than by mandate. I believe that a school soundly based in faith, with a focus on academic achievement alongside spiritual growth will raise children to be devout and whole in mind, body, and spirit, regardless of the implementation of Common Core State Standards.

Special Needs Catholic School Hopes

A project that has been in the works for years, after searching in many, many places for the right location, the first high school in the United States that both offers a Catholic education, and also caters exclusively to students with special needs, has found a home in Michigan. The campus of Veritas Christi Catholic High School hopes to begin classes in the fall of this year. “Our goal is to create a loving, peaceful, Christ-centered environment for these special children of God; a place where they can engage fully in the process of learning without having to worry all the time about being teased and taunted and harassed for their disabilities,” said Richard Nye, a co-founder of Veritas Christi and president of the board, in a press statement this week.

Veritas Christi has been offering classes online for over five years, and they have been searching for a place to set the campus down for students since that time. It will be an independent school in the Diocese of Lansing, and is a member of the National Association of Private Catholic and Independent Schools. However, Deacon John M. Cameron, JCL, chancellor of the Diocese of Lansing, told the Newman Society that Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing “has not consented for [Veritas Christi] to use the title of ‘Catholic school.'”

Richard Nye, co-founder, has said that they have secures a lease agreement in a former Catholic boys schools that closed about a year and a half ago. Many of the best schools for children with special needs are currently boarding schools, says Nye, and turning the school into a boarding school is “really our long term goal”. For now, however, they have other obstacles to accomplish in order to pay the entire first year’s rent for the campus, which sits on about 60 acres of land, and has 10 buildings, a swimming pool, and lots of room for athletic pursuits.

The amount of money they are looking to raise is in the low six figures, and they are looking to raise it by April 30th so that they can prepare for the fall start of the 2016-2017 school year. While they admit to the goal of raising these funds and opening so soon to be audacious, they believe it can be done, and they anticipate having a line of potential students “out the door and around the corner.”

While there are some Catholic education schools that specialize in certain special needs children, this school plans to admit all different categories of special needs disabilities. “Catholic parents trying to educate their special-needs children need the Church now more than ever. Unfortunately, there are very few options available to them because the Church has been painfully slow to respond to this obvious need,” said Lori and Eric Williams of Metamora, Mich., the parents of two children with special needs, in Veritas Christi’s press statement. “Fortunately, Veritas Christi exists to continue the work of Christ on behalf of these special children of God.”