Tag: catholic school (page 1 of 2)

Environmental Factors Identified as a Primary Indicator Impacting Student Achievement

Imagine it’s the peak of the summer season, and you’re at your current place of employment. Here’s the catch: all the water fountains are broken, the air conditioning gave out, and most of the windows in the building are broken and cannot be opened.

 

Same goes for the windows on your transportation. Your employer has indicated that the budget cannot afford to purchase your team fans, nor can she do anything about the incessant, nearly deafening drilling and banging and yelling and crashing heard just across the street at a construction site working on a retail development.

 

How do you feel you would perform at this location on any given day? What might be your barriers? How would such an environment make you feel about your value as a contributor to the company? Your worth as an employee? How do such messages about our values influence our thoughts, our behavior, and our performance?

 

Truly, there exist a limitless number of factors that impact academic achievement in any school, at any grade level, on any given day. Not only are there literally thousands of factors influencing our children’s ability to learn, but these factors are all related and impact one another.

 

There are varying degrees of expertise, passion, and implementation from teachers and faculty. There is the role materials play in cognitive growth and academic achievement and the influence that available technologies have upon student learning mastery in any given domain.

 

There are policies and programming and curricula and coursework, but studies are finding that perhaps above all other contributors, the environment may be having the most significant impact.

 

A recent article in ChalkBeat explores the recent literature examining the role environment plays in the overall success of our students. It touches upon the potential that President Biden’s recent call to action for our nation’s educational infrastructure to improve the learning environments we provide our children.

 

The implications are enormous and thrilling for public servants across the country. Still, they will only hold promise if states and districts elect to utilize funding gains with fidelity and always, always with our children and their needs at the forefront of our minds.

A Quote From Steve Virgadamo

Steven Virgadamo – “Time to stop focusing on glass being half full when analyzing the impact of the pandemic on education. Time to realize our glass just might be half full. We have a moment in history – a friend and colleague refers to it as a Sputnik like moment in history – a moment I see as a gift to consider total educational reform in the United States.

 

New U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona is absolutely right when he says we would be missing a great opportunity if our goal is to reopen our schools to look exactly like they did a year ago today, before the pandemic. Better, he says, is to ask, “What do we want our system to look like?”

 

The answer to the last question needs to be an educational manifesto!!!”

The Benefits of Online Summer School

A section of students perceives the summer period as a break from coursework, but others see it as an opportunity to advance their education at their own pace. Most colleges offer a wide variety of courses over the summer, making it easier for students to select the courses of their interest. The following are some of the benefits of online learning over the summer:

 

Early graduation

 

Online summer classes help cover more classes within an academic year and graduate sooner than the expected time. It is possible to cut the time needed to graduate by a whole semester if one takes more credits over the summer.

 

Save money

 

Some colleges charge cheaper tuition fees for online summer classes than when attended in-person on campus. It is an excellent idea to take more credits over the summer and cut education costs.

 

More time for schoolwork

 

During the summer, one may take a bit challenging course and give it more attention; unlike other semesters, one takes several courses and juggles time and attention. One may also decide to take some specific courses from other departments to develop some knowledge and skills of interest.

 

Reduce course load

 

Taking online classes over the summer may help to reduce the course load for the Fall and Spring. That allows one to take a few credits over Fall and the Spring. That way, there is more time, and the coursework may not be overwhelming.

 

Schedule control

 

When taking online summer classes, the schedule is flexible. First, there is no required physical appearance on campus, and one can take classes in the comfort of his/her home. Students develop a skill of managing time so that assignments, quizzes, and tests can be done and submitted on time. Students further develop a sense of responsibility. They attend classes, work on the homework, submit their work, and sometimes form and work in groups on their own.

 

Students can manage the coursework and the work schedule since they are not required to travel to campus. Furthermore, some students take online summer courses offered in the first few months and leave enough time to enjoy their summer. Online learning provides an avenue for the students to control their learning without being pushed by their parents, guardians, or their instructors.

 

How Public Schools in America Benefit Disadvantaged Children

Just a year ago, schools all across the United States had to shut down suddenly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools were forced to build their online learning efforts at a moment’s glance in a time which many school systems didn’t even have the resemblance of a system running. This has caused many students to suffer in terms of learning and their social life. For disadvantaged children, the consequences of remote learning have seeped further into their daily lives.

 

Nutrition

 

Around 30 million children in the United States are given breakfasts and lunches provided free by their school system. When physical learning stopped a year ago, students weren’t able to quickly pick up the food they needed to make it through their day.

 

Some schooling systems realized this was a big issue, so they set-up pickup sites where students can come by to grab their free meals every day. Many students took advantage of this, but many others who couldn’t come to school due to not having the transportation to get there just were forced to starve. Some pickup sites closed down altogether for those continuing to use this program due to the further spread of COVID-19.

 

As the pandemic continues, it’s feared that students will continue to go without meals that can help them get through their remote learning and the rest of their day.

 

Social Care

 

Students living in abusive homes can find their time at school a little bit comforting in that they don’t have to be around family members who abuse them. These students can also use their time to talk to adults in their school about what’s going on at home and to figure out the right solution to get out of those situations.

 

With the move to remote learning, disadvantaged children have no longer been able to get the time or resources they were getting at school. This has led students to dip down in their grades or develop significant mental health issues like depression.

 

It’s feared by many that these types of abusive solutions have progressed in the past year. Households have seen themselves having to stick closer together or lose jobs that provide households with food and rent money.

 

Overall, it’s clear that disadvantaged children won’t get the social care they need until schools open up again.             

Supporting Students through a Pandemic

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, teachers, counselors, and administrators alike are left grappling with keeping students safe and engaged among a myriad of new restrictions. These restrictions vary from school to school but likely include wearing masks when indoors, social distancing in already cramped classrooms, and little to no daytime movement. While these restrictions have been designed for a student’s physical safety, all too often, these regulations restrict the lessons teachers can give.

For example, the need for a socially distant classroom has lessened group work, which cuts down on differentiated instruction, social, emotional, and time management skills. While group work can be emulated through virtual methods, those activities cannot replace the real-world application of hands-on, in-person group work.

Even more importantly, in the socially distant classroom where group work and small group instruction have become virtually impossible, students’ social, emotional needs are at risk. Teachers need to adapt to this change in circumstances and allow students opportunities for academic growth and emotional growth.

Also, teachers must be keenly aware of the physical toll the virus can take on a student. Despite the restrictions given to any given school, teachers must develop their own methods to identify at-risk students and get them the help they need. Even more than that, they must develop a language for discussing these issues in the classroom that is developmentally appropriate for their students.

While it is important to monitor students for the physical signs and symptoms of COVID 19, it is also imperative to monitor their mental health. No matter the situation – a virtual, hybrid, or in-person – students are not receiving the same amount of socialization they once enjoyed in the classroom, so consider these warning signs when working with students.

Warning signs develop differently depending on students’ age level but often include a withdrawal from both adults and their peers and a general decline in student behavior. Younger students might begin sucking their thumbs or wetting their beds, whereas older students might develop a lack of concentration irritability.

To learn more on how to support students through the ever-changing rules and regulations of the coronavirus pandemic, visit the
National Association of School Psychologists
.

Homeschooling Tips for Parents from Catholic Educators

While growing up, children dreamed of becoming astronauts, lawyers, doctors, superheroes, actors, lawyers, etc. However, no one ever dreamed of becoming an emergency homeschooler. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, people from different parts of the world have learned to appreciate real-life superheroes such as parents and healthcare providers.

Parents, despite their many duties, still find time to educate their children. They have to prepare meals, do house chores, exercise, and raise their children. Apart from encouraging sharing and modeling good behavior, parents have to homeschool their children during this pandemic.

Despite the pandemic, teachers continue to offer their services using online tools and interactive technology. They continue to prepare lesson plans and give assignments to their students. To parents, monitoring and directing online learning can be challenging. However, it doesn’t mean that homeschooling is impossible. Here are homeschooling tips for parents from catholic educators.

Parents Need To Understand Their Role

Parents aren’t trained or qualified to teach students professionally. However, they need to understand that God has given them the responsibility to nurture and educate their children. According to the Catholic Church’s Catechism, nurturing and educating kids is a duty that parents should accept with pride.

Have a Plan and a Routine

When parents ask their children to sit down for a homeschooling session, the chances are that the kids will complain or resist. Therefore, parents should come up with a plan or a routine to avoid resistance. As a result, the kids get to understand what needs to be completed within a given time frame.

Parents should ensure that the plan or routine is attainable and have realistic objectives. A plan with realistic objectives can boost the kid’s confidence or give them a sense of accomplishment. The goal of homeschooling should be to engage children to achieve success and not discourage them from learning. Parents should ensure that they have several routines to prevent boredom.

Ease Up a Little

Even though a structured schedule can help students remain focused, allowing them to enjoy breaks and various activities has its advantages. For instance, activities such as stacking blocks and Legos are both educational and entertaining.

Parents need to focus more on the success of their children instead of failures. While homeschooling, parents should also encourage creativity. Following the above tips can help parents raise their kids better and develop their academic skills.

2020 and the Catholic Church

Some say the Catholic Church is in decline and yet others say it is a Church in hospice. It is true the U.S. Church has experienced about a 3% decline in the last ten years confirmed by two massive PEW studies … and a decline in religious vocations, but don’t be too quick to rush to judgment without carefully considering the data. Most of the Church closures are old inner-city parishes where the demographics are changing. Many of these inner city parishes were established in close proximity in the late 1800’s as each was founded to minister to a particular immigrant population – Irish – Italian – Polish etc. Today, 49% of Catholic adults have a graduate college degree, make an above average income and very few experience protracted periods of unemployment. And, most do not live in the inner cities.

 

Catholics in the suburban parishes are doing just fine … and there has been no aggregate decline in the number of baptized Catholics who routinely attend Mass in the last 50 years. All these demographics correlate neatly with Catholic fertility rates … the aggregate baptized Catholic population fluctuates over decades between 23% to 27% of the U.S. population.

 

Catholic schools continue to maintain a presence in the inner cities to serve the urban poor and often the new immigrant population because they are Catholic and education is a path to breaking a cycle of poverty.

An Interview with Steve Virgadamo

( from an interview with Gordon Nary )

 

Gordon: When were you appointed to Associate Superintendent for Leadership at the Archdiocese of New York and what are your primary responsibilities?

 

Steve: In 2014, I was working at the University of Notre Dame as a Director in the Alliance for Catholic Education Program and I accepted an invitation to come to the Archdiocese of New York to take responsibility for the Leadership Formation of Catholic School leaders. The Archdiocese of New York was already engaged in reimaging Catholic education via new governance and finance structures. Much of the focus had been on restructuring and regionalization of schools. Structure is important, but the real key to success is transforming the culture – changing the way we do things. So the key ingredient to re-imagining Catholic schools is re-culturing. Re-culturing involves constant attention and focus of the key executive leaders as it takes time and energy. This is perhaps why those who staff the Catholic education offices across the country and those who serve as school leaders in a Catholic school building need to lead with purpose, an intensity, enthusiasm, hope, a missionary zeal and always be growth minded. I readily accepted the invitation as Catholic school improvement efforts rely heavily on Leadership. In my 30 plus years of partnering with Catholic schools I can say with certainty that the difference between a good Catholic school and a great one is the school leader.Great Catholic school leaders – serve first – build trust and always, always bear witness to their values. Successful Catholic school leaders must be great communicators and focused on building a culture which will have a positive impact on student learning, achievement and Faith formation. The best Catholic school leaders manage by walking around as they get to know the students by name and by observation identify areas where teachers can improve. Most importantly, Catholic school leaders are filled with a missionary zeal and are unwilling to give up on a young scholar. The very best Catholic school leaders are the epitome of pastoral and instructional leadership.

 

And of all of the things I have done in my career in serving the Church, I know this will be one of the most rewarding as my work in the Archdiocese of New York is the formation of the next generation of Catholic School Leaders.

 

To paraphrase John Kennedy’s inaugural address : Let it be known to all friends and foe alike that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Catholic school leaders, born in the latter half of the last century, educated in a post Vatican II Church, hardened by scandal and committed to serving Christ and His Church.

 

Gordon: When did you receive the National Catholic Education Association President’s award and named one of the most influential people in Catholic Education, and what was the response by the Archdiocese of New York and your family?

 

Steve: I was blessed to receive the award in April 2018. I was honored, but also humbled. My colleagues at the Archdiocese of New York, as well as Pastors, school leaders with whom I worked in over 6,000 Catholic schools were so supportive and filed my inbox with congratulatory notes and stories of how our encounters had impacted their lives and ministries. My parents probably wanted to take credit for the award, as in an effort to nurture me in my Faith; they enrolled me in a Catholic school. That decision was a precursor to my future, as I spent so much time in the principal’s office that by the time I graduated and they handed me the diploma, I had the equivalent of a Masters degree in Catholic School Administration. The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur taught me how to run a successful Catholic school.

 

My favorite Gospel message is the Transfiguration. Jesus reveals himself to the Apostles and each wants to just stay on that mountain with him, but he says …oh no boys back down that hill there is more work to be done. So while the President’s award was for a lifetime of achievement…I know there is still much more work to do to renew the face of Catholic education.

 

Gordon: What are the challenges for Catholic Education in the United States?

 

Steve: The present down-turn in the world economy has impacted enrollment in Catholic schools. Not just families, but parishes and diocese across the country no longer have the resources to keep every Catholic school open. When the number of Catholic schools peaked in 1965, there were 6,046,854 students enrolled in 13,700 schools. Since then just about half of all Catholic schools have closed in the United States. But the role of the Catholic school remains just as valuable today as in the past.

Catholic schools are not simply alternatives to public schools or private schools. They have their own distinctive ethos. The Catholic school pursues truth in all academic disciplines within the context of the Faith. With an Incarnate view of the world, there are no secular subjects. “Only in faith can truth become incarnate and reason truly human, capable of directing the will along the path of freedom” (Pope Benedict XVI, Address to Catholic Educators, Washington, D.C. April 17, 2008). By their very existence, Catholic schools proclaim the enriching power of the faith as the answer to the many challenges that face us.

 

Catholic school alumni have the tools to, bridge the growing gap between culture and religion, reason and faith, life and morality. This is why Catholic education must continue to play a vital role in preparing students for lives of leadership. To form our young intellectually, morally and spiritually as Catholic is not a secondary work of the Church. It is part of the Church’s essential mission. Hence, the importance of the Catholic school. To say it another way, the Church has a mission and therefore we have Catholic schools.

Recent research has indicated that the second largest group identifying themselves with any religion classify themselves as “fallen away Catholics”. Many of these fallen away Catholics are choosing to enroll their children in a Catholic school for the rigor of the academic program and the differentiation of instruction. When this occurs our Catholic school leaders have an opportunity to light what I refer to as the re-evangelization lamp. Just as we built our church with Catholic education in the 1800’s with Catholic education, today we have an opportunity once again to rebuild it via our schools.

 

Despite the financial challenges facing Catholic schools and the great efforts to keep as many as possible open, the question is not whether Catholic education is worthwhile for our church and society. Studies have shown that young Catholic parents today are much closer in their belief to Catholics prior to the Second Vatican Council than they are to generation after the Council. They want Catholic schools. The question is not whether or not they can afford a Catholic education. The deeper question is whether we as a Church and as society can afford not to give a Catholic education to all our young whose families desire it for their children.

 

Other studies have shown that our Catholic schools serve the urban poor and minorities better than any other education option. More and more large numbers of non Catholic families particularly in large metropolitan areas desire a Catholic school option for their children. Catholic schools serve all hungry for an education and enroll non Catholic families because we are Catholic. Fundamentally, I believe that parents are the primary educators of their children. It should be the birthright of every family to choose the best education for their children regardless of their ability to afford a residence in an affluent zip code with top performing schools. School choice for parents in my mind is a civil rights issue. And if parents choose to exercise their civil right by choosing a faith based school for their child, then so be it. Should that be an education in the faith, then so be it. So, as a Church we must double down our efforts to introduce school choice legislation in every municipality.

 

Lastly I must add I grieve school closings for the human cost. With each lost school I see the faces of hundreds of young scholars who are denied an opportunity to encounter the Risen Christ.

 

Gordon: Pope Francis was a teacher. What impact has the current Papacy had on Catholic Education?

 

Steve: As Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, Pope Francis said:

 

­“The education of children and young people is such an important task in forming them as free and responsible human beings. It affirms their dignity as an inalienable gift that flow from our original creation as children made in the image and likeness of God. And because education truly forms human beings, it is especially the duty and responsibility of the Church, who is called to serve mankind from the heart of God and in such a way that no other institution can.”

 

Early in his Papacy, Pope Francis addressed Catholic school teachers and administrators. He said:

“In a society that struggles to find points of reference, young people need a positive reference point in their school. The school can be this or become this only if it has teachers capable of giving meaning to school, to studies and to culture, without reducing everything to the mere transmission of technical knowledge. Instead they must aim to build an educational relationship with each student, who must feel accepted and loved for who he or she is, with all of his or her limitations and potential. In this direction, your task is more necessary now than ever. You must not only teach content, but the values and customs of life.”

 

Later in his Papacy when addressing the members of the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education, the Vatican Office which oversees church affiliated schools and colleges around the world, he said: Catholic schools and universities play a key role in evangelization and in creating a more humane world built on dialogue and hope. Future generations who are “educated in a Christian way for dialogue, will come out of the classroom motivated to build bridges and, therefore, to find new answers to the many challenges Catholic schools should serve the church’s mission of helping humanity grow, build a culture of dialogue and plant the seeds of hope. Educators are just like mothers and fathers who give life open to the future.”

 

Before his visit to NYC, Cardinal Dolan asked Pope Francis what he wanted to see and he replied one of those great Catholic schools that has contributed to building the Church in America. In the same day, he walked the hall of the United Nations, the Halls of Congress and the hallowed halls of a Catholic school.

 

Gordon: Thank you for a great interview.

11 Things For Catholic School Leaders to Consider Heading Into November of 2020

In this article Steven Virgadamo, a renowned expert in Catholic School Leadership shares some wisdom with Catholic School Leaders.

 

Looks like you made it!

 

October 31– Another month of your Apostolic work as a Catholic School Leader is in the history books. Congratulations!

 

To help you prepare for your next month in your leadership ministry Steven Virgadamo shares a few insights for new and experienced Catholic school leaders:

 

  1. As St. Benedict said – Listen with the ear of your Heart. Continue to listen carefully to the staff- the faculty, lunch staff and custodians. We are larger than the sum of our parts! More often than not the faculty, staff and custodians have a pulse and perspective on what is working and of course what is not,”
  2. Continue to honor the history of the school, and avoid using words like at another school I worked…”
  3. By now, you have a good read on your faculty and have identified teachers who have a passion for knowledge and “upping their game”. Encourage them to take measured risks and support them as they will help those more fearful of change to adjust to new pedagogies.
  4. Relationships matter. Focus on building community and never ever forget to admit when you are wrong or hold your ground when it is right for the children to do so.
  5. Research indicates a direct link between classroom management and academic success. Never stop practicing MBWA (Management by Walking Around), be visible in the hallways, dining facilities, playground and of course a mentor to new teachers.
  6. Keep your eye on the goal – the  SMART Goals and be prepared to measure the effectiveness of your year in relationship to the goals.
  7. Test scores, test scores, test scores…be creative and innovative, work with teachers to conduct formal and informal student assessments in all academic disciplines but particularly focused on increasing students performance in Math and ELA.
  8. Model behaviors and be sure your staff perceives you as a lifelong learner. Staff meetings should be professional development opportunities not just informational monologues
  9. As you gather with the students and parents for first Friday liturgy, remind them that this is a school and Church built by God, it is HIS House and the more time that they spend in it and get to know Him and love Him the happier they will be.”
  10. Remember to manage up – as well as down –  Keep your Pastor, Board, and  Superintendent in the loop. Each is a great resource. Consult with them regularly and be sure to share both triumphs and tribulations.
  11. Keep a professional journal. It will be a great resource for you and will empower your growth as a school leader in service to the Church.

 

And lastly, but perhaps most importantly, make memories and be joyful as you are an important partner in Our Father’s business.

10 Leadership Lessons from Steven Virgadamo

  1. Listen without interrupting. (Proverbs 18)

  2. Speak without accusing (James 1:19)

  3. Give without sparing. (Proverbs 21:26)

  4. Answer without arguing. (Proverbs 17:1)

  5. Pray without ceasing. (Colossians 1:9)

  6. Share without pretending. (Ephesians 4:15)

  7. Enjoy without complaint. (Philippians 2:14)

  8. Trust without wavering. (Corinthians 13:7)

  9. Forgive without punishing. (Colossians 3:13)

  10. Promise without forgetting. (Proverbs 13:12)