Catholic School Education
by Mr. Zelenka, ICS Principal
And so, now as in the past, the Catholic school must be able to speak for itself effectively and convincingly. It is not merely a question of adaptation, but of missionary thrust, the fundamental duty to evangelize, to go towards men and women wherever they are, so that they may receive the gift of salvation. (The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium, n. 3).
Its task is fundamentally a synthesis of culture and faith, and a synthesis of faith and life: the first is reached by integrating all the different aspects of human knowledge through the subjects taught, in the light of the Gospel; the second in the growth of the virtues characteristic of the Christian. (The Catholic School, n. 37).
A Harvard University study conducted in 2000 (Campbell, p. 25) reported that Catholic School students performed better than other students on the three basic objectives of civic education: the capacity for civic engagement (e.g. voluntary community service), political knowledge (e.g. learning and using civic skills), and political tolerance (e.g. respect for opinions different from their own).
Catholic Schools are still the most effective means of forming adult Catholics that are active in their parish. 43% of those who had more than 8 years of Catholic School attended Mass every week (Greeley, p. 250).
If a student spends 8 years or more in a Catholic School, the advantage is higher math, reading and vocabulary scores. Spending less time had no significant impact on any scores. (Sander, p. 545).
Positive effects of Catholic Schools include (Greeley, p. 260 - 261):
- Morale is very happy 36% vs. 28%
- Health is excellent 44% vs. 27%
- Approval of women in the workplace 84% vs. 76%
- Benign view of fellow humans 47% vs. 38%
- Generosity to the Church $750 million dollars annually
Even here in our own state, a 2009-10 analysis of students who qualify for Step Up for Students, Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program, shows that students in Catholic schools outperform their public school counterparts that they left behind. Catholic Schools can educate students better and for less than ½ of the money that it costs public schools to educate students.
An Incarnation Catholic School Education
One of the biggest indicators of student academic growth is time on task. We are doing everything we can to maintain teacher contact time by having our first Friday assemblies as opposed to cutting into 1st period on Wednesday’s after Mass. Furthermore, our comprehensive calendar lists out just about every interruption to the school day that we
will have all year. This knowledge allows teachers to plan and prepare for these days and times when they may see students for a shorter time.
Professional Development and Curriculum Improvements
This past summer, teachers attended many workshops and training sessions focusing on reading and student learning centers. Furthermore, our entire faculty participated in a training session on the writing process, and all math teachers attended a hands-on math equations workshop that has inspired many creative hands-on and student centered approaches to mathematics.
We will continue our good work to design sound lesson plans and we have made great strides to create classes that are student-centered, focused, and purposeful/meaningful. We have also embraced an emphasis on moving students from lower-order thinking skills such as stating, listing or explaining to higher-order thinking skills including analyzing, evaluating and creating.
This year we have begun the work of aligning our curriculum, eliminating unnecessary spirals and gaps to ensure that standards for each grade level are met.
We continue to look at all aspects of our school to see how we can improve. The Japanese philosophy kaizen or continuous improvement calls for all people within an organization to search for ways to improve it. Not just the leaders or those in charge, but everyone. We have worked for greater collaboration and unity between and among grade levels and subject areas. The synergy in these relationships has already initiated new ideas and fostered greater collegiality among our faculty and will continue to improve our school.
Campbell, David. “Making Democratic Education Work: Schools, Social Capital, and Civic Education” (paper presented at the Conference on Charter Schools, Vouchers, and Public Education, March 2000), 25ff.
Congregation for Catholic Education. “The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium.” Catholic Education: A Journal of Inquiry & Practice, Vol. 2, No. 1: 4 – 14.
Greeley, Andrew. 1989. “My Research on Catholic Schools.” Chicago Studies, Vol. 28, No. 3: 245 – 263.
Sander, William. 1996. “Catholic Grade Schools and Academic Achievement.” The Journal of Human Resources, Vol. 31, No. 3 (Summer, 1996): 540 – 548.
Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, The Catholic School (Washington, DC: USCC, 1977).