Catholic Schools Raise the Standards

by Dr. Thomas Chadzutko

As we prepare for the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, we must pause and reflect upon why the Catholic elementary and secondary schools within the Diocese of Brooklyn are very special places of learning for the students enrolled in them. This year, the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) has chosen as its theme for the year: “Catholic Schools Raise the Standards.” As we look at this theme for the Catholic elementary schools/academies and secondary schools, it is evident that high standards and expectations are set forth in all areas, especially in Catholic identity, academics and leadership.

Here within the Brooklyn Diocese, we are blessed to have Catholic schools and academies that exemplify these characteristics by providing students with a quality Catholic education. Essential to providing a quality Catholic education are the following: sustaining the mission of Catholic education, the essence of providing students with the necessary skills to be successful in the future (academic excellence), dedicated administrations, faculty and staff and recognizing that Catholic education is an essential part of the diocese. Parents choose Catholic education for the educational standards that are set and the outcomes that occur after years of a Catholic education. Parents want the best for their children and by working closely with administrators, faculty and staff, all will benefit from Catholic education.

The mission of Catholic education and our Catholic faith is paramount. Our schools/academies are places of evangelization, of complete formation and of service to others. Faith and morals go hand-in-hand and our Catholic schools/academies work to ensure that everyone who enters is treated with respect and that the values and virtues of the Gospel message are part of the fabric of the school.

In his address to Catholic educators, his Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI stated: “Education is integral to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News. First and foremost every Catholic institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals His transforming love and truth.”

What are some of the ways we encounter the living God in our schools/academies? When you talk to pastors, parish priests, school principals, academy directors and teachers, you always hear about the religious experience students have throughout the year. The presence of pastors and parish priests help to further develop the relationship between parish and school/academy. Each year our schools and academies assess their Catholic identity to assure that there are high standards and expectations in maintaining a strong Catholic identity.

As Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio wrote in his Pastoral Letter, Be Not Afraid, “Our Catholic Schools need to assist our parishes in professing a common faith in Jesus Christ as well as develop the desire that all come to know and share in God’s life through Christ’s Body, the Church.” To attain a full understanding of our faith, “our Catholic school administrators and teachers should partner with parents in educating the whole child spiritually, academically, physically and emotionally.” Our faith is the cornerstone of our schools/academies, and our students are the future of our Church. We must continue to encourage them to be bearers of the Good News.

Academic excellence is also vital to the success of our students and they are performing very well on the New York State assessment tests in math and English language arts. Key to this success is that our students are being provided with a well-rounded academic program that allows them to develop thinking skills and apply what they learn to real-life situations.

As we begin this new academic year, we look to the full integration of the New York State Common Core Learning Standards. Principals and teachers have been prepared to deliver these new standards to the students. Teaching and learning will be different, but the goal is to continue to provide academic excellence to all. In addition, use of technology within the classroom setting allows students to develop skills that will prepare them for high school and beyond. School leaders continue to identify ways to keep current with technology.

With SMART Boards as part of the educational process, many schools have begun to implement the use of iPads. Partnerships with the colleges and universities continue to be an integral part of academic excellence as we look further into early childhood education, middle school learning and science, math and technology.

Educational growth is not limited to students. Each year, principals and teachers participate in professional development opportunities sponsored by the diocese and other agencies. We must recognize the efforts put forth by the teachers to provide students with quality Catholic education. Principals work with their teachers to maintain and enhance the quality of Catholic education offered. Each year, new programs are added, and new learning opportunities are available. Principals and teachers also work with parents to prepare students for the challenges of the future. Part of the work of the administration of the school/academy is to look at new ways of educating the whole child. At the diocesan level, using programs like Renzulli (see Pg 8A) allow for all students to learn and succeed based on their skills and talents.

Catholic schools are an important part of not only the Diocese of Brooklyn but the entire United States. We have many challenges but need to work together to make our Catholic schools vital, viable, excellent and enduring. We have much to offer in our Catholic schools, and it is through the dedication, hard work and untiring efforts of priests, principals, teachers, staff, parishioners, parents and students that we continue to keep Catholic education at the forefront of all that we do.

Dr. Thomas Chardzutko is the Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Brooklyn.
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