By Anthony Biscione
Various programs in Catholic schools in Brooklyn and Queens are being made possible by grants from the diocese’s own St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Trust.
This year, the Trust will sponsor the Catholic Identity Links program and continue to provide instructional reports for the TerraNova testing program. It also will provide schools and academies with an enhanced curriculum with both the Greek and Latin Roots Challenge and the Performing Artists in Residency Programs.
A central tenet of Preserving the Vision, the strategic planning process for Catholic education within the diocese, is for schools “to assess, embrace and celebrate their Catholic identity” and “ensure the quality religious formation and academic excellence of the whole person” as they “advance the evangelizing mission of the Church.”
Each year, the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Trust assists Catholic schools and academies within the diocese to fulfill their evangelizing mission by supporting initiatives that provide them with contemporary tools to enrich Catholic identity, study and advance student achievement and enhance curriculum.
Catholic Identity Links
This year, in collaboration with the Office of Faith Formation, a group of nine schools and two religious education programs will pilot Sadlier’s new Catholic Identity LinksTM program. Catholic Identity Links is a K-8 online program uniquely developed to rally schools around the common goal of strengthening Catholic Identity.
It is also the most recent program to be sponsored by the Trust. Catholic Identity Links focuses on 52 virtues and values – one for every week of the year – and includes short lessons, homily hints, prayers and Scripture references.
The program connects each value and virtue to Scripture and correlates to the liturgical seasons. Each virtue and value promotes Catholic identity so that young disciples follow Jesus Christ. The program provides grade-specific links for teachers, catechists, principals, pastors and directors of religious education. Additionally, it can be extended to parish communities.
For the past several years, the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Trust has provided schools and academies with instructional reports for the TerraNova testing program. Historically, schools and academies within the Diocese of Brooklyn have been testing students in grades three through eight in the fall with CTB McGraw-Hill’s latest standardized test, TerraNova, Common Core, which tests students in reading, language and mathematics subtests in conjunction with InView, the cognitive abilities test that measures academic aptitude.
The trust has made it possible to acquire the additional and useful TerraNova Online Reporting Services for each student tested. The TerraNova online reports are a valuable instructional tool, which allows principals and teachers to view schoolwide, classroom and student test results in a variety of reports.
For instance, principals have the ability to analyze test data to help guide them in evaluating an academy’s/school’s instructional program and to provide professional development opportunities for teachers. Teachers have the ability to formulate instructional programs and priorities based on the online reports in order to help their students meet the state standards.
In addition, principals and teachers are able to view classroom and student performance reports which identify strengths and weaknesses of individual students and classes.
When testing in the fall, TerraNova is not only used as an achievement test, but also as a diagnostic tool that affords teachers time to remediate student and /or classroom weaknesses prior to the state tests in the spring.
The online reports also allow teachers to access students’ Lexile levels or reading ability, which assists in differentiating instruction to meet the needs of all students along with providing longitudinal data for each student within our diocese.
Greek and Latin Roots Challenge
Last fall, through the support of the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Trust, a group of 16 schools enriched their school curriculum with the Latin and Greek Roots Challenge Program. This program will continue into a second year.
The interactive, fun and schoolwide program is designed to introduce students to Latin and Greek roots and their meanings. It gives students the discipline to “deconstruct” words into their component roots and thereby unlock the meaning of words.
Roots are the building blocks of the English language. Each week in the Latin and Greek Roots Challenge Program, three Latin and/or Greek roots and their definitions are posted on challenge boards in the classroom. Every root is accompanied by a visual.
The “Challenge” is for students to identify as many English words as they can that contain the Latin or Greek root. In essence, students construct words using their knowledge of roots. The Latin and Greek Roots Challenge Program includes three levels of challenges to reinforce root meanings, beginning with early childhood and continuing through the eighth grade.
Performing Artists in Residency
Through the generosity of the Trust, for the third year, almost 40 schools and academies in Brooklyn and Queens will participate in the Performing Artists in Residency Program.
This unique program was created by the members of Stages on the Sound, Inc., a non-profit theatre company that has been partnering with Catholic schools within the diocese since 2006. Each academy or school has three participating grades, some with multiple classes in each grade.
The fourth grade works on film-making and stop-motion animation using tablets and cameras. Sixth grade focuses on play-writing, and the eighth grade reads and acts out scenes from different Shakespearean plays.
A team of two teaching artists spend one hour per week for 15 weeks with each class. The program introduces students to the dramatic arts and enhances the school’s English language arts curriculum.
This program has been enthusiastically received by principals, teachers and students. Each of these programs, through the generosity of the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Trust, adds to the vibrancy and vitality of the academic and spiritual life of our Catholic schools and academies. We are grateful to the Trust for its continuing support.
Anthony Biscione is the senior deputy superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Brooklyn.