December 17, 2010

Catholic Evangelization Outreach / Amy McClain

New plan helps better educate students

The way that Americans educate their children is under the microscope. The Catholic schools of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, although academically successful, are not exempt from this scrutiny. What can we do better?

Research says that the single most influential factor in a child’s education is the classroom teacher.

Armed with this knowledge, the Office of Catholic Education assembled a group of teachers, principals and administrators to create the Archdiocesan Compensation Task Force (ACT).

With extensive research, discussion and collaboration, ACT has developed a plan that helps ensure that our students receive the best possible secular and religious education under our care.

As the group polled administrators and teachers in the field, the realization became clear. We are revolutionizing education. We can change the way that principals and teachers communicate. We have the potential to change classroom instruction and enhance school climate. Developing our teachers and holding them more accountable will improve our students’ academic proficiency and growth.

Imagine a classroom where the teacher can closely monitor each student’s progress and, as a result, vary instruction. This means that each student has the opportunity to grow at his or her own rate because the teacher is meeting the need where it exists. Doesn’t that sound impressive?

It is already happening within the Archdiocese of Indianapolis based on what we learned at many schools during Project EXCEED, a school improvement initiative from 2002-06 funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. and other generous donors. And the data points to the teacher!

ACT was asked to create a program that can help all teachers in the archdiocese to more equitably reap what they sow. The plan is designed as an evaluation process through which teachers will be coached, trained and appraised, including their articulation of our Catholic mission and identity.

Principals and archdiocesan coaches will provide training to help teachers implement best practices or proven approaches known to be successful in the classroom.

The process is personal. Teachers may have to put aside some long-held beliefs about learning that do not produce results. Teachers will be asked to use more data-driven strategies in their lesson plans.

Principals and teachers will learn to analyze student performance data at a higher level in both secular and religious subjects in order to direct instruction and assist students with their faith development.

The process is as scientific as education has ever been. It holds much promise for the overall mission of our Catholic schools—our Church, our teachers, our parents and our students.

As education takes a more scientific spin, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis will follow suit by putting this initiative into action to improve the good yields that we already reap. Our students will benefit from a more individualized education.

But how will teachers benefit? In the business world, the person who does the best job often gets a bonus or a raise. Shouldn’t our teachers?

The answer is “yes.” Compensation for a job well done is integral to the success of the program so these questions are already being addressed by the task force.

As we begin to change the way that we educate our children, we ask for your help. Pray with us—the Archdiocesan Compensation Task Force, the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education and your Catholic school staff members—for a safe and fruitful journey.

We ask God to bless us with strength of heart and clarity of mission as we continue to strive for excellence in Catholic education and faith formation.

(Amy McClain is the principal of St. Patrick School in Terre Haute and a member of ACT.)

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