Schools Office helps teachers strive for excellence

BRAINTREE -- Academic excellence is one of the priorities of the Archdiocese of Boston’s Catholic Schools Office, and training teachers in state-of-the-art methods is one of the ways the office is making sure the best and most effective methodologies are getting imparted to students.

Recent professional development efforts for teachers have focused on writing and American history. Teachers and principals can attend these sessions and receive professional development credits for their licenses or credits towards graduate education.

“There are a number of academic areas we want to set as high priorities, all pegged to the Massachusetts state standards,” said Associate Superintendent for Academic Excellence Bill McKersie.

The archdiocese has been offering training sessions for teachers and principals in the Collins Catholic Schools Writing Program, a program that develops critical thinking and creative writing skills at all levels of elementary school education, according to program literature disseminated by the Catholic Schools Office.

McKersie said this program emphasizes the concept of writing across the curriculum, which encourages students to build writing skills in subject areas other than language arts such as social studies and even math.

“What’s very good about it is that it has great framework that’s research-based and tied to the best standards there are in writing and literacy,” McKersie said.

“If this is part of a school’s set of standards and whole curriculum, you’re hitting it comprehensively,” McKersie added.

New approaches to teaching American history have been offered through the archdiocese as well.

Thanks to funding from an anonymous donor, at least six schools are able to participate in the Facing History and Ourselves curriculum. The multi-disciplinary program for middle school students is designed to allow students to connect history and literature to moral choices facing them today, according to literature provided by the Catholic Schools office.

This year’s curriculum explores racial segregation and the civil rights movement and allows students to connect history to modern ideas of equality and social justice, and Catholic principles such as human dignity and compassion.

McKersie said the archdiocese will start a Facing History program again with new participants, and his office will soon announce a program for high school students which will focus on the Holocaust.