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Three goals, countless dreams

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We are not yet as good as we want to be.


''Do not be content with what you are, if you want to become what you are not yet. For where you have grown pleased with yourself, there you will remain. But if you say, 'that's enough,' you are finished. Always add something more, keep moving forward, always make progress." (St. Augustine)

Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Boston are not content. We are not yet as good as we want to be.

For the 2016-2017 school year, we want to show improvement in three areas. Our goals are:

1. Promulgate our K-8th grade faith formation standards and begin to gather data on their effectiveness.

2. Increase the number of students who score proficient or higher on the NWEA assessment by 5 percent.

3. Increase the number of students enrolled in our schools by 100 students.

Our faith formation standards were written by a group of dedicated catechists. They replace the previous standards of the archdiocese, which were more than 25 years old. The new standards are tied directly to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and will assist our students, parents, pastors and teachers by clearly defining what students will know, understand or be able to do at the end of each grade level in our schools. Through the generous support of the Roche family, founders and owners of Roche Bros. supermarkets, these standards will be published later this month and made available to our teachers and principals at that time. We believe that these new standards will provide us with a strong framework that will enable our teachers to integrate the teaching of faith into all curricular areas in a seamless manner.

In addition to the promulgation of the faith formation standards, we will continue to work with our teachers and school leaders as we accompany them on their own faith formation journeys. More of our teachers will participate in evangelization training and we are offering a spiritual retreat for our principals during Advent. We intend to provide additional resources for our schools in the area of faith formation.

Last year we began utilizing the NWEA assessment. NWEA is a bit different in that students take the assessment on a computer and the questions that students answer are based on their previous answers. If a student answers questions correctly, they receive more difficult questions. If they answer questions incorrectly, then the program generates easier questions. Teachers receive very detailed reports of what students were able to answer or not and they can use this information to help inform instruction and make curricular decisions.

Implementing this new system was challenging! Technology upgrades were sometimes needed and professional development for teachers was necessary so they would understand how the assessment worked. Our school leaders and teachers responded magnificently! They discovered how to use new tools in their buildings and they are now using the assessments to build even better lessons. This summer hundreds of teachers spent hundreds of hours learning how to better teach our students and I cannot wait to see the results of all that work!

Our final goal deals with enrollment. It is no secret that many parents are not choosing Catholic education, and that is for a variety of reasons. Yet, I believe that our schools play a very important role in the new evangelization. More than 200 students and parents, brought to the Church through Catholic school, were baptized last year. These are people who are now growing in their relationship with Jesus.

We know that finances also play a role in the ability of some students to attend our schools. Through the Catholic Schools Foundation and the Campaign for Catholic Schools, we are trying to meet the needs of families. Last year more than $8,000,000 was distributed in financial assistance. It is through the generosity of many that we are able to provide that much assistance and we thank all who have supported us. We are very grateful.

Please pray for us. We want to keep moving forward. We want to always make progress. We need your prayers. We are not content with where we are.

- Kathy Mears is Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Boston.

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