Montana Catholic Schools Weekly

November 9, 2014

Asking the Right Questions

Contained within the great book “The Smartest Kids in the World” (Amanda Ripley, 2013) is a list of questions to ask a principal. Ripley wrote a book about the experiences of American foreign exchange students in South Korea, Poland, and Finland, comparing their experiences to each other and to their own American experiences. With her insights, she developed the questions to ascertain a school's effectiveness. But they are equally important to those of us who are marketing ourselves to prospective parents.

  1. How do you choose your teachers?
  2. How do you make your teachers better?
  3. How do you measure your success?
  4. How do you make sure the work is rigorous enough?

Notice that her questions cut right to the core of consistent Catholic school conflicts: How much should we pay our teachers? Since we often can’t pay market rates, how much can we expect of them? What role does data and testing have in the Catholic school? How do we know that we're doing well?

I have heard “wrong” answers to each one of the questions. Schools sometimes focus on who they can afford, for example, as the focus of their teacher searches. Schools rarely have a comprehensive professional development plan and often don't want to burden their underpaid teachers. Schools tend to use anecdotal evidence to support their success (“our graduates are very successful”) instead of showing data. Usually the amount of homework is the measure of rigor.

These questions should improve your articulation of your mission and the communication of your school vision. You should be able to communicate who you hire, how you develop the staff, how you can measure the success, and how you know students are learning and growing. And when you do, this should inspire parents to enroll.

Dr. Tim Uhl

Coming Up

Monday: office (Helena)

Tuesday: office (Helena)

Wednesday: Butte Central High & Elementary

Thursday: Study Commission (Great Falls)

Friday: office (Helena)

Saturday: state volleyball (Bozeman)

This week: 595 miles

Last week: 1128 miles

This year: 12932

On the Horizon: Principal Regional Meetings November 18 (Missoula), 19 (Great Falls), and 20 (Billings).


Congrats to Billings Central and Loyola Sacred Heart for advancing to the state volleyball tournament next weekend in Bozeman! Congrats to Billings Central and Butte Central for advancing to the state semifinals in Class A. Both teams will travel this week. Billings Central will take on Dillon and Butte Central will match up against Whitefish.

Pope Francis and his values

In the article below, Cardinal Kasper (often called Pope Francis' theologian) mentions the priority of the Holy Father--namely, transparency, collaboration, and getting rid of the human and administrative divisions which separate us. Notice also that Pope Francis is calling upon us to focus on mercy (which could also be read as trying to include more families in our school system) and less on complaining on our trials and tribulations.

Billings Central!

If you read the story about Jake, notice that it was the Billings Central JV Football team who allowed him to score in a great display of sportsmanship:

Jesuit Volunteers

As a follow up to last week's newsletter, notice the variety of assignments from the Holy Cross graduates who entered the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (including two serving here in Montana):

News About Catholic Schools

In Loursville, Archbishop Kurtz announced a plan to raise money for scholarships for more students:

The Archdiocese of Baltimore celebrated its 225th anniversary:

Vouchers are working to increase enrollment in Wisconsin Catholic schools:

In the Archdiocese of New York, they first reorganized schools. Now, it's time for the parishes: