Catholic School Matters
March 15, 2022
One way that the pandemic has clearly disrupted our schools is the churn of employees. Our schools retained only 74 percent of our employees from June-September and we’ve lost many more this year. We’ve lost five principals since the school year began and two more have already announced their retirements. Gone are the days when we were confident that quality instruction was happening simply because the teachers rarely changed. In addition, all the interruptions in student learning are interrupting normal learning sequences.
We need to use a quality formative assessment tool to get rapid and frequent feedback on the quality of instruction and the needs of our students. Here is a basic primer on summative and formative assessment. Traditionally, we would use an annual summative assessment to judge the quality of instruction. Annually, we’d assess how well the students were learning and make adjustments for the following year. With as much movement of teachers, administrators, and students, that’s not going to work. Here’s a deeper dive on the value of formative assessment, and here’s another look.
Of course, many of our schools already use a formative assessment. We believe there is value in all of us using a common tool. Then we can all train together and use each other when teachers or principals leave. We can also establish Diocesan norms which will provide another benchmark for comparison. We do not plan to publish or share school results with other schools. We believe that comparing your student growth against the Diocesan (or state or national) averages could provide you with a window into your school’s progress. And having diocesan numbers would allow us to argue for our value in much the same way that the Diocese of Orange illustrated their growth during the pandemic.
Our focus needs to be on personalizing student growth—what do they need, how can we deliver it, and how can we celebrate it. We challenged the Executive Principals to select one formative assessment measure and they selected STAR which is already used by half of our schools. Those schools will see a discount since we negotiated a lower price. Some schools can use AIS funds (through this month’s NYSED request) for reimbursement. The rest will have to assume a new bill but are encouraged to write a grant request to the Foundation or submit for reimbursement in next year’s AIS request if the burden is too high. Here is an article about how one diocese used STAR for a new program, another article about a system of schools, and another about how one school used STAR testing to become a school of excellence.
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Dr. Tim Uhl
Principals of all Diocesan parish and regional schools are asked to please fill out this quick survey to help us build our School Health Scorecards.
The banquet to benefit the St. Gianna Center on April 28th. More information here.
This is the link for NYS test scoring sign up.
Are you interested in having Bishop Fisher or a member of the DCS staff join your for graduation activites? Please fill out this survey for planning purposes.
Kari Buchinger on Academics
Students across the Diocese of Buffalo will jump back into NYS assessments with the 3-8 ELA test in less than two weeks. State testing can lead to fear, concern, and sometimes anxiety for students. But, teachers and leaders can put into place some strategies to get students excited about this opportunity instead of being filled with dread.
Sample Questions: Take advantage of the educator guides and sample problems provided by NYS. Seeing a set of problems ahead of time will help students build confidence in their abilities and prepare to face any problem they may encounter.
Math Reference Sheets: Students in grades 5-8 will receive a reference sheet for their math tests. Before students take the math test in late April, be sure to review these documents with students to clarify any misconceptions and ensure students are familiar with the resources and formulas available. Sample reference sheets can be found here…
Write Notes of Encouragement: Write a note of encouragement to your students before the test. Looking at that note can help them refocus if they struggle with a problem. You can also invite families to send in messages for their children.
Have some fun! When your students finish the test, give them some time to recharge. This is an excellent time for a fun STREAM activity, team-building exercise, or book club.
Get your families involved.
All families want to see their students perform well in school. Leading up to the test, encourage families to get involved and help support their children. Here are some tips you can share.
The night before:
- Help your child get to bed on time. Research shows that well-rested students perform better on assessments.
- Keep your routine as normal as possible. Upsetting natural routines can add to anxiety and concern.
- Mention the test to show you're interested and encourage them to do their best.
- Plan ahead to avoid conflicts on the morning of test days.
The morning of the test:
- Get up early to avoid rushing. Be sure your child is at school on time.
- Prepare a healthy, filling breakfast.
- Acknowledge that tests can be tricky and are designed so no one will know every single answer. So, no need to be concerned if you are faced with a problem you don't know how to solve. Explain that doing your best is what counts.
After the test:
- Talk to your child about their feelings about the test, make sure to acknowledge the effort they put in.
- Praise them for their hard work!
Most importantly, Stay Positive! Share your excitement for the opportunity for students to show how much they have learned this year. They will feed off of your energy. Let's make this a time to celebrate the incredible work your community has engaged in this year!
Previous "Academic Corner" posts from Kari
Chris Riso on Government Services
Mandated Services Update: I wanted to remind you that there are only 12 school days until the 4/1/22 Mandated Services claim submission deadline, so if you have not started working on your claim I would encourage you to start this week. If you ask, I can look your claim over once it has been entered online (but NOT submitted!) on the NYSED Business Portal. So far I have reviewed 13 claims and 8 have been submitted and approved; that leaves 41 schools left to assist so I really need you to enter your claim online on your own or at a Data Entry session (but do not submit) by 3/23/22 (next week!) and then send me an email to request a review. Any reviews left until after that date may result in insufficient time to correct any areas of concern prior to the submission deadline.
Mandated Services Data Entry Sessions 3/21 & 3/22: If you wish to attend one of these sessions please register by sending an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NonPublic Safety Equipment (NPSE) Reimbursement Update: Remember, the Year 8 Non Public Safety Equipment (NPSE) allocations and reimbursement forms are posted here As of today NYSED still has not provided notice of whether you had any remaining funds from Years 1-7, nor whether you have any “approved, unreimbursed expenditures” based on the Year 7 claims; due to this delay you should try your best to estimate if you have any remaining funds from Years 1-7 or any “approved, unreimbursed expenditures” while you decide how much you actually have available for possible reimbursement on any new expenditures incurred by this March 31st. The reimbursement form for this program must be submitted to NYSED by 3/31/22 so be sure you leave enough time for the application to arrive on that date by mail. Please contact SORIS if you have any questions at 518-474-6541 or you can email the SORIS office directly at SORIS@nysed.gov.
Elementary AIS 3/31/22 Deadline for Purchases/Project Completion for 2021-22 Reimbursement: Although the actual 2021-2022 “Year 5” AIS forms, allocation amounts, and reimbursement deadlines are not yet available, I just wanted to remind you that March 31, 2022 is the deadline for purchasing supplies or paying for and completing projects under the Elementary AIS program for reimbursement this school year. If you plan to apply for 2021-2022 reimbursement, please make sure all purchases and work have been completed and paid for by March 31st. Failure to pay for and complete projects by the deadline means that you will not be able to submit for reimbursement until next year’s 2022-2023 forms are made available by NYSED closer to December 2022 for reimbursement after 3/31/2023. Please email me if you have any questions about this program. Here is the link to the AIS Program resources, which will be updated once the new guidance and forms are available.
Transportation Requests Due to Public School Districts on April 1: Parents of Catholic school students must request transportation services directly from the public school district in which they live. The deadline for submitting written requests for transportation is April 1, 2022 for the 2022-2023 school year. Failure to submit a request by this deadline might lead to the suspension of bus privileges for those families. Administrators are urged to remind current parents of the necessity to meet this deadline and to alert parents of prospective and newly-registered students of this requirement as well.
Substantial Equivalence: NYSED seems to be finally proposing updated nonpublic school Substantial Equivalence regulations that will likely be put in place during the 2022-2023 school year. Our advocacy on this issue was successful and we were able to convince NYSED to allow for multiple pathways to demonstrate equivalence once this is implemented. Specifically, it provides that a nonpublic school shall be deemed substantially equivalent if it annually delivers sufficient evidence to its local school authority (LSA – public school district of location) that it is one of the following:
· Is a state-supported school for the blind and deaf (4201 schools); is a state-operated school; is a state-approved private special education school (853 schools);
· Is registered by the Board of Regents (grades 1 through 8 of a nonpublic school that has a registered high school program will also be deemed substantially equivalent by virtue of the school’s high school registration);
· Is accredited by a Department-approved accreditation organization that meets certain prescribed criteria;
· Has instruction approved by the United States government for instruction on a military base or service academy;
· Participates in the international baccalaureate program; and/or
· Regularly uses assessments approved by the Department that demonstrate student academic progress as they move from grade to grade and have a student participation rate equal or greater to the three-year, statewide average State assessment public school participation rate.
As you can see, if this proposal passes the majority of our school will be able to prove substantial equivalence without having to be reviewed by their local public school district.
This proposal has not been adopted yet but should be in the near future. I am just sharing the general setup of this program but do not have any specifics yet on how it will be implemented; once I have more specific information I will be certain to share it with you.
Erie County DOH School Building Survey: Last week the schools in Erie County were asked to complete a “School Building Survey” regarding room sizes so ECDOH can “[examine] the feasibility of investing in equipment that improves the air quality in schools.” We have looked the survey over and do not see any reason why you should hesitate to complete it. If you still have concerns, please call me.
3/18/22 Last Day to Submit Erie 1 BOCES Textbook Orders
3/23/22 Deadline to Save Mandated Services Claim online for C. Riso Review
3/25/22 Last Day for Additional EANS I Reimbursement Requests
3/31/22 NYSED Nonpublic Safety Equipment (NPSE) Application Due
3/31/22 NYSED Elementary School AIS Purchases/Projects/Payments Completed
4/1/22 Online 2020-21 Mandated Services Claim Due to NYSED
4/1/22 Parent Requests for 2022-23 Transportation Due to Public School Districts
Previous posts from Mr. Riso
Save the Date!
- ELA Scoring Dates
- Schools North of Buffalo April 4 (3,5,7) &April 6 (4,6,8)
- Schools South of Buffalo April 7 (3,5,7) & April 8 (4,6,8)
- Math Scoring Dates
- Schools North of Buffalo May 5 (3,5,7) & May 6 (4,6,8)
- Schools South of Buffalo May 9 (3,5,7) & May 10 (4,6,8)
- Science Scoring for all Schools: June 10 (4,8)
- Weekly principal Zooms at 9:30 am on Wednesdays.
- Primetime televised segment to support Catholic Education on Sunday, April 3rd, 2022 from 8:00-9:00 PM on WBBZ-TV
- X-Stream Games, May 15, 2022.
- 175th Anniversary Mass for 8th graders, Sep 20, 2022, 10 am at the Cathedral
- Diocesan Professional Development Day October 7, 2022 at St. Amelia's.
- School Pastor's Administrative Guide
- The Executive Summary. of this year's school data.
- Video recording of All-schools Mass at OLV with Bishop Fisher. Here is the link to Dr. Uhl's talk.
- "Principal Task List." This is organized as a living Google Doc by month.
- Here's a link to the forms on our website.
- New Policy Manual
- New Operations Manual
- Administrator Goal Sheet and the new Administrator evaluation form
Catholic School Matters Podcast
This week, Dr. Elena Sada of the Roche Center joins me to discuss their ground-breaking report, Cultivating Talent, which investigates how to recruit and retain Hispanic educators in our Catholic schools. She also discusses bilingual Catholic education and the role of the TWIN-CS. Previous episodes:
- Fr. Dennis Holtschneider, the President of the Association of Catholic Colleges & Universities (ACCU) joins me to discuss the disruptions of the pandemic, the challenges to Catholic higher education, and leading with mission.
- Gloria Purvis joined me on the podcast to discuss Black Catholicism and racism in the Church
- My old friend Neal Wilkinson, SJ joins me to discuss his vocation and work as well as his struggles with living with Parkinson's
- Roy Petitfils joins the podcast to discuss the impact the pandemic has had on us all.
- Dr. Lauren Casella of LMU joins the podcast to discuss her work with our Principal PLN to strengthen Catholic identity.
- Last week's podcast is a discussion with author Mark Shea about the divisions and tensions within the Catholic Church.
- Last week's podcast is a great conversation with Diocese of Orlando Superintendent Henry Fortier. One of the few African-American Catholic school superintendents, Henry discusses the challenges of the past few year
- I was joined on the podcast by Dr. Ann Garrido, the author/speaker/ professor of homiletics.
- The December 27th episode was a conversation with Jennifer Daniels of the USCCB about government programs and school choice.
- In the December 20th episode, Bridgette Theurer discusses Resilient Leadership
- In the December 13th episode, I'm talking with Jodee Blanco about parents bullying the school.
- Here is the link to the Dec 7th conversation with Faustin Weber, the author of the great blog post "Top Ten Suggestions to Avoid Principal Burnout."
Here is a link to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.
Articles for Your Reflection
Cultivating Talent Report
Profiles of Hispanic Catholic school teachers and leaders, including their motivations, experiences serving within Catholic schools, and the development of their professional identity Descriptive analysis of the pathways leading Hispanics into Catholic schools An overview of the current landscape of support, formation, and ongoing discernment available to Hispanic Catholic educators Bright spots and areas of growth for cultivating Hispanic talent in Catholic schools
How to Build Better Relationships - Tom Barrett
I stumbled on this post from Jamie Portman about building better relationships. He, in turn, was re-sharing a document from L30 Relational Systems that outlines 33 ideas to think about when valuing relationships. Jamie shared a couple of ideas that resonated and thought I would do the same.
Lubbock's Christ the King Schools become diocesan Catholic school
Most Rev. Robert M. Coerver, Bishop of Lubbock, announced Christ the King School- from pre-kindergarten through eighth grades - will join Christ the King High School as part of a diocesan Catholic school. Bishop Coerver announced the change during his Homily for Mass celebrated on March 6, 2022, the First Sunday of Lent, at Christ the King Cathedral.
Ushering in a new era for Catholic schools
St. Joseph Catholic Schools took a very important step earlier this month when we announced that we will become St. Joseph Catholic Academy (SJCA). This signals much more than just a name change ... it is the beginning of a new era for Catholic education in St. Joseph.
The Best Value in Formative Assessment - ASCD
Recently a school leader asked us to provide an example of a good test item on a formative assessment and then show how that item would be different when used on a summative test. He wanted to explain to his staff the difference between formative and summative assessment.
Why Formative Assessments Matter
What this means is that if we are about getting to the end, we may lose our audience, the students. If you are not routinely checking for understanding then you are not in touch with your students' learning. Perhaps they are already far, far behind.
My Last 5 Books
- In the Midst of our Storms (2014) by Roc O'Connor, SJ
Big Russ & Me: Father & Son Lessons of Life (2014) by Tim Russert
Writing Straight with Crooked Lines: A Memoir (2020) by Jim Forest
Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World (2020) by Vivek Murthy
Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption, and Hollywood (2022) by Danny Trejo
Click this link for a full list of my professional reading
A couple of years ago I set out to write a book which would explore the challenges of Catholic school leadership. My premise that there are no easy answers and that we have to learn from our (and other's) mistakes in order to form a mindset appropriate for orchestrating conflict proved prescient as we all faced completely new and unexpected challenges in 2020. The book,Orchestrating Conflict: Case Studies in Catholic Leadership is now available on Amazon or on the Barnes & Noble site in print or e-book formats. The book explores issues in Catholic school leadership and the tensions between building community and following Church policies and introduces deliberate practice as a method for leadership formation.