Catholic School Matters

November 5, 2017

What Do You Do With New Information?

What do you do with new information that contradicts what you know? Are you even looking for that kind of information? Last month, NCEA presented diocesan leaders with the results from a market research project. (Podcast #80 revealed much of the information). When we heard that Hispanic parents were more discriminating consumers, for instance, it was surprising. For me, it caused me to think about how we are approaching our growing Hispanic population. But for others, the discomfort was obvious and they began to question the methodology of the project. “No parents were surveyed in our diocese,” they’d say. Or, “My region of the country was left out.”

It echoed the comments Senator John McCain made at the Naval Academy last week: “We are asleep in our echo chambers, where our views are always affirmed, and information that contradicts them is always fake,” McCain said. “We are asleep in our polarized politics, which exaggerates our differences and looks for scapegoats instead of answers, and insist we get all our way all the time in a system of government based on compromise and principled cooperation and restraint.” We have to seek out new information and when we hear something novel or contradictory, we have to examine it for its merits. The question, again, is what do you do with new information that challenges your assumptions?

I don’t believe that we do enough to challenge their beliefs and assumptions. In other words, we’re afraid to learn. It’s natural. We keep operating out of our practiced mental models.

Perhaps the problem is that new information is difficult to access. To that end, I’m presenting a special issue focusing on this fall’s issue of the Journal of Catholic Education. There is relevant information and I encourage everyone to find one article that interests you. This is difficult stuff. Trust me, I’m used to Internet reading where the articles are designed for shorter and shorter attention spans. But we need to expand our zone of proximal development and read something that stretches our intellectual limits. I started reading these articles and then discovered the special issue focusing on serving Hispanic students which I also recommend.

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Dr. Tim Uhl

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What I'm Up To

The Church Documents podcast series swings into high gear this week. On this week's podcast, Sr. John Mary Fleming, OP and I discuss the Declaration on Christian Education--the important education document from Vatican II. On the web page, you'll find a link to the document, study/discussion questions, and additional articles & resources. This week's blogs reflect on the impact of Vatican II on Catholic education by a trifecta of outstanding Catholics: Sr. John Mary, Sr. Patricia Earl, IHM, and Dr. Lorraine Ozar.

Here is the link to the podcast on iTunes. Here are videos showing you how to download and subscribe to a podcast on iTunes and how to download and subscribe a podcast on Android.

Here's what I'm working on this week:

  • Monday: Office (Helena); Episode 82: Vatican II's Declaration on Christian Education
  • Tuesday: Virtual Administrator Meetings 9 am & 1 pm; Guest Blog: Sr. John Mary Fleming, OP
  • Wednesday: Chancery meetings in Great Falls (8:30 am) and Helena (1:15 pm) & Butte Central Catholic Board; Wed book blog Leveraging Leadership by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo
  • Thursday: Office (Helena); Guest Blog: Dr. Lorraine Ozar
  • Friday: Office (Helena); Guest Blog: Sr. Patricia Earl, IHM
  • Saturday: Fly to Baltimore

Miles this week: 381 driving miles; 2,570 air miles

Miles travelled in 2017-18: 10,923 road miles; 10,454 air miles

Who Do You Say You Are: Relationships & Faith in Catholic Schools

This study aimed to evaluate and articulate what makes Catholic schools special and effective by measuring culture and climate in five Catholic high schools and two Catholic elementary schools in a large metropolitan area in the Midwest United States. The seven schools represented a variety of student demographics, location, and size of school. Findings of this study included: the Catholic identity of schools must become an intentional aspect of the planning, orientation, training, and evaluation of the faculty and administration; faculty-student relationships are rarely measured regarding their effectiveness in bolstering academic achievement or Catholic mission effectiveness; cultural awareness and cultural responsive pedagogy must become a component of school orientation if not teacher education; and teacher expectations impact the student-teacher relationship.

De Marillac Academy: Perseverance, Purpose & Promise

For many years, the Catholic school system within the United States was considered the preeminent educational institution, particularly for poor and marginalized students that live in low income, inner city areas. Now, given the large number of school closures, the Catholic school system’s long-standing goal of educating economically disadvantaged students in inner city schools is in peril. In this study, the researchers examined De Marillac Academy, a Catholic, tuition-free middle school, located in the Tenderloin District in San Francisco, CA, to identify both the non-cognitive skills students have learned and the organizational factors in place, which have contributed to these urban students’ success in high school and beyond. The authors discuss how the concept of what Angela Duckworth calls grit and Swadener and Lubeck’s notion of students-at-promise contribute, in part, to the students’ academic success. They also offer a perspective on how to best teach grit in our schools.

Providing Access for Students with Moderate Disabilities: An Evaluation of a Professional Development Program at a Catholic Elementary School

After a significant policy change led to the admittance of students with moderate disabilities, St. Agnes School (SAS; pseudonym)—a Catholic PK-8 school in Southern California—implemented an 18-month professional development (PD) program to improve teachers’ inclusive classroom practices. Grounded in the theoretical framework of Universal Design for Learning (UDL; Center for Applied Special Technology, 2015b), the PD program included cyclical, one-on-one instructional coaching sessions that were led by trained UDL coaches and consisted of lesson demonstrations and personalized feedback. While SAS teachers held state credentials, most had very little training to work with students with special needs prior to this PD; the purpose of this study was to evaluate the UDL PD program at SAS in terms of its impact on teachers’ instructional practices and students’ engagement in the classroom. Data from one-on-one interviews and classroom observations were analyzed using evaluation coding (Patton, 2002, 2008; Rallis & Rossman, 2003; Saldana, 2013) and findings revealed improvements in classroom instruction and student engagement for teachers who embraced the framework. Administrative and programmatic challenges that emerged over the course of the program and teachers’ hope for a long term shift toward professional learning communities among faculty and staff are discussed.

A Content Analysis of Catholic School Written Discipline Policies

School discipline has traditionally endorsed the use of exclusionary practices (i.e. suspension and expulsion). Such practices can have a negative short- and long-term impact on student lives, and tend to be enforced disproportionately with certain student populations. Although public school discipline policies have received increased scrutiny in recent years, Catholic school policies have received very little attention. This study presents the results of a content analysis of the written discipline policies of 33 Catholic secondary schools from two dioceses within a major metropolitan area. Results suggest that although variability exists in the types of behaviors included in formal written policies, schools in this sample rely heavily on exclusionary practices as possible consequences to many behaviors, even relatively minor ones. Further, they include positive or restorative consequences minimally, if at all. Suggestions for future research related to discipline practices in Catholic schools are made.

Communities of Practice: A Consortium of Catholic Elementary Schools' Collaborative Journey

Archdioceses and dioceses around the United States continue to brainstorm innovative ways to market their schools in an education system that provides a number of choices to parents and their children. Applying Wenger’s (1998) learning theory entitled Communities of Practice (COPs), the purpose of this case study was to investigate one such plan to improve the viability of three inner-city Catholic elementary schools that had similar missions, were located within just a few miles of one another, and served the same neighborhoods of a working-class, culture-rich Latino community in Southern California. Data collection included in-depth interviews with principals and teachers and site visits that involved observations of classroom lessons and joint faculty meetings. Data were analyzed using a two-step coding scheme that was grounded in the main tenets of the theoretical framework. Findings showed the early stages of an interschool consortium that consisted of multiple levels of distributed leadership and the development and maintenance of COPs among principals, teachers, parents, and students. The findings of this study offer a potential model for Catholic schools in similar contexts.

School Choice Vouchers and Special Education in Indiana Catholic Diocesan Schools

Catholic schools are now located at a crossroads of school choice voucher programs and special education services. With enrollment in Catholic schools declining over the past several decades, voucher programs that allow parents to use public funds for tuition at private schools – including tuition for students with disabilities – could possibly help to steady or even reverse this decline. This study examined the impact of Indiana’s statewide voucher program on Catholic schools, student enrollment, and special education services in three large diocesan school systems. The findings address issues related to enrollment growth, changing student population characteristics, special education services, and the professional development needs of teachers in these schools. The authors discuss the implications of the voucher program for the enrollment and education of students with disabilities in Catholic schools.

The Interactional Production of Race & Religious Identity in an Urban Catholic School

This paper describes how students in an urban Catholic school draw on racial and religious categories to construct classroom-specific identities during coursework. When students engage with each other in classroom discussions, they use broadly circulating, institutional, and event-level categories to position one another, and in doing so articulate who may speak and participate in class talk. This paper draws from interactional ethnographic data, showing how Vietnamese American and African American students used different religious and racial categories to delimit the interactional floor during class time and in the process exclude speakers.


  • NCEA Visions for Excellence Soul of Youth Sports Conference, Feb 21-23, 2018 (KC)
  • Convention, April 3-5, 2018 Cincinnati


  • Nominations for the spring awards are now open: Lead, Learn, Proclaim Awards; President's Awards; and Youth Virtues, Vision and Valor are now open. Click here for more information.

Professional Development

  • Click here to register for webinars
  • Nov 7: Get Students Doing Math & Close Achievement Gaps
  • Nov 8: Becoming a Digital Disciple
  • Nov 9: Echoing the Holy Family in Advent


What I'm Reading

  1. Be Our Guest (2011) by The Disney Institute and Theodore Kinni
  2. The Power of Moments (2017) by Chip & Dan Heath.
  3. Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership (2007) by Gary L. McIntosh & Samuel D. Rima (underway)
  4. You Don't Have Say You Love Me (2017) by Sherman Alexie.
  5. Queen Sugar (2014) by Natalie Baszile

Click this link for a full list of my professional reading along with links to Wed Book Blogs

For Montana Administrators & Teachers

  • Here is the slideshow for the Nov 7th Admin Virtual meeting, including the login info and agenda. Also included is a look at demographics. We're showing an enrollment increase of over 2% this year! Please read pp. 55-66 of Redeeming Administration in order to prepare for the discussion.

Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

October 29, 2017 Church Documents

October 22, 2017 Momentum Special Issue

October 15, 2017 "Anthem Protests"

October 8, 2017 Classroom Managment Special Issue

October 1, 2017 "The Un-Themed Issue"

September 24, 2017 "Joy of the Gospel"

September 17, 2017 "ESSA"

September 10, 2017 "On Leadership"

August 27, 2017 "American Catholic News"

August 20, 2017 Back to School Issue