Education initiative seeks to bolster Catholic schools with ‘treasury’ of Church’s tradition — By: Catholic News Agency

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CNA Staff, Feb 20, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

A K–12 education initiative out of the Catholic University of America (CUA) seeks to bolster what its director calls “the distinctive excellence of Catholic education” by offering school accreditation and fostering professional development of Catholic school leadership around the country. 

The Institute for the Transformation of Catholic Education (ITCE) was founded at CUA in October 2021 following several years of consultation and exploration of how the university might contribute more to Catholic education in the United States. 

Daryl Hagan, the director of ITCE, told CNA that one consultant suggested that CUA “found an institute that would coordinate the delivery of a variety of programs and services aimed at strengthening leadership and instruction in Catholic schools.” 

The institute would do so by “utilizing the diversity of expertise found across the departments and units of the university,” Hagan said. 

CUA is home to several hundred full-time and part-time academic staff. The university says on its website that the school “served as the center of Catholic education in the United States throughout the first half of the 20th century.”

Hagan told CNA the institute “advances the distinctive excellence of Catholic education as a gift for each person and for society.”

It accomplishes this in part through “school accreditation, teacher and leader degree and professional development programs, and research,” Hagan said. 

The ITCE does work in six states, eight archdioceses, and nearly 300 Catholic schools, serving just under 100,000 students.

Among its offerings is Lumen Accreditation, a certification program that ITCE says presents “a framework of guiding principles for K–12 Catholic schools” that helps schools “align their community more fully to the example and teaching of Christ.”

Rob Bridges, the president of Cathedral High School in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, told CNA that the school was “very happy to partner with ITCE, as our mission aligns wonderfully with theirs.” 

“[W]e are part of the pilot group for the program and would definitely recommend them to any Catholic school interested in enhancing their focus on their mission,” Bridges said. “We used their material to lead a beginning-of-the-year all-educator retreat and also for our board of directors retreat in November.”

ITCE also offers Catholic educators a program called Insight, which it describes as “the first social and emotional learning professional development program for K-12 Catholic school educators.”

First developed in the 1960s, social-emotional learning (SEL) places emphasis on social and emotional skills in the classroom. ITCE’s curriculum uses its 10-part program to discuss pointedly Catholic topics such as “forgiveness, justice, and mercy” and answer questions such as “Who is the human person?” 

Jeff Kummer, who serves as president of St. John Paul the Great Catholic High School in the Archdiocese of Denver, said it was “paramount” for the school to “select a mission-aligned accrediting partner.”

“Our Catholic identity permeates all aspects of school life — from curriculum development to hiring and retention practices to back-office processes,” Kummer said. 

“Based on our experience with the team at ITCE, we are confident that Lumen Accreditation will not simply tolerate our Catholic principles but will support them and allow them to guide the entire accreditation process,” he said.  

“The result will be a Catholic high school poised to meet high expectations in curricular, pedagogical, and organizational areas but most importantly to achieve the spiritual and evangelistic goals at JPG as well.” 

“We feel blessed and grateful to be a part of the inaugural Lumen cohort, which is the fruit of much prayer and discernment on the part of both our organizations!” he added.

Hagan said the ITCE is funded through benefactors. The initiative, he said, has thus far “served hundreds of Catholic educators through conference presentations, a webinar, retreats, and tailored professional development programs for Catholic dioceses and schools.”

“We foster a vision of education and formation that is rooted in Christ, draws from the great treasury of the Church’s tradition, and aims at the full flourishing of the human person in wisdom, virtue, and holiness,” he said.

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