Thanks to the generosity of the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Trust, various programs and initiatives which serve the mission of Catholic education within the Diocese of Brooklyn have been made possible. Three of the programs and initiatives funded: the CTB Online Reporting System, the Performing Arts Residency Program, and Option C, have helped to make advancements in the areas of assessment, the arts, and administration.
Assessment is an essential part of the teaching and learning cycle because assessments not only measure student achievement but inform teaching decisions. The CTB Online Reporting System funded by the Trust for the 2013-2014 school year is an enhanced system which allows principals and teachers the ability to analyze their school and student test data in a variety of ways including: School Summary Reports, Individual Profile Reports, Item Analysis Reports and Objective Reports.
“The CTB online reporting system enabled our faculty to determine where our students’ weaknesses are and how we as a school can address those weaknesses. As a result of our analysis, we have instituted a writing program and are working with a Math coach to strengthen those areas,” said Robert DiNardo, Principal at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Academy, and Chairperson of the Assessment Subcommittee for the diocese.
For the first time, all academies and schools are now able to access their TerraNova Common Core test data via the CTB Online Reporting System. In addition, and also for the first time, principals and teachers received Instructional Data Reports based on the 2013 New York State Testing Program in English Language Arts and Mathematics with item analysis of the Common Core Learning Standards.
“The goal of test data is to help principals and teachers make informed program and teaching decisions which in turn will increase student achievement. We would like to thank the Trust for providing these valuable services to our academies and schools which will assist them with the day-to-day work of teaching,” said Diane Phelan, Associate Superintendent for Evaluation of Programs and Students.
In addition to assisting the teaching and learning process by providing funding for the online reporting system, the Elizabeth Ann Seton Trust has also provided the majority of the resources needed for the 2013-2014 school year for the Performing Arts Residency Program. The Arts Residency is a unique program created by the members of Stages on the Sound, Inc., a non-profit theatre company that has been partnering with Catholic schools within the diocese since 2006.
“The Artists in Residency has been a wonderful addition to Saint Anselm Catholic Academy this year. The artists who visit our school weekly are wonderful and engaging. They have brought a great deal of excitement to our classrooms and they have provided new educational experiences for our students. Students in the 4th grade are making a documentary short film, our 6th graders are writing scripts for plays and our 8th graders have read Romeo and Juliet and will be performing on stage for their fellow students and their parents,” said James McKeon, Principal at St. Anselm Catholic Academy.
“The Performing Arts Residency Program is a great way to enhance a school’s English Language Arts curriculum,” said Anthony Biscione, Senior Deputy Superintendent. The program within the Diocese of Brooklyn currently serves 21 academies and schools. Like St. Anselm Catholic Academy, each academy or school has three participating grades, some with multiple classes in each grade. The fourth grade works on film-making and stop-motion animation using tablets and cameras, the sixth grade focuses on play-writing, and the eighth grade reads and acts out scenes from Shakespeare plays. A team of two teaching artists spend one hour per week for 15 weeks with each class.
“The students love this!” exclaimed John Fruner, Principal at St. Joan of Arc School, “To our surprise, the 8th graders are loving the Shakespeare component. The actors are so wonderful with our students. Each week the students can’t wait to have their class. Even our more quiet reserved students have blossomed into actors and actresses who want to learn more. Without the generosity of the Elizabeth Ann Seton Trust Fund and all parishes who contribute, we could never have this program. I hope we can have this opportunity next year too.”
“It is a colossal opportunity that the Trust has provided,” said Scott Barrow, Education Director for Stages on the Sound, Inc., “We have close to 2,000 students directly in the program, but the program is also designed to reach every student in every school involved. To create a culture of arts and art appreciation within each school as a whole, we have at least one theatrical offering which each student is able to attend. For instance, all of the students are invited to the Christmas show. They can take that back to their classrooms and talk about it together.”
Robert Choiniere, Managing Director for Stages in the Diocese of Brooklyn shares these sentiments, “The Performing Arts Residency Program demonstrates the strong partnership between the Church and the Arts in a way that empowers students helping them to dream big, to believe in themselves and to work together with one another to offer something new to the world. Our great hope is to continue this program both in other grades but also in many other schools with the support of both the Office of the Superintendent and the generosity of the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Trust, who makes it possible.”
Assessment and the Arts are some of the essentials when it comes to Catholic education, but Catholic schools within the diocese are also effective due to valuable administrative tools the Trust has provided for during this school year. In today’s day and age, Catholic schools, like all places, have had to improve the systems that they use for basic administration and management. For instance, a parent in 2014 probably would not expect to receive their 3rd grader’s report card on a hand-written carbon paper form. There are more efficient ways to manage grades, attendance, tuition and other needs
The Option C System is the web-based student management system used in Catholic elementary academies and schools within the diocese. Although other systems have been used in the past, the Option C system is the first one to be used diocesan-wide. It was funded by the Trust for the 2012-2013 school year and is now implemented in all of the elementary schools.
“The system has given our schools the ability to use technology to help them run their schools more efficiently. Using a system like Option C to manage day to day operations also demonstrates a school’s commitment to technology, a huge competitive advantage in today’s world!” said MaryAnn Spitz, Client Services Manager in the diocesan Office of Information Systems. Option C provides a wide range of services such as: a comprehensive student database, online grading, online attendance, system-generated report cards, and parent portals. It has the capability for features to assist with lunch ordering, alumni tracking, websites and calendaring. Some schools also choose to use the Option C billing system to provide tuition invoices and track finances.
“Since a vast amount of student information is securely centralized in one place, school administrators can use various reports to plan and grow with the needs of their students,” said Spitz. The student database allows for school administrators to keep student and family information in one online system such as medical information, sacraments, emergency contacts, etc. Each school also can securely access through their valid user ID and password, only their own information.
Teachers and parents also have their own secure user ID’s which allow them to access only their own information. Teachers can enter student assignments and grades, and record student attendance in seconds during homeroom. Through the parent portal feature, parents are able to view student attendance and grades of their children so as to track their progress.
“Between Option C, the Arts Residency Program, and the CTB Online Reporting System, we have much to be thankful for. On behalf of the rest of the Office of the Superintendent and the many leaders involved in Catholic education within our diocese, I would like to thank the Elizabeth Ann Seton Trust for their generosity. They have made a great difference in Catholic education,” said Dr. Thomas Chadzutko, Ed.D., Superintendent of Schools.
These initiatives have assisted teachers in the grading process, helped teachers diagnose student learning needs, and the arts program has enhanced the curriculum of the Arts Residency schools. In gratitude for all of these initiatives and to witness one of the differences the Trust has made, please consider attending the final Film and Theatre Festival of The Performing Arts Residency Program April 12th from 1:30-4:00 at St. Francis College. The performance will feature students’ films and plays, and works from each school will be represented. More information will be made available soon, both in The Tablet and on www.mybqcatholicschool.com.