This week we join the nation in celebrating Catholic Schools Week, a celebration of our schools, our students, our educators, our parents and all who make up our Catholic school community. In reflecting on the National Catholic Educational Association’s Catholic Schools Week theme – “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.” – I began to think of all the ways our schools follow through with this theme on a daily basis.
Our Catholic schools help form individuals who come to know God in all things and through all things. Catholic high school students in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, on average, have consistently scored higher on the ACT than their public school peers, evidenced by the state’s average ACT score in every subject. This year alone, our students’ average composite score was 4.2 points higher than the state’s average composite score.
Aside from our academic data, our faculty members are embracing the diverse needs of our students by implementing new and innovative teaching methods. This year, 12 of our New Orleans Catholic Schools integrated the Blended Learning Model, which allows students to benefit from small group instruction, personalized learning paths, and data and feedback through fun and engaging practices. Additionally, at least 10 of our schools have either continued or started differentiated learning programs, meaning our schools are continuing to embrace students who may benefit from instructional strategies and practices that differ from those found in the more traditional classroom setting.
In a variety of ways, our students are demonstrating academic growth and achievement.
Our Catholic school students live out the call to serve every day. Our students are the perfect examples of servant leaders in our community. In the 2017-18 school year, our students performed more than 425,000 service hours. The 2018 graduating class alone performed more than 275,000 service hours. Our schools not only produce academic scholars but also students who are taught to treat others in a sacred way. With grade-level retreats, student-led Masses, daily prayer and frequent community service projects, our Catholic schools are committed to educating the whole child by providing programs and services to enrich the spiritual development of the student in family life, friendships and as a member of the larger community.
Our schools produce national merit finalists, religious leaders, Ivy-League students, accountants, government officials, medical professionals, globally known athletes, artists, educators, attorneys, military and law enforcement personnel and more! More importantly, our schools produce students who are taught to treat others with dignity and respect because they realize that every person is created in the image of God. The Class of 2018 had a graduation rate of 99 percent, and I have full faith that our graduates will continue to be prosperous in leading as they go on to college, careers and beyond. Our high schools, on average, provide at least 30 clubs and 11 sports teams for students to join, proving that our schools aim to empower students as leaders beyond the classroom.
As superintendent, I believe that those who came before us would be proud of the schools we have built and the values we continue to instill in students across the Archdiocese of New Orleans. The class of 2018 received more than $220 million in scholarships, and 94 percent of the graduating class went on to attend four-year colleges. This year, we had 56 National Merit semifnalists and an abundance of state-champion athletic teams.
Although much of our success is communicated through data and statistics, our success isn’t confined to grade-point averages or test scores; it’s about forming the whole person, spiritually, academically and morally. Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of New Orleans have been educating students for more than 290 years, and we continue to build on that rich legacy as the 11th-largest Catholic diocesan school system in the country, educating students in eight civil parishes in southeast Louisiana.
Our schools provide students with an exceptional education, steeped in Catholic values, where they are taught to know, love and serve the Lord. That’s the ultimate success of Catholic schools.
Please join us as we celebrate Catholic Schools Week! Our nation will celebrate Catholic Schools Week Jan. 27-Feb. 2. We will begin our celebration of Catholic Schools Week with the “Champions of Catholic Education” second collection at all Masses the weekend of Jan. 26-27. Thank you for your continued generosity!
I would also like to invite you to join us as we continue to celebrate Catholic schools throughout the week with art displays and performances from our schools. The Catholic Schools Week Arts and Music Festival will be held at Lakeside Shopping Center from Monday, Jan. 28, through Thursday, Jan. 31.
We will conclude our celebration with an all-schools Mass to give thanks for the gift of Catholic education on Friday, Feb. 1 at 10 a.m. at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Metairie.
Dr. RaeNell Houston is superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.