Story by Anne-Marie Cronin
The 46 elementary schools and one diocesan sponsored high school in the Diocese of Joliet have undergone a three year accreditation process to align with the National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools (National Catholic Standards). The National Catholic Standards give the entire Catholic community a common framework of Catholic Identity and agreed upon criteria for Catholic School excellence. The National Catholic Standards were developed by Loyola University, the School of Education, and the Center for Catholic School Effectiveness in conjunction with broad collaboration among Catholic educators across the nation.
“Essential to the mission of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Joliet is a renewed Catholic culture that begins with authentically Catholic teaching,” said Rev. John Belmonte, S.J., Ph.D., Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Joliet.
As part of the in-depth AdvancED accreditation process, a group of Catholic school superintendents, school administrators, and educators from around the country spent three days evaluating the Diocese of Joliet school system. In doing so, the AdvancED review team conducted more than 150 interviews including Bishop Conlon, Superintendent Belmonte, the Catholic Schools Office staff, board members, school marketing and development representatives, parents, students and principals. The evaluation team also made on-site visits to ten pre-selected schools.
Based on a thorough analysis, the AdvancED review team announced it will recommend accreditation for the Diocese of Joliet schools through AdvancED, http://www.advanc-ed.org/, the world’s largest third-party school accrediting agency. Their recommendation will be reviewed and acted upon by the national AdvancED Accreditation Commission this December.
“We stand in awe to your profound commitment of the entire school community to Catholic values and traditions,” said Dr. Mary Ann Keeley, Vice President of AdvancED in the Northeast USA and Canada.
The school system had an overall score of 308.05 vs. the network average of 278.34. Additionally, the system achieved scores above the national norm in all categories which include Teaching and Learning (291.43 vs. 268.94); Leadership Capacity (343.33 vs. 292.64); and Resource Utilization (298.75 vs. 283-86).
“This system-wide accreditation process has recognized our commitment to our mission and our emphasis on excellence in every aspect of our schools and especially on the authenticity of the Catholic teaching and practices within our schools. The importance we place on continuous improvement will ensure that we will strengthen Catholic mission and renew the Catholic culture of our schools,” said Belmonte.
In an effort to develop common language for school improvement, school leaders and a locally appointed AdvancED chair provided data for performance benchmarks that enabled the schools to evaluate, strengthen and sustain their school.
“We are pleased to have worked with AdvancED on this accreditation process and are confident that our schools, and ultimately our students, will benefit from a clear strategic path that will be in place for years to come,” said Madonna Turner, Assistant Superintendent for Accreditation and Planning, Catholic Schools Office, Diocese of Joliet.
Following accreditation from the AdvancED Accreditation Commission, the Catholic Schools Office will submit a progress report in two years to ensure that the school system continues to improve.