Monday, February 7, 2011

Alliance for Catholic Education at St. Joseph's

In a recent New York Times article benefactor Robert Altman, an investment banker and a deputy Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton, said: "he saw Catholic schools as one of the most cost-efficient options available to poor urban families seeking to raise well-educated children and good citizens. You only have to walk into one of these schools to see it — the values they instill."

So good to see my alma mater taking a lead in ensuring a future for Catholic primary education in the inner cities. The Alliance for Catholic Education at St. Joseph's was also featured in the Catholic Standard and Times.

St. Joseph's is the 16th ACE program in the nation. It's the first in Pennsylvania and among those most closely modeled after Notre Dame, according to the Rev. Daniel R.J. Joyce, a St. Joe's administrator who helped developed it.

"We looked at these programs and thought, 'That's a contribution we could make,' " said Joyce, noting his university trains teachers through its education department. "And it's . . . an important piece of the puzzle for Catholic schools in the city."

Years ago, he said, a lot of young people entered Catholic schools as teachers.

"But they were nuns, priests, and brothers," said Joyce, a Jesuit priest who is assistant to the vice president for mission and identity. "I think Notre Dame has caught onto something: This is the new way that can happen."

Alliance for Catholic Education places young teachers in needy schools.
By Martha Woodall

Inquirer Staff Writer

When Desmond Shannon was a student at the Gesu School in North Philadelphia, he thought students at that private Catholic elementary school had more homework than their teachers.

Thanks to a new, local program that trains young college graduates to teach at inner-city Catholic schools, Shannon, 22, now knows better.

"I see the other side," said Shannon, who teaches 25 sixth graders at St. Rose of Lima Catholic elementary school in West Philadelphia and spends evenings grading their assignments and writing lesson plans. "Teachers have more homework than students."

After majoring in actuarial science at St. Joseph's University, Shannon expected to be crunching numbers for an insurance company. Instead, he joined 14 other 2010 college grads who signed up to teach at nine Catholic schools in Philadelphia through the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) at St. Joseph's.

St. Joseph's launched its version of the University of Notre Dame's successful ACE program in the summer with nearly $1 million in contributions from foundations and donors and support from the University of Pennsylvania.

Notre Dame's program, which was created in 1993-94, aims to provide a cadre of dedicated and academically accomplished young educators for Catholic schools just as Teach for America (TFA) trains teachers for public schools nationwide.

As is the case with Teach for America, ACE recruits high-achieving grads who did not major in education, trains them in summer, provides professional support, and sends them to graduate school so they have master's degrees in education at the end of their two years.

The tight economy and uncertain job prospects for 2010 grads helped St. Joe's fledgling program fill its openings with alums from across the country like Meghan Bliss, who received an undergraduate degree in American studies from Notre Dame.

Although Bliss always had wanted to be a teacher, she said she was really interested in earning her bachelor's degree from Notre Dame's respected program in American studies. The Missouri native applied to ACE in Philadelphia after being put on ACE's waiting list at Notre Dame.

"The Catholic education and community aspects of this program in particular were appealing to me," said Bliss, 22, who teaches third grade at St. Rose of Lima.

"Work needs to be done to improve urban education," she added. "I'm happy to be part of something that can fill that need."

All the fellows have pledged to serve two years and are working toward their master's degrees from St. Joseph's and state teaching certification. They also will receive leadership certificates from Penn's Robert A. Fox Leadership Program.

In contrast to TFA fellows who are paid the beginning-teacher rate of $44,039, ACE participants receive monthly stipends of about $1,000 for food and expenses. They live together at no cost in a former convent.

With Notre Dame focused on providing teachers for needy Catholic schools in the South and West, other Catholic universities have developed ACE programs in other parts of the country.

All stress the same three "pillars": teaching, community life, and spirituality.

"You don't have to be Catholic to do ACE, but there is an emphasis on spiritual growth," said John Staud, an administrator with Notre Dame's program, which has produced more than 1,200 Catholic educators.

"We feel it's an injection of talent and passion into a Catholic school system that is increasingly fragile in the inner cities," Staud said. "We're going to attract people interested in service and maybe the profession."

(click link for the entire article)

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