Close to 85,000 students of Catholic schools in Cook and Lake counties returned for the 2014-2015 academic year that brings new programs, expansions, collaborations and celebrations with it. This year marks year two of the archdiocese’s Office for Catholic Schools’ strategic plan, which addresses six core goals for the Catholic school system: Catholicity, academics, leadership, operations, Office of Catholic Schools reorganization and funding. It is also year two of the AdvancED system-wide accreditation. The accreditation designed for Catholic school systems aligns the schools with both the AdvancED Standards and the recently published National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools. In April 2015, a team of outside evaluators will begin the accreditation process by conducting site visits and analysis of archdiocesan schools. The external review is a rigorous process that includes interviews with stakeholders and observations of instruction, learning and operations. The outside evaluators will continue visiting local Catholic schools over the next three years. At the conclusion of the review, all of the schools under the governance of the archdiocese’s school system will be awarded Systems Accreditation. ACT scores continue to rise For the fourth consecutive year, Catholic high school students in the Archdiocese of Chicago demonstrated gains in the overall score and in nearly every subject area of the ACT test. The average composite score for Catholic high school students in the archdiocese is 23.3, which is 2.6 points above the State of Illinois’ average. It is also a 0.2 point improvement over students’ performance last year. While the state composite score has declined by 0.2 points over the past four years, Catholic school students have exhibited steady improvement in their composite scores with 0.6 point increase over the same four-year period. Across the board, Catholic high school students’ scores continue to be significantly above the average for the State of Illinois and the United States. Catholic high school students demonstrated significant gains in English, improving from 23.5 to a score of 24.1 to outpace the State average by 3.8 points. Math scores remained stable at 22.3 and are 1.6 points ahead of the State. Science scores outperform the State average by 2.1 points and Reading scores are above the State average by 2.5 points. While Catholic high schools position their students for academic success, the emphasis is on work ethic, service, critical thinking, leadership skills and a solid moral foundation. Ninety-eight percent of Catholic high school students graduate from high school and ninety-five percent attend college after graduation. Dominican Sister Mary Paul McCaughey, superintendent of the Catholic schools of the Archdiocese of Chicago, takes pride in the success of Catholic high school students. “This growth reflects our high schools’ commitment to strong teaching and learning in a Catholic culture of excellence. Test scores do not say everything, but they do speak to strong parental, teacher, and student expectations,” she said. The archdiocese’s Catholic schools serve close to 85,000 students in 247 schools across the City of Chicago, and Cook and Lake counties. It is the United States’ largest private school system and the recipient of the most U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon Awards of any other system. St. Clement parishioners make a difference at St. Margaret of Scotland St. Margaret of Scotland experienced record enrollment growth and began collaboration with St. Clement Parish in Lakeview. With the impact of new leadership, an updated curriculum and innovative programming, St. Margaret of Scotland School, 9833 S. Throop St., is set to experience significant growth for the first time in over 10 years. Due to the high demand for an excellent faith-based education, St. Margaret will be opening a second preschool classroom among their recently renovated classrooms. Enrollment is projected to hit 240 students, representing an increase of about 90 students. Another change for the 2014-2015 school year is a new partnership with St. Clement Parish and St. Clement School, 2524 N. Orchard St. Collaboration includes scholarship funding, teacher partnership, service projects and mentoring opportunities. Kevin Powers, principal of St. Margaret of Scotland School, will work closely with St. Clement’s principal, Melissa Dan, on professional development opportunities and curriculum advancement. St. Clement Parish has also pledged financial support in the form of scholarships for over 80 St. Margaret students and in August, 50 volunteers from the parish worked on capital improvements around the St. Margaret school facility. “It is truly a remarkable time in the history of St. Margaret of Scotland School. Our enrollment growth coupled with new programming and opportunities for our students puts us in a fantastic position,” Powers said. “We are looking forward to the school year and the new partnership with St. Clement Parish, who will be providing not only financial support, but also academic support that will enhance our overall programming.” New Chromebooks at St. Francis de Sales High School Through the support of the Big Shoulders Fund, every student and faculty member at St. Francis De Sales High School received a Chromebook computing device to enhance student achievement. The Chromebooks provided by Big Shoulders will be used as learning tools, giving students access to advanced educational applications and content, and connecting students and teachers digitally even when classroom time is over. “St. Francis is thrilled to have this opportunity to provide our students with state-of-the-art tools that will help them perform better in the classroom and be better prepared for college. Big Shoulders’ generosity will make an immediate impact for every student by extending their learning both in and outside the classroom,” said Gabby Lynch, director of technology at St. Francis. The Big Shoulders Fund serves and supports students in Catholic schools throughout the city of Chicago. Big Shoulders is also a significant external funder for St. Francis. “St. Francis de Sales plays a unique role as the only Catholic co-educational high school serving Chicago’s Southeast Side. The school and its families are important to Big Shoulders, and we look forward to continuing our support for the school and its mission. We also look forward to collaborating with school leadership and the Archdiocese of Chicago to further improve the school,” said Josh Hale, Big Shoulders Fund president and CEO. Christ Our Savior sets off on year two of Blended Learning Christ our Savior School in South Holland launched year two of their successful Blended Learning Program. In this model, students rotate between individualized lessons in the technology center and direct instruction with teachers in a traditional classroom setting. Students absorb new online material at their own pace and revisit difficult concepts later. Students continue the learning process by using online programs accessible in their own homes. Technology is blended into the daily curriculum to enhance individual learning styles. The lab, then, allows teachers to collect data that helps them tailor their teaching styles to the needs of the individual students. The Blended Learning Program has been highly successful in allowing individualized instruction, improving student engagement and increasing parental involvement at home. Josephinum receives $60,000 for student scholarships Josephinum Academy received a $60,000 grant from the AT&T Foundation to support student scholarships for this past summer’s inaugural Summer Bridge and Enrichment Programs. The Summer Bridge Program gave incoming freshmen a jumpstart on high school and the chance to participate in educational field trips, team building activities and academic courses. For returning students in grades 10-12, the Summer Enrichment Program provided student internships and college visits. St. Mary of the Lake School receives $50,000 Stenning grant St. Mary of the Lake School, 1026 W. Buena, received a grant of $50,000 from The Stenning, a Chicago foundation, to update their computer facilities and expand academic and cultural programming. The basis of the award was the high academic testing of their children cross-referenced with the modest circumstances of their families.