Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools Grow for First Time Since 1965 Excellence, Engagement and Energy Create Growth for Elementary Schools
Thursday, October 03, 2013
For the first time since 1965, Catholic elementary school enrollment across the
City of Chicago, suburban Cook and Lake counties is growing. Over the past four
years, Catholic elementary schools in the City of Chicago have increased by over
1,300 students, and now enrollment in the 207 elementary schools across the Archdiocese
is on the rise.
“It’s gratifying to see all the hard work in improving Catholic schools recognized
in increased enrollment,” remarked Francis Cardinal George, OMI, Archbishop of Chicago.
“For nearly 50 years there has been a story of declining student enrollment in our
Catholic schools, and my hope in achieving this milestone of growth is to continue
rewriting the script for our Catholic school families and our Church,” states Sr.
M. Paul McCaughey, Superintendent of Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools. “Bringing
faith, focus and achievement to more families is the result of a commitment to excellence,
engagement and energy.”
Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools continue demonstrating academic excellence
in the classroom, which is a primary factor in families’ decisions to enroll in
all schools. Several metrics attest to this excellence -
attendance rates above 96%,
high school graduation rate above 98%, and strong performance on standardized
All Catholic school 3rd, 5th and 7th graders take the nationally-normed Terra Nova
tests and their
2013 results outperformed the national percentile in every testing category.
Seventh graders broke into the 80th percentile this Spring for the first time, and
206 of 207 schools score above the national average. Added to these results is a
multi-year system focus around improving reading scores at the third grade level,
and math scores at the seventh grade level.
On the ACT, the average for the 5,747 Catholic high school students who took the
test in 2013
showed gains in nearly every testing area and in the composite score. The
average composite score for Catholic high school students in the Archdiocese is
23.1; all scores continue to be well above the average for the State of Illinois
and the Nation.
Continuous improvement of student achievement is a central objective of the recently
Strategic Plan for Catholic Schools and a major aspect of the case for supporting
the $350 Million To Teach Who Christ Is
“Preparing young people for college and for life is not just a mantra, it is a hard-working,
prayerful reality in our Catholic elementary and high schools,” said Sr. Mary Paul.
“While we are proud of the 2013 Terra Nova and ACT performance and other measures,
the schools are positioned for continual improvement.”
The growth that is now occurring begins with the leadership of school principals,
working with their faculty, staff and enrollment teams. At each of the 207 Catholic
elementary schools across the Archdiocese, a combination of Parent Ambassadors,
pastors, board, committee and community members are focusing on engaging more and
more families. There is a growing sense of the Catholic school value proposition
of partnering with parents to help them raise children who are faith-filled, focused
and achieving to the best of their abilities.
Beyond the school walls, a number of strategic support measures are gaining momentum
in addressing affordability issues for families. Through the generosity of an anonymous
donor, the Office of Catholic Schools is offering the Caritas Scholars program,
a $2 million pilot financial aid initiative for Catholic school families. Created
specifically to support families who share an appreciation for the benefits and
values of a Catholic school education, but need financial assistance to make the
dream a possibility, the Caritas scholarship provides up to 50 percent of a new
student’s tuition. This pilot program is paving the way for the $150 million scholarship
fund called for in the To Teach Who Christ
Cardinal's Emergency Fund
The Cardinal's Scholarship Fund provides immediate emergency assistance to parents
that are struggling to keep their children in Catholic schools. In the brief history
of the Fund, over 500 scholarships have been awarded.
Big Shoulders Access Scholarships
The Big Shoulders Fund provided additional Access Scholarships for Chicago Public
School students who transition to one of the Catholic schools they support. This
recent and appreciated commitment is in addition to the $12 to $14 million in annual
support the Big Shoulders Fund provides to 90 Catholic schools in Chicago. Big Shoulders
also assisted with marketing in many of the schools.
Through a higher level of engagement, both at the ground level and from external
support, Catholic schools are focused on providing any family who seeks a Catholic
education with opportunities to realize that vision for their children.
“We have seen extraordinary efforts on the part of families, parishes and donors
who have contributed to these results, which are also made possible by the commitment
of our school administrators, teachers and volunteers working with our students
and families,” notes Sr. M. Paul.
As important as excellence and engagement are for this upswing, it is the combined
energy of everyone that is bringing this grace forward. From the young parents who
care deeply about where their child learns and grows to Cardinal George’s long term
school commitment in seeing them as “centers of learning in a community of love.”
For Catholic schools from the Chain of Lakes of Northwest Lake County to those in
Chicago’s Pilsen/Little Village and South of I-80 in Cook County, there has been
intense work at the local levels, marked by a truly lively effort filled with deep
welcome for all who are invested in the schools. For anyone interested in lending
their support, The Teach Who Christ Is
Campaign aims to continue the momentum and ensure that growth continues.
“I think growth is a grace,” says Sister Mary Paul, “We cooperate with God's grace
in continuing to grow as students and as persons of service. Whether that's for
the young people or the slightly older people who serve them, that's what energizes
our schools. It's in the air.”