This past fall, I gave a “State of the Schools” presentation to the Board of Directors and our Trustees. It was an optimistic look at our last five years and a hopeful look to the future. This practice is a good compliment to the continuous school improvement efforts we undertake each year in which we reflect on our schools and ask “how can we get better.”
The following is a look at some of the things we have accomplished and for which we can all be proud. These are each indicators of success, and collectively, they help demonstrate the true value of a Catholic education in educating the whole person: spiritually, academically, physically, and socially.
Four Star Recognition
Five years ago we had only one school that had achieved a Four Star rating from the Indiana Department of Education. Last year we had all four of our schools achieve this recognition, in addition to also being “A” rated, and we continue to push academic excellence as one of the pillars of our mission.
Central Catholic has one of the top academic programs in the state as measured by college attendance and college readiness. Over the past five years, over 91% of Central Catholic graduates attended college. (Indiana Commission for Higher Education: College Readiness Report) This is the highest average in Tippecanoe County. New efforts are underway at CC to work with students as early as 7th grade to plan for college and career, making school align with each child’s interests and gifts. This process starts in the LCSS grade schools by setting the expectation that continuing one’s education beyond high school is a goal for all students.
Central Catholic graduates are the most prepared graduates in all of Tippecanoe County as measured by the percentage of students that are required to take a Math or Language Arts remediation courses in college. Only 7% of Central Catholic college-bound students were required to take one of these remediation courses. The state average for college-bound students is 23%, and the local average is over 18%. Additionally, Central Catholic students attending college on average earn over 27 credit hours in their freshman year and receive an average GPA of 3.0, with over 90% matriculating into their sophomore year of college. This makes Central Catholic one of the top performers in the entire state of Indiana. (Indiana Commission for Higher Education: College Readiness Report)
Standardized Test Scores
All four LCSS schools perform in the top 10% of the schools in the state for the ISTEP test in most years. In fact, in some years LCSS schools perform in the top 5%. This past year Central Catholic grade 10 had the 3rd highest pass rates in the state in the combined Math and Language Arts out of 736 high schools. This passage rate was nearly 15% points higher than any other high school in Tippecanoe County. (IDOE)
Formation of the Faith and Conscience
All Catholic schools promote the fundamental belief that parents are the first and primary educators and that the school is an important partner with the parents in this effort. There is no one thing that, by itself, forms the faith and a “well-formed” conscience, but Catholic schools do many things in cooperation with the parents that public schools do not, and which the religious education programs cannot fully substitute. For example, an LCSS student that graduates from Central Catholic will have attended weekly mass up to 468 times more than his or her public school peer, attended at least 11 more retreats, participated in group prayer approximately 14,000 more times, and been taught the faith in the classroom for over 1,500 hours more – even if that public school peer attended every year of religious education from age 5 to age 18. These are metrics that are easy to see and which help differentiate LCSS from other options.
However, there are many more subtle things including promoting a Christian Worldview in every class, symbols of faith throughout the buildings, and teachers and coaches that help promote a community of faith. In fact, all this adds up to some very important adult habits. In national studies, Catholic school students are shown to be more likely to pray daily, attend church more often, retain a Catholic identity as an adult, and donate more to the Church. (Sanders, 2001, p. 9)
Teacher Retention and Recruitment
In nearly every survey over the past five years, parents have listed teacher retention and recruitment as a top priority, listing teacher salaries as a key component of this effort. This led to the development of a strategic goal to meet 85% of average teacher pay of the Lafayette School Corporation (LSC). This would be an increase of over 10 percentage points. In the past five years we have made some respectable progress by increasing teacher salaries by 17.8% while inflation only increased by 4.6% over the same period. As a result, average teacher pay has risen to nearly 90% of what those teachers would otherwise earn if they went to work for the Lafayette School Corporation. Our current goal is to continue to narrow the gap of pay between LCSS and LSC. Additionally, teacher retention has continued to improve in recent years with our retention being similar to that of local public schools. Teacher retention and recruitment remains one of our top priorities with teachers salaries as one of our budget’s biggest and most important components.
The Catholic faith is a global religion with over 1.2 billion people around the world. Over 55% of those are in Latin America and Africa. It is important that our schools reflect the diversity of our community and the diversity of our faith. Diversity also helps foster intercultural competence among our youth. This competency is important to our student’s future college and career success, and it is also important to the ministry of the Church. Five years ago, our schools lacked some of the same diversity found in our parishes. Today, our diversity more closely reflects our parishes and Tippecanoe County.
We are in our 2nd full year of operating preschools at both St. Lawrence and St. Mary. We have grown the program to over 100 students with a strong waiting list.
Since we are at capacity, we are looking to expand the programs and are hopeful that our Vision 2030 initiatives will provide us with the much-needed funds to help expand this program. Teachers continue to report that children that attend these preschool programs are more emotionally ready for school and more prepared academically.
LCSS understands that parents have a number of choices when choosing a school for their children, and therefore, we promote a unique approach to education that works to use data collected from teachers, students, and parents as well as standardized tests to create a differentiated learning environment designed to help match learning needs and strengths with the student’s passion.
This approach emphasizes the whole person: spiritually, socially, physically and academically. At Central Catholic, students are evaluated in 7th grade to determine interests and strengths so as to match each student with the right courses to help set them on a path to be successful in college, career and life.
Additionally, each student is placed in a “10:10” group where the teacher can focus more time on the spiritual, social and emotional needs of each student, and each student is more likely to feel “truly known” in the school. LCSS continues to invest in resources and training to ensure we are providing a value to students and parents that is unmatched.