Using Trip Steps to Guide Instructional Reading Time

The following blog was contributed by a team of authors from Renaissance: Dr. Gene Kerns, Vice President and Chief Academic Officer; Dr. Jan Bryan, Vice President and National Education Officer; and Julianne Robar, Educational Content Program Manager.

To view the full article on Reading Trip Steps, click here. You can also learn more about Reading and Math Trip Steps in the NCEA webinar, Mastering Challenging Reading and Math Skills and the NCEA podcast, Trip Steps for Reading and Math.

In education, we often describe learning as a staircase, with each skill being slightly more difficult than the one before it. While this is generally accurate, students occasionally encounter a skill that is significantly more difficult than the prior skill, and these “Trip Steps” may cause a stumble in learning.

Focus Skills, a free resource from Renaissance, are the essential reading and math skills at each grade level that are also important prerequisites for future learning—the skills that students must master in order to progress. While all Focus Skills are essential, Trip Steps are more difficult, and critical, for students to learn than others.

Knowing which reading and math skills are most difficult for students to learn at grade level is valuable information for planning instruction. Trip Steps also support the important work of learning recovery, by helping educators identify essential yet challenging skills from prior grades that students may have missed. Trip Steps for Reading tend to span many grades within each skill area. For example, the Trip Steps for Main Idea and Details span grades 2–10. The Author’s Purpose and Perspective has Trip Steps spread across grades 2, 7, and 10. Looking at the list, it’s clear how these skills build on one another and require increasingly sophisticated levels of analysis.

What sets reading apart is how students must operationalize skills they’ve learned through all the genres they encounter. Reading a novel is different from reading a poem, an essay, a persuasive piece, or a newspaper article. The Trip Steps in the Conventions and Range of Reading skill area highlight the difference between reading literary texts and informational texts. This begins in grade 1 with the Trip Step, Understand the general differences among various print and digital materials (e.g., storybooks, fairy tales, informational books, newspapers, websites).

Grade 1 typically has the most reading Focus Skills, so it’s not surprising to see the large number of reading Trip Steps in kindergarten and grade 1. Students build important foundational skills at these grade levels, particularly for decoding. The skill areas we see here include Phonemes, Vowel Sounds, and Consonants, Blends, and Digraphs. Some early reading Trip Steps are extraordinarily difficult. For example, consider the kindergarten Trip Step for Vowel Sounds: Distinguish between similarly spelled words by identifying the sounds of the vowels that differ (e.g., pick the word that has the /a/ sound: cat, cot, cut.) Using the empirical difficulty data from Renaissance Star Assessments, we see this skill is roughly two grade levels ahead of kindergarten. But because it’s a prerequisite skill, it’s taught in kindergarten, not second grade. Even though it’s a difficult skill for kindergarteners to learn, it’s essential to their progression—which is the very definition of a Trip Step.

It may seem surprising to see only one reading Trip Step for grade 3, given the many policies around third-grade proficiency. Remember that high-stakes grade 3 tests assess students’ reading development through grade 3, not just in grade 3, including all the critical decoding skills in kindergarten and grade 1.

Once students have learned the mechanics of reading, daily independent reading is essential for building background knowledge and vocabulary and developing the stamina to read the long and complex informational texts they’ll encounter in college and career. In middle and high school, there’s a massive shift in complexity and in how students are asked to interact with texts. They’re making inferences, analyzing figurative language, evaluating arguments and evidence, and drawing conclusions. 

Looking at grade 7 Trip Steps, you’ll see that the skill areas deal with author’s purpose, author’s word choice, connotation, cause and effect, etc., and the skills begin with words like “Interpret,” “Analyze,” “Explain,” and “Draw conclusions.” This is not something that comes naturally to many 12- and 13-year-olds. The Trip Steps for middle and high school highlight the equally important role of teacher-led instructional reading practice in helping students to learn these challenging and more abstract skills. So how might teachers and administrators use Trip Steps for Reading? We suggest that grade-level teams plan instruction and share resources, focus on prerequisite skills and student motivation, and frequently check for understanding.

Trip Steps provide a tool for prioritization, a way to “zoom in” on the Focus Skills that will likely require the most instructional time, the most support, and the most student practice. Share the list of Trip Steps with teachers and instructional specialists. Ask them to find quality resources, lesson plans, and instructional tools for teaching students these necessary and challenging skills.

Four Ways Professional Development Can Immediately Benefit Teachers

Students today, more than ever, are relying on their teachers. The past two years have had a dramatic impact on some students who are still regaining lost learning time while simultaneously struggling to keep up with grade-level studies. This situation thrusts teachers directly into the spotlight, which means they need to be as prepared as possible to take on the heavy responsibility of accelerating the learning of their students.

How can Catholic schools best prepare their teachers? Through consistent, effective professional development (PD). As students grow more dependent on teachers to lead them out of the COVID learning gap, teachers in turn are counting on administrators to provide the support they need. Here are four ways that professional development benefits teachers—and, in turn, students and districts.

1. Enhancing Knowledge Base. The formula is simple: the more teachers learn, the more they know; the more teachers know, the more their students will learn. This knowledge isn’t limited to curriculum; rather, it encompasses the understanding and honing of education best practices, which can include how teachers can:

  • Better communicate with their students
  • Best and most effectively instruct children of multiple learning levels
  • Create relevant course instruction for their students
  • Consistently learn new education technology so they’re prepared to employ it in a timely fashion

While not the only topic of focus when it comes to broadening teachers’ knowledge bases, deepening their understanding of the specific subjects they teach remains critical. After all, students look to teachers as experts who know the answers to any questions students may ask. Professional development can help expand subject matter and curricular knowledge so teachers are prepared to provide answers and explanations to student inquiries.

Research by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences backs up this statement—it shows that student achievement can improve by as much as 21 percentile points as a result of teacher participation in effective, well-designed PD programs. The bottom line? Teachers who receive high-quality professional development on a consistent basis are better equipped with the tools they need to elevate their instruction and impact students in an even more positive way.

2. Better Organization and Planning. As mentioned, PD is not limited to curriculum and subject instruction. One area that effective professional development can truly benefit instructors is the development of improved planning and organizational skills. In addition to the hours spent each day in the classroom, a teacher’s responsibilities extend beyond the school walls through grading, student evaluation and a laundry list of other time-consuming paperwork. By learning new skills and techniques, teachers can become more efficient in their time management, evaluations, record-keeping and overall organization. With that extra time, teachers are then able to better focus on their students, which can result in more positive student outcomes in the classroom.

3. Satisfaction in Their Role (read: Retention). We don’t have to remind you of the shortage of teachers across the country. Districts everywhere are struggling with short staffs, which is often the result of teacher burnout. The past couple of years have placed a heavy burden on the shoulders of teachers, and the weight of the stress and expectations has taken its toll. Even before the COVID age, the teaching industry suffered from notoriously high turnover; many teachers never make it to five years before leaving to explore other career paths. Professional development can help reverse that trend.

Providing PD, especially to newer teachers who are more prone to leaving the field, demonstrates a district’s investment in them personally, which makes them feel more valued and supported. Once a teacher feels that trust and support from their district, they feel more confident in their position, they know they’ll get the knowledge they need to keep improving, and they are more prepared to stay where they are for the long term. Plus, professional development offers teachers a refreshing change of pace—it allows them to be the student and provides them the opportunity to absorb information rather than distribute it. This opportunity to learn keeps teachers engaged. And guess who benefits from an engaged, supported, confident teacher? You guessed it, the students.

4. Encouraging Collaboration. Though teachers are often in front of a classroom by themselves, teaching is far from a solo act. As teachers are generally in constant communication with others—parents, administrators, fellow instructors—collaboration is a critical component within the profession. Any reputable professional development program includes substantial opportunities for collaboration; once collaboration becomes ingrained in a teacher’s daily responsibilities, they can then begin to cultivate communities that encourage communication and teamwork while helping create positive change in their schools and districts.

High-quality professional development clearly makes an impact at many levels, however, PD is only valuable when schools follow up with consistent support. Teachers may finish their PD sessions full of new knowledge and skills and ready to make a difference but if schools aren’t assisting with the implementation of these new skills, any benefits from PD will be substantially diminished. It is imperative that schools offer their teachers support through regular feedback, coaching, training events, observations and evaluations. It requires time, patience and steady support from districts to ensure success.

Catapult Learning’s professional development builds instructor and leadership capacity by equipping Catholic school educators with research-based best practices that are designed to meet the needs of their schools and districts. Our PD experts work with your school or district leadership to create a customized professional development plan to fit your specific areas of opportunity. By focusing on five key areas—pedagogy and curriculum, student support, environment, leadership and assessment—Catapult can address the varying needs of schools and organizations and help promote behaviors intended to increase and successfully maintain student achievement.

Catapult Learning offers a wide range of professional development solutions, including:

For more information about Catapult Learning’s professional development solutions, download our professional learning solutions catalog or browse through our workshops.

The Critical Role of “Trip Steps” in Math Recovery

The following blog was contributed by Dr. Jan Bryan, Vice President and National Education Officer at Renaissance, and Julianne Robar, Educational Content Program Manager at Renaissance.

To view the full article on Math Trip Steps, click here. You can also learn more in the NCEA webinar, Mastering Challenging Reading and Math Skills.

If learning is a staircase, then all steps are not created equal. In math especially, some skills along the staircase are extraordinarily difficult for students to master. At Renaissance, we call these skills “Trip Steps“ because they can cause a stumble in learning, just as an extraordinarily tall step in a staircase can cause an awkward bit of climbing. Essentially, new skill + new process = potential for some students to “trip.” And Trip Steps have profound effects on future learning in math. Trip over one and you’re likely to trip over another.

Trip Steps and accelerated learning

The Focus Skills Resource Center, a free resource from Renaissance, identifies skills fundamental to student understanding at every grade level and across all domains of reading and mathematics, tied directly to each state’s learning standards. Some Focus Skills have also been identified as Trip Steps and can provide educators with a pathway to prioritize and plan more impactful learning experiences. This is especially important given the need to accelerate learning after academic disruptions. The challenge is illustrated by the Renaissance How Kids Are Performing report, which found that students across grades 2–8 ended the 2020–2021 school year 11 weeks behind expectations in math, on average.

Which skill area has the most Trip Steps?

Geometry & Measurement is the skill area with the most Trip Steps across grade levels, while Grades 4 and 5 have the most math Trip Steps. This reflects the shift in process complexity, as well as the transition in this grade range from Whole Numbers to Fractions. The table below shows the Trip Steps that exist in this critical transition, as well as provides further examples of important prerequisite relationships between skills.

Trip Steps and math recovery

Focus Skills and Trip Steps help educators focus on recovery and growth to accelerate learning. We suggest that teachers:

  • Review math Trip Steps for your grade level or course
  • Identify the prerequisite skills associated with each Trip Step
  • Plan with math colleagues and share resources, techniques, and expertise related to Trip Steps
  • Nurture positive mindsets by explaining to students that the skill may seem difficult, but, step-by-step, they can master it
  • Share strategic feedback with students
  • Assess student readiness for each Trip Step
  • Engage in just-in-time support as needed
  • Monitor developing mastery

Why research on Trip Steps continues

At Renaissance, we continue to look for relationships among Trip Steps, Focus Skills, how students are performing, and how they are really learning. There is always something more to learn, and there are always remarkable findings to share. To learn more about Focus Skills, and to see the most critical math and reading skills by grade level for each state, visit our Focus Skills Resource Center. To see a list of math Trip Steps that are also Focus Skills, click here. And to see the most urgent instructional needs this school year, download our report on How Kids Are Performing.

Navigating Grief in the Classroom

The following blog was contributed by Laura Wei, M.Ed., School Success Specialist at Friendzy.

Any educator who has taught during this pandemic understands the many challenges that surface throughout the school year – from handling changing learning models to the lack of digital resources, and more importantly, prioritizing the social-emotional well-being of students over academics. Back in 2020, I taught 5th grade in an auditorium with 27 students (there was not enough classroom space to accommodate social distancing). Every morning, students would walk in and sit in their designated seats which were a few seats away from their peers. They would scatter their materials on the floor beside their breakfast, take a deep breath, and try their best for another day of learning.

I had a student who I loved dearly. This was my second year teaching her, so I knew her and her family well. She became known as the student who was always the first to enter the classroom and greet all the teachers. And though she struggled in reading, she never let it discourage her and became one of my strongest discussion leaders.

When she didn’t show up for a couple of days, I became increasingly worried. I made a phone call and it was then I learned that her father had passed away suddenly from COVID-19. It was a family of 5 kids and the dad was the sole provider.

There was only one question that popped in my mind… What can I do to best support my grieving student and her family?

What is Grief? 

Grief is the normal and natural emotional reaction to loss or change of any kind. It is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern or behavior and can affect our mind, body, emotions, and spirit. (source)  

It is important to note that when students experience death, they may express their grieving outwardly (see pg. 8-9 for common responses to grief), and they may not. This distinction is critical as one should not assume another individual is not grieving just because we do not “see” a reaction. Everyone experiences grief differently and should be able to grieve at their own pace and in their own way.

How Children of Different Developmental Stages Understand Grief

K-2
  • Tend to think in concrete ways and can be confused by common explanations of death
    • For example, a five-year-old who was told that his father had gone “up in the sky” expressed his wish to become a pilot, so that he could visit him
  • Children’s belief that their own wishes can make things happen in the world might worry that a death is their fault
  • Might struggle with the idea that someone is gone “forever” and might ask when they will be coming back
  • May ask the same questions over again to seek understanding
3-5
  • Tend to think in concrete, literal ways and can have trouble understanding abstract concepts like “moved on”
  • Questions from this age group may sound insensitive, but are just them trying to make sense of what has happened
  • May also worry that they did something to cause a death
  • May feel a wide range of emotion and can even experience feelings physically – like frequent headaches or stomach aches
6-8
  • Since children develop at different rates, there can be a variation in how grief is expressed
  • Can understand that death is final and may feel overwhelmed by strong and often conflicting emotional reactions
  • May be fearful about showing emotions in front of others or being treated differently (make sure they are able to seek adults for support in a private way)
  • May feel isolated from non-grieving peers or worry that their way of grieving is “wrong”

General Tips for the Classroom

  1. This topic may trigger memories and sadness for some students. Notify school counselors and parents of discussion in advance, for additional support
  2. Monitor the temperature and temperament of the classroom during lessons and discussion. Take breaks to stretch, breathe and laugh as needed. I would recommend printing for all students the desk version of Friendzy’s daily check-in tool to help with this. Grief can come in unexpected waves and this tool allows students the space to share how they are feeling at any given point and also provides teachers valuable insight on the classroom dynamic. 
  3. Acknowledge and reinforce that it’s okay not to be okay. 
  4. Encourage students to encourage one another. For younger students, this could be a smile, a note or drawing or kind word. For older students consider walking through the “How can we show comfort to others?” 
  5. Give breaks as needed. This includes bathroom breaks, water breaks, and a designated calm space if possible. A calm space can include independent activities like coloring sheets and journaling printouts. Here are several Friendzy resources that could work for a calm space here: 

Doodle downloads: 

Hard Things Help Us Grow

Everything Will Be Alright 

Better Together 

I Miss You 

We Are In This Together

Friendship Comforts Fear

Peace Blooms From Gratitude

Feal to Deal

Additional Resources

How Catholic Educators Can Allocate Their EANS II Funding

Education is in fact the primary vehicle of integral human development, for it makes individuals free and responsible…The pandemic prevented many young people from attending school to the detriment of their personal and social development.” – Pope Francis, Address to the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, January 10, 2022

Whenever federal funds are made available to schools, questions inevitably follow. This article is intended to help Catholic schools determine how to spend their Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (EANS) allocations responsibly and effectively to help both students and teachers.

What Principals Should Consider Before Spending EANS II Funds

When contemplating how principals can effectively use their EANS II funding once it’s available, it is helpful to reflect on the last two years. The impact of COVID-19 has caused students across the globe to feel the effects of learning loss, coupled with an increase in behavioral issues, both of which teachers and school leaders have been trying to address in an increasingly stressful environment. Education leaders should seriously consider focusing their EANS funds on addressing these challenges:

  • Learning loss:  By using EANS II funds on targeted academic interventions as well as accelerated learning programs such as High-Dosage Tutoring, Catholic schools can not only address any learning loss that occurred throughout the pandemic, but they’re also able to expedite learning to close the achievement gaps and ensure students are where they need to be academically.
  • Behavior challenges: Individual and family counseling, as well as programs that focus on social-emotional learning (SEL) and health, are effective ways to provide support to students with behavioral challenges. These include conflict resolution skills, emotional regulation, empathy, and healthy lifestyle habits.
  • Teacher support and retention through professional development: In addition to providing instructional support and coaching on how to implement accelerated learning and differentiated instruction, professional development programs can assist teachers with social-emotional learning, trauma-informed practices, and cultural competence in the classroom—all especially relevant topics in today’s education landscape. Research indicates that teachers who participate in high quality professional development are more likely to persevere in their teaching careers.

How You Can Responsibly Spend Your Catholic Schools’ EANS Funds

While Catholic schools’ needs and priorities differ at an individual level, most schools are experiencing challenges like those mentioned above. EANS II funds can be used for a range of programs and services designed to resolve the issues of learning loss, behavioral disruptions, and teacher burnout. Every state and school will receive varying amounts of funding, but if you’re looking for ways to address COVID-induced academic and behavioral issues in the classroom, there are several programs from which most Catholic schools can greatly benefit through EANS funding. Among these are:

  • Coaching and Professional Development

Desired outcome: To support educators and promote behaviors intended to increase and maintain student achievement.

Now is the time to restart and reimagine school. Whether you’re looking to build teacher capacity within the classroom, help instructors grow through coaching, create a more positive classroom environment, increase the leadership capacity and empowerment of principals and administrators, or improve overall school outcomes, investing a portion of your EANS funding in professional development services and programs can pay dividends down the road.

How Catapult Learning can help: Through our research-based Professional Development and Coaching services, we can support your school communities in the most critical areas of need, all with a focus on creating equitable, rigorous, safe, and supportive learning environments that meet the needs of all learners. Consistent attention to these mission-critical components of Catholic school culture helps school communities thrive, grow, adapt, and succeed.

  • Social-Emotional Learning and Support

Desired outcome: To expand students’ 21st-century skills in critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and empathy—all necessary for success in college, careers, and beyond.

Social-emotional learning has taken on more importance and relevance than ever before and ensuring the emotional and mental well-being of your students and their families—especially during this pandemic age—is a top priority for Catholic schools across the country. Research shows that an education that promotes SEL positively impacts academic performance, healthy relationships, mental wellness, and more. Using a portion of your EANS funding on SEL programming can, therefore, make a significant difference in your classrooms and do so in a manner consistent with the goals and values of Catholic school education.

How Catapult Learning can help: Our SEL programming is based on the understanding that the best learning emerges because of supportive relationships that make learning challenging, engaging, and meaningful. Our programs and services, such as Counseling, Family Engagement, and Professional Development, teach students the critical skills they need for future success.

  •  High-Dosage Tutoring and Intervention

Desired outcome: To accelerate learning in literacy and math for all K-12 students through frequent, intensive, small-group or 1:1 instruction. Take advantage of the limited window to close the gap on student learning and bring them to appropriate grade level proficiency.

Perhaps the most urgent challenge is that COVID-19 has left millions of students behind in school academically, and the longer that learning gap remains unaddressed the more difficult it will be to close and get students back on track academically, socially, and emotionally.

Research has shown that intensive supplemental learning closes the learning gaps much more quickly than through simple remediation. Literacy and math intervention programs are an effective way to narrow those gaps. When coupled with a tutoring program, learning becomes even more efficient and effective.

How Catapult Learning can help: Our reading/literacy and math interventions and High-Dosage Tutoring programs use highly structured, intensive instruction in small groups to reinforce grade-level content and support struggling learners so they can quickly close learning gaps before they become unmanageable.

  • Summer Learning

Desired outcome: To address the academic, social, and emotional needs of your students and their families during the summer, through robust educational opportunities and engaging activities, while preparing them for the fall.

Summer learning programs are among the most effective ways to mitigate learning loss, so students are prepared to start the new school year on track. These programs offer parents the opportunity to keep their children engaged in school and to receive the academic, social, and emotional support that may otherwise not be available at a time when schools are closed.

How Catapult Learning can help: Our turnkey Summer Journey learning programs are designed not only to mitigate summer and COVID learning loss, but also to support students and their families throughout the summer months. Summer Journey incorporates elements such as SEL learning, STEM learning, literacy and math intervention, enrichment, and family support to create a holistic program that sets children up for success.

Perhaps most beneficial to schools is that all accelerated learning programs and the components—academic intervention, High-Dosage Tutoring, SEL learning, Professional Development and Coaching, and Summer Learning—can be tailored to your Catholic schools’ specific needs. This ensures that your EANS funding is addressing your schools’ particular areas of opportunity. Catapult Learning’s EANS funding experts are ready to assist you in getting the most out of your EANS dollars by addressing your school’s most critical needs and personalizing our services to fit those needs.

Sadlier Celebrates Catholic Schools

Celebrate Catholic Schools Week
An annual tradition since 1974, Catholic schools across the nation commemorate Celebrate Catholic Schools Week with celebrations, Masses, open houses, and activities for students, families, parishioners, and community members. These events showcase and celebrate the rich traditions and the incredible value of Catholic education on both a local and national level. Each year, Celebrate Catholic Schools Week is celebrated during the last week of January. This year, Celebrate Catholic Schools Week will be celebrated from January 30 through February 5, 2022.

Cause for Celebration
According to NCEA, there are nearly 6,000 Catholic schools nationwide. These schools—serving elementary, middle, and secondary school students—are located across all regions, giving many families the opportunity for accessible Catholic education, which has many benefits, including:

  • The integration of faith with academic subjects, culture, and everyday life
  • The emphasis of living out the faith as missionary disciples
  • Catholic virtues and values and Catholic Social Teaching, which contribute to productive citizenship and responsible leadership
  • An environment that encourages and nurtures prayer and is safe, welcoming, and supportive for children
  • A favorable student-to-teacher ratio
  • High graduation and college attendance rates
  • Teacher commitment.

Each year, Celebrate Catholic Schools Week has a theme. The theme for this year is Catholic Schools: Faith. Excellence. Service. Within the overarching theme for Celebrate Catholic Schools Week, there are also daily themes, focusing on a particular celebration.

Celebrating Your Parish on Sunday
On the opening day of Catholic Schools Week, many parishes devote a Mass to Catholic education. These celebrations show the connection between Catholic schools and parishes and reflect the support and guidance parishes provide. Families and catechists can prepare children and students for this Mass by reflecting with them on the support they witness through the assembly of school, Church, and community. Students can be reminded that Catholic school students, families, and supporters are gatherings all over the country as they are beginning Celebrate Catholic Schools Week at Mass in their own parishes!

Celebrating Your Community on Monday
On Monday, the daily theme focuses on service to the community. When students participate in school, parish, or community events, they have the opportunity to live out their faith and embody the values they are acquiring through their Catholic education, all the while helping to make the world a better place.

Celebrating Your Students on Tuesday
Help students understand their roles in Catholic education by recognizing their accomplishments. Consider a fun school-wide gathering that celebrates student or class achievements in relation to the theme of Catholic Schools: Faith. Excellence. Service. Bring to light the differences students can make as they learn in faith, strive for excellence, and serve in their schools, communities, and the world.

Celebrating the Nation on Wednesday
On Wednesday, the focus of Catholic Schools Week shifts from the local to the national level and provides an opportunity to express to government leaders the value and importance of Catholic education.

Celebrating Vocations on Thursday
On Thursday, a focus on vocations helps students recognize and use their God-given talents and be open to God’s call in their lives. Opportunities to reflect, with a focus on service and vocations, lets students consider and explore paths where they may use their gifts and talents to serve God and others.

Celebrating Faculty, Staff, and Volunteers on Friday
During Catholic Schools Week, Friday is an opportunity to show appreciation to the teachers, principals, administrators, and faculty who dedicate their time and talent to Catholic schools. A prayer of thanksgiving and a heartfelt “thank you” allows students to express their gratitude to those who have chosen to follow God’s call in the field of Catholic education.

Celebrating Families on Saturday
Catholic Schools Week concludes on Saturday with a focus on family. Families play active and vital roles in Catholic education. Families also provide a child’s first introduction to the faith and continued faith formation as the domestic Church. On Saturday, families are celebrated and appreciated for their love, faith, partnership, and example.

A Resource to Support Your Celebration
Let the Catholic Schools Week Daily Activity Guide help you incorporate daily themes suggestions into your observation of Celebrate Catholic Schools Week! With this resource, you can kick off Catholic Schools Week with a thematic opening prayer service and then find suggestions for focusing your celebrations on the daily themes throughout the week. Sadlier honors and celebrates Catholic Schools for their valuable work and contribution to the Church and the world.

By the Grace of the Holy Spirit: Working in Partnership with Parents

The following blog was contributed by Jodee Blanco, New York Times best-selling author and consultant.

It’s been a meaningful and extraordinary year. While we’ve been tested in ways that none of us, even at our most imaginative, could have ever anticipated, I’ve also seen the Holy Spirit at work in our Catholic schools more this year than any other.

Increase your chances of getting a positive reaction with these basic dating principles: Keep your distance and respect your personal space. They are easy to identify: an outstretched arm – in front, on the sides – a palm, behind – a distance about the height of a person. Therefore, the best option is to approach from the side, from the side where there is no handbag. Don’t yell at her. In extreme pictures of singles near me cases, you can catch up with her and try to talk.

Over the last two decades, I’ve had the honor of meeting many of you, either at convention, or because I visited your schools to do anti-bullying work. I’m always moved and inspired by how much you give of yourselves every day and the sacrifices you make for your students.

I know there were moments this year that that sacrifice seemed larger, yet you still kept going, guided by a light within that nothing could extinguish. I saw The Holy Spirit in action at every school that I visited. I saw it in the courage of superintendents who made tough decisions despite feeling like no matter what they did someone wouldn’t be happy; in the patience of principals who found joy in every day even when they were being pummeled by divisiveness in their communities. I saw it in the sense of humor of teachers who rather than giving into frustration, hunkered down and found new ways to connect with students. I saw it in the smiles of beleaguered, over-worked office secretaries who never lost their warmth or compassion, in the resolve of school nurses and counselors who refused to let anything, not even a pandemic, get in the way of their ability to serve. I saw The Holy Spirit smiling through all of you even when your hearts were heavy and I want to thank you for reminding me and everyone whose lives you touch, that with faith, we got this.

One of my greatest privileges when I’m on the road is being able to listen to your stories and learn about you, your schools and your needs. Almost all of you have had challenges with parents, and I thought this might be a good time, as we begin reflecting during the holiest of holidays, to offer some insights.

  • When A Person Is Scared, They Act Out.

If you can tell yourself that the parent who keeps testing your patience is driven by fear, a feeling of a lack of control and that it isn’t personal, it will help you to have compassion for them, the first and most important step in breaking down barriers.

  • Expectation Management Is Important for Building Trust.

To work effectively in partnership with a parent, everyone needs to be on the same page about communication and follow-up. For example, if you’ve come up with a plan of action together, discuss and agree upon a timeline for the implementation and be specific about what you expect of each other including how often you’ll update one another on progress and how. Then, document it in a concise memo that you can both work from moving forward. It’s best to bullet the action items and clearly indicate who’s doing what. The updates can be done a number of ways, but I think the most efficient is to simply add them to the original memo and highlight and date each new entry. The documentation process will make the parent feel more in control and provide a guidepost for you and them.

  • What To Do If a Parent or Group of Parents Are Using Social Media Platforms in Ways That Are Hurtful or Unproductive.

Do not engage the parent publicly online as this is only likely to accelerate the issue.  Instead, message them privately, acknowledge that you hear how upset they are, and suggest talking things through over the phone or in person/via Zoom. When you do have that conversation, don’t interrupt or become defensive. Listen and then share your honest thoughts. Often, just letting someone talk and feel heard will dissipate enough of the tension to redirect the dialogue in a more positive direction. 

  • The Ongoing Importance of Self-Care. 

Be good to yourself.  Reward yourself. Make time for the things that bring you joy and refresh and rejuvenate your spirit. The more you treat yourself with patience, compassion and love, the more you’ll have to give at school. Self-care isn’t an indulgence; it’s an act of wisdom.


About the Author

Jodee Blanco is the author of the seminal New York Times bestseller Please Stop Laughing at Me and anti-bullying’s first voice. Dioceses turn to her regularly for professional development and to implement her anti-bullying program in their schools. Jodee is the author of a series of books for the NCEA and a content provider for The Andrew M. Greeley Center for Catholic Education at Loyola University in the areas of anti-bullying and governance. She also consults for schools and dioceses on enlightened parent communication practices and Catholic values-based crisis management. For more information, please visit: https://www.jodeeblanco.com/catholic-schools/.


Jodee’s Publications with NCEA:

Laudato Si’ Action Platform Launches with Leadership from NCEA

The following blog was contributed by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

On the World Day of Prayer for the Poor, November 14, the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development launched the next phase of the Laudato Si’ Action Platform. NCEA has played a key role in its development as a member of the Ecological Education working group.

There are several options for starting a business in the States. The first two are designed for foreigners, and the third, rather, for residents. Let’s talk briefly about each of them. If for woodworking business the last three years you have been holding the position of a manager (top manager, leading specialist) of a successfully operating commercial enterprise for more than a year and you have subordinates, you can get a nonimmigrant work visa. This is called a multinational executive transfer. It is issued for 5 or 7 years. But keep in mind that your American company is required to do business similar to that which you have done so successfully in your home country. Perhaps the most expensive business opening in the United States. Investor visas (E-2, EB-5) are not available to everyone, but only to citizens of those countries with which the United States has an agreement. Among them are Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, etc. (Russia is not included in this list). A complete list can be found here. The amount of investment is not officially regulated and is considered separately in each specific case, but usually it is from $ 100,000 to $ 500,000 minimum. You can buy both a turnkey business and a franchise.

The Laudato Si’ Action Platform is a key Vatican initiative to empower the universal Church to achieve total sustainability in the holistic spirit of integral ecology. The human family faces increasing risks of hunger, disease, migration and conflict due to climate change and environmental degradation, unfortunately, the most vulnerable suffer above all.

The Laudato Si’ Action Platform provides practical tools to address this socio-ecological crisis. By committing to creating a Laudato Si’ Plan, NCEA members can access free resources to evaluate where they stand on the road to sustainability, reflect on the principles of integral ecology and make a plan to take action.

Over the past year, NCEA has helped shape both the model and the content for this program. Through deep and sustained conversations with the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and a global network of partners, the Holy Spirit has created a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts, a shared space for action that offers new momentum to urgently address our socio-ecological crisis.

We invite you and all members of the universal Church to join us and the Vatican on this Laudato Si’ journey. Find out more at www.laudatosiactionplatform.org

How Catholic Schools are Strategizing to Address Learning Loss

The following blog was contributed by FACTS Education Solutions in Lincoln, NE.

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With the recent pandemic shining a bright light on increased, evolving student needs in the areas of literacy, mathematics, and social-emotional learning/educating the whole child, educators know how critical it is to have access to tools and resources that support the health, wellness, and academic achievement of everyone within their school community.

While administrators and leaders find themselves stretched-thin managing the continued and ever-changing challenges brought on by COVID, they have also been blessed with the largest financial opportunity in history to invest in their teachers through relief funding sources like ESSER and EANS. So, just what are Catholic schools across the country doing with these funds – and Title II-A funds – to maximize use and effectiveness to address needs across all levels of PK-12 education?

In the summer of 2021, teachers at three schools in Miami, Florida – Immaculata – La Salle High School, St. John Neumann High School, and St. Bonaventure Catholic School – outlined strategic professional development plans, starting with an intensive review of their current curriculums. Grade level teams and departments dedicated one to two weeks to the process, with an initial review and realignment of standards, to focus instruction on learning loss. With guidance and support from FACTS Ed onsite and virtual content experts, the schools will continue their work through 2023 to monitor progress, review data, and brainstorm additional solutions. Ongoing collaboration – through PD sessions, webinars, pop-up coaching, PLCs, and department meetings – is designed to ensure teachers and leaders are supported and successful throughout all stages of planning, redevelopment, and implementation. (As a bonus, teachers were eligible to receive stipends for their summer work!)

Alishea Jurado, Ed.D., dean of innovation from Immaculata – La Salle High School shared about their school’s strategy:

“FACTS Ed was instrumental in helping us develop a PD program targeting the specific needs of our teachers in preparing to return to school for the 2021-2022 school year. Working together, we developed Curriculum Realignment Week, a week in the summer where teachers met within both their department and grade-level groups to reevaluate curriculum to support students returning from virtual and hybrid learning. In addition, we were able to focus even more on intentionally embedding SEL activities into curriculum to help support our students. Teachers who participated in this PD opportunity shared they felt more prepared to start the next school year in comparison to other years, left with practical ideas, strategies, and tools to implement, deepened their relationships with their colleagues, and they felt better prepared to meet the social-emotional needs of their students.”

We know that outlining a strategic/PD plan can be time consuming, so other schools like Immaculata – La Salle High School are using FACTS Ed’s customizable PD packages as the launch point for the process. Because research shows that professional development training should be at least fourteen (14) hours to influence instruction, the packages (see examples listed below) offer flexible solutions that allow leaders to select the delivery model(s) (onsite, virtual, on-demand, coaching, etc.) and schedule(s) that best meet their needs (we facilitated remote and on-demand PD sessions to over 24,000 educators throughout the pandemic). Our network of expert facilitators and valuable partners like Kognito (SEL), LMU iDEAL (Blended Learning/STEM), help us to maintain exceptional Net Promotor Scores and remain hyper-focused on our mission: to change the trajectory of a child’s life.

Sample Packages:

  • Addressing Learning Loss
  • Curriculum Implementation
  • Redevelopment of Instructional Plans
  • Social Emotional Learning and Trauma-Informed Instruction (Kognito)
  • System-or School-wide Programs (LMU iDeal: Blended Learning-STEM)
  • Teacher and Leader Formation
  • Understanding Data and Using it to Improve Teaching and Learning

Visit FACTS Ed’s Professional Development page to learn more.

Growing Leadership in Catholic Schools

The following blog was contributed by Kathy Mears of the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA).

Leaders come in all shapes and sizes and from all types of backgrounds. In Catholic education, we are seeking diversity. We are seeking leaders who look more like the students we are serving.

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As the immigrants who came from Western Europe discovered in the 1800’s, this vast country of ours holds much promise and hope. Now as we welcome those from Central and South America, Asia and Europe, Catholics in the United States understand that our Church will be enriched and grow because of our fellow disciples from around the world. 

Identifying and supporting new leaders is something NCEA takes very seriously.  Working with the University of Notre Dame, NCEA is a part of LEAD: Latino Educator and Administrator Development program. The goal of LEAD is to strengthen the Latino voice in both individual classrooms and schools. This initiative is designed to invite, advance and retain Latino educators in Catholic schools, as well as develop a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges that exist in this landscape.

This past week, I was invited to participate in the project and to meet in person members of our first cohort. I was so inspired by their dedication to their students, to our faith and the Church. Their desire to lead in our classrooms and schools was strong and gave me much hope for the future of Catholic education because the passion and love that they showed for the work ahead.

Students in our schools deserve to learn from people who look like them. They need to know that all people have opportunities to serve and lead and that people who look like them are leaders, are teachers, are principals, are disciples of Jesus. 

NCEA is committed to support and to help develop the skills, knowledge and talents of all people who want to serve God by serving others in our Catholic schools. We know that there is much work and the laborers are few, but we know that as people who are passionate about children and our faith step forward, we will be successful in developing our students into saints and scholars.