Catholic University Life Cycle Institute Launches Catholic Schools Project
24 October 1995
new project by The Catholic University of America's Life Cycle Institute seeks to prepare Catholic schools for 21st-century challenges through a comprehensive policy study, a series of national meetings on Catholic schools' role, and a conference tapping expertise from across the nation.
The project will culminate in establishment of a Center for the Study of Catholic Schools. Dioceses, parishes and schools can use this resource to answer questions on issues, including financing and educational policy.
The Life Cycle Institute in October secured a $556,133 grant from the Lilly Endowment for the project, to be directed by a team of Catholic University faculty.
James Youniss, Life Cycle Institute director, said the project's goal is to help Catholic schools remain fiscally sound and competitive in the face of challenges such as mounting costs, declining enrollments and a shift of the Catholic population from cities to suburbs. Catholic schools are facing a period of tremendous change,Youniss said. "We hope that by collecting hard data and bringing in expertise from scholars across the country, we can help lay out scenarios for the future."
The first part of the project will assess the current state of elementary and high schools, studying aspects like who attends these schools now and who is likely to in the future. Issues will include the growing percentage of non- Catholic minority students and an expected increase in Hispanic students due to immigration.
The study will also explore the preparation of teachers and reasons parents choose Catholic schools, pupil costs, financing, governance models, the quality of religious instruction, and Catholic identity. "A major strength is that parents still choose Catholic schools to give their children good academic and moral educations," Youniss said.
After data are gathered, results will be shared with experts who have a special knowledge and interest in Catholic education. A conference at Catholic University during summer 1997 will bring together a wide range of perspectives.
A third part of the project involves a series of national conversations at which the role of Catholic schools in the 21st century will be discussed in cities throughout the United States. These meetings will include conversations with other private and public schools and focus on the common mission to improve American education.
Finally, a Center for the Study of Catholic Schools will be formed at Catholic University. The center will conduct academic research on issues such as improving teacher training, curriculum and school morale. It will also gather, disseminate and offer hard data to school systems on questions about opening or closing schools, consolidating schools, raising money and other critical decisions,Youniss said.
The Catholic schools project exemplifies the university's mission of service to the Catholic Church,Youniss noted. The university has a tradition of preparing Catholic education leaders and school professionals.
The project will be led by Youniss, professor of psychology; David P. Baker, associate professor of sociology; John Convey, professor of education; and the Rev. Carl L. Pieber, director of diocesan relations. Work on the project will begin in January.
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Revised: 27 October 1997
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