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Catholic Identity

Catholic identity is a complex topic, whether for Catholic schools or universities. Exploring how it could be defined and how this matters for the experience of students in Catholic schools and universities could be the focus of a website in and by itself. How Catholic identity is lived also depends on context, and thereby on the country.
There is no universal agreement on what Catholic identity should entail for schools and universities. On this website, we do not endorse any particular view in that regard. As a service to readers, we simply provide links to resources including benchmarking tools. Benchmarking typically involves (1) defining "standards" or factors leading to success based on a review of the literature; (2) designing tools to measure how well an education systems or individual schools are performing along those standards; and (3) providing assessments and, even more importantly,  practical suggestions for improvement. Various benchmarking tools mentioned on this page may differ in their approach to Catholic identity.
Kids in Church
This page provides links to benchmarking tools for Catholic schools and universities, with a focus on Catholic identity. Three types of resources are provided: (1) Resources from the United States for Catholic K12 Schools; (2) Resources from the United States for Catholic universities; and (3) Other resources. Separately, we also provide tools for benchmarking education systems (page under construction). We will progressively add more resources as we develop this website, including on whether various ways for schools and universities to express their Catholic identity may benefit or hurt them, for example in terms of enrollment. If you have ideas for additional materials we should share on benchmarking schools, universities, or countries, please contact us
Resources from the United States - Catholic K12 Schools
In 2012, the Center for Catholic School Effectiveness at the School of Education of Loyola University Chicago published the National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools (NSBECS) in partnership with the Roche Center for Catholic Education at the School of Education of Boston College. The objective of the standards was to serve as both a guide and assessment tool for Catholic school effectiveness and sustainability. The standards contains three components:
  • Nine defining characteristics are related to the identity of Catholic schools;
  • Thirteen standards describe policies, programs, structures, and processes that should be present in Catholic schools in four Domains: Mission and Catholic Identity, Governance and Leadership, Academic Excellence, and Operational Vitality;
  • Seventy benchmarks provide observable, measurable descriptors for each standard.
The report on the standards is available here. The website also provides assessment tools that can be used to assess school quality and performance based on the NSBECS.  Resources offer additional guidelines, video tutorials, and more to support implementation of the NSBECS.  Applications provide links to field-based initiatives.  Under Impact, school practitioners and researchers describe the results of implementing the NSBECS among others for accreditation, planning, guidelines, and accountability.
Another useful resource is the Catholic Identity Curriculum Integration (CICI) developed in partnership with the National Catholic Education Association, universities, and other partners.  CICI was developed to help teachers and school leaders develop curriculum that is both Catholic and rigorous. This is accomplished through focused integration of Catholic identity into locally developed standards-based curriculum in PK-12 Catholic schools and dioceses. CICI provides frameworks, guidelines, and resources to assist teachers and school leaders as they develop their curriculum.
Still another useful resource from the National Catholic Education Association is NCEA IFG (Information for Growth) which offers tools designed to assess the effectiveness of school and parish religious education programs over time. Offering both a student and an adult survey, IFG allows for data-driven decisions regarding student catechesis and adult faith formation. In particular, ACRE (Assessment of Child/Youth Religious Education) is designed to assist in the evaluation of catechetical/religious education programs in Catholic schools and parishes (with three levels for grade 5, grades 8 or 9, and grades 11 or 12). 
Finally, the Newman Society also produced guidelines for Catholic schools here. Their Principles of Catholic Identity in Education articulate elements the Church expects to find in Catholic education. Additional resources for educators and families are available here.
Resources from the United States - Catholic Universities
Under its Catholic Identity & Mission Assessment (CIMA) project, the Association of Catholic College and Universities (ACCU) has developed surveys to assess how Catholic identity and the charism of the founding and sponsoring group for a university are expressed on campus and assimilated by students. CIMA help ACCU member institutions understand how Catholic higher education adds distinct value to the student experience through surveys for four target groups: (1) entering new undergraduate students; (2) graduating students; (3) alumni (normally 5 and 10 years out); and (4) graduate and professional students. Assessment topics include: Catholic Intellectual Tradition; Moral and Ethical Development; Climate for Non-Catholics; Inter-religious Dialogue; Leadership, Service, and Vocation; Religious Beliefs and Values; and Religious Practices.
ACCU recognizes that there are many ways through which Catholic colleges and universities may express, enhance, and convey their Catholic identity.  ACCU's website provides a simple tool to search for promising practices by keyword and/or institution.
Other Resources
The International Federation of Catholic Universities has developed the Newman Benchmark: An Evaluation Framework for Catholic universities. In recent years, various rankings (Shanghai, Times Higher Education) have emerged to rate universities in an increasingly competitive environment. However, these rankings are based on limited scientific criteria and overlook values that are essential to today’s societies. Echoing a growing number of initiatives around the world to promote social responsibility among universities, the Newman Benchmarking Framework is a viable alternative to current rankings. By conveying principles and values that are in line with the humanist and Catholic tradition of the Church, the tool places the notion of responsibility at the heart of university life and of the entire community. The Framework is the result of a three-year collaborative endeavor and includes some 160 indicators and twenty criteria sorted into 4 different areas:  (1) institutional governance; (2) environmental protection efforts; (3) practices as an employer and in the implementation of the "three missions”; and (4) overall consistency with regard to institutional identity. 
More resources coming soon.

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