In 2002 John Watzke published an article, Teachers for Whom?, that demonstrated Catholic Higher Education’s decisive orientation towards serving public schools and a rather weak commitment to serving K-12 Catholic Schools, at least as indicated by teacher preparation programs.  The Bishops document, Renewing Our Commitment to K-12 Catholic Schools in the New Millennium, called for a greater commitment from Catholic Higher Ed to help serve the needs of Catholic schools nationally.

Recent years – especially this year – have seen some indication of Catholic higher ed stepping up.

The University of Notre Dame has continued its dynamic leadership in this field through the rather dramatic expansion of the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE).  This year ACE launched the Catholic School Advantage, a major campaign to increase access to Catholic schools for 1 million Latino children nationally, and developed a new University-school partnership program called ND ACE Academies, where ACE currently supports a cluster of three Catholic schools in the Dioceses of Tucson.  ACE is also in the process of starting a new Center for K-12 Educational Access in August, and is launching a new certification program this summer for teaching exceptional children.  All of the programs in ACE are aimed exclusively at sustaining and strengthening Catholic schools.

Boston College has recently made a significant investment to its Center for Catholic Education with a 20 million dollar donation from a supermarket owner and has appointed Patricia Weitzel-O’Neill, the current Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Washington D.C., as its new director.

St. John’s University has just launched a new Institute for Catholic Schools to serve the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Archdiocese of New York.

Loyola University Chicago’s Center for Catholic School Effectiveness hosted a semi-annual conference of Catholic higher educational institutions committed to strengthening K-12 Catholic schools.  They offered some interesting proposed next steps.

The University Consortium for Catholic Education (UCCE) now numbers 15 programs providing over 400 teachers annually for Catholic schools, and the Association of Catholic Leadership Programs (ACLP) continues its work.

There are, of course, other programs, but these are the highlights.

Unfortunately, Catholic higher ed seems to be coming in late in the game and K-12 Catholic schools continue to reel in the wake of the recession.  The financial crisis is still the most urgent issue, and this recent online report from a conference at Notre Dame sums things up well.

The national news continues to be grim for K-12 Catholic schools.  If we are to reverse the tide of closures and make good on the phrase “revitalizing Catholic schools,” Catholic higher ed will need to do much more and quickly.  Many more institutions will need to get involved and the biggest institutions will need to continue to enhance their explicit and direct commitment to Catholic schools.  These are at least some small steps in the right direction.