Dio­cese to trans­form cur­ricu­lum in­struc­tion

Catholic schools to launch Per­son­al­ized Learn­ing Ini­tia­tive

Stamford Advocate (Sunday) - - News - By Linda Con­ner Lam­beck

In years past, ev­ery­one learned about but­ter­flies to­gether in Melinda Gremse’s first-grade class at As­sump­tion Catholic School in Fair­field.

Now her 14 stu­dents ro­tate in groups of three and four through sta­tions.

While one group builds sym­met­ri­cal but­ter­flies out of col­or­ful wood chips, an­other draws them.

A third group puts on head­phones and uses lap­tops to re­search meta­mor­pho­sis, while a fourth sits with the teacher to com­pare the de­vel­op­ment of monarch but­ter­flies to frogs — the crea­tures tack­led by the class the week be­fore.

“It’s a great way to teach,” said Gremse, al­low­ing stu­dents to move at their own pace. “It’s no longer one size fits all.”

Gremse has been teach­ing like this for a while. In the fall, all other teach­ers at her school and five oth­ers in the Bridge­port Dio­cese will adopt the ap­proach as stan­dard prac­tice.

With the help of a $5 mil­lion grant from a pri­vate donor, the dio­cese has launched what is call­ing a Per­son­al­ized Learn­ing Ini­tia­tive. Sup­port is com­ing from Ap­ple com­put­ers, Fair­field Univer­sity, Chris­tian Broth­ers/ Catholic School Man­age­ment and Cat­a­pult Learn­ing.

The new model will in­clude some longer class pe­ri­ods, more tech­nol­ogy and in­struc­tion geared to­ward in­di­vid­ual stu­dents.

It is a three-year ini­tia­tive that will start in Septem­ber at As­sump­tion, Trin­ity Catholic in Stam­ford, St. Gre­gory the Great in Danbury, Holy Trin­ity Catholic Academy in Shel­ton, Our Lady of Fa­tima in Wil­ton, and at St. Joseph Catholic Academy in Brook­field.

“While many teach­ers in the dio­cese al­ready per­son­al­ize learn­ing and dif­fer­en­ti­ate in­struc­tion, this ini­tia­tive gives them the tools to bring it to the next level,” Dioce­san Schools Su­per­in­ten­dent Steven F. Cheese­man said.

Stu­dents will spend a por­tion of each school day ro­tat­ing through sta­tions de­signed to teach a con­cept in dif­fer­ent ways. There will be on­line re­sources to help teach­ers adapt to var­i­ous stu­dent abil­i­ties. Of­ten, teacher-led in­struc­tion will take a back seat to group dis­cus­sions and as­sign­ments that re­quire stu­dent col­lab­o­ra­tion to solve real prob­lems.

Each school will also get an In­no­va­tion Lab de­signed to re­in­force sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, re­li­gion, en­gi­neer­ing, arts and math — or STREAM. The lab will in­clude cod­ing, ro­bot­ics, 3-D Print­ers and more.

Cheese­man said the trans­for­ma­tion will make Catholic schools look dif­fer­ent. In­stead of desks in rows there will be more tables and chances for col­lab­o­ra­tion.

“It will im­prove the work they do,” Cheese­man said. “We al­ways want to at­tract more stu­dents but the whole idea is do the best we can to ed­u­cate the stu­dents in our class­rooms.”

Teach­ers got to sam­ple “sta­tion ro­ta­tions” and hear from speak­ers like Greg Dhuyvet­ter, a for­mer su­per­in­ten­dent of the dio­cese of Or­ange, Calif., and now a Catholic School Man­age­ment con­sul­tant.

He told par­tic­i­pants their job was no longer to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion but teach stu­dents what to do with it.

Stu­dents will still be taught the ba­sics but with more ac­cess to tech­nol­ogy and more one on one time with their teacher.

“This is part of the ful­fill­ment of our Catholic mis­sion,” Cheese­man said. “The real personalization hap­pens be­tween the teacher and the child. The tech­nol­ogy is the tool to help the teacher do that.”

The Per­son­al­ized Learn­ing Ini­tia­tive will be the lat­est in a se­ries of changes to Trin­ity Catholic to fur­ther per­son­al­ize ed­u­ca­tion at the school.

In July, Trin­ity is plan­ning to launch The Learn­ing Academy, which will pro­vide aca­demic sup­port for stu­dents with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties. The Learn­ing Academy will offer core aca­demic cour­ses such as English, math, sci­ence and so­cial stud­ies in a smaller class­room set­ting with sup­port from a cer­ti­fied spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion teacher.

The dio­cese is con­sid­er­ing the launch of Car­di­nal Kung Academy, a divi­sion of Trin­ity Catholic that will use a clas­si­cal Catholic ed­u­ca­tion cur­ricu­lum that en­cour­ages stu­dents to read orig­i­nal texts and dis­cuss them in sem­i­nar-style classes. Car­di­nal Kung Academy would be the only clas­si­cal high school pro­gram in Fair­field County.

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