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Academic Excellence

Faith in Tomorrow

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1. By 2013-14, all schools will assess curricular and instructional programs and earn a 90 percent or higher proficiency for academic rigor based on the Profile for the 21st Century Learning Environment.
2. By 2013-14, all schools will identify their unique focus and implement a range of services and/or specialized opportunities to empower students to reach their full potential in a global society.
3. By 2013-14, all schools will demonstrate an increase of four percent on the New York State English Language Arts and Math Assessments in grades four and eight.
4. By 2013-14, all schools will implement the evaluation systems that enhance and support principal and teacher effectiveness as measured by the Department of Catholic Schools’ annual principal and teacher performance appraisals.
5. By 2013-14, all schools will integrate technology resources into curriculum and instructional strategies, as aligned with the outcomes of the 21st Century Learner Profile.
6. By 2013-14, 75 percent of parents surveyed will recognize and acknowledge their responsibility to be active partners in the education of their children.
7. By 2013-14, educational partnerships will be established with elementary, secondary and university/college/seminary leaders to develop new programs and initiatives to strengthen and expand curricular and instructional programs.
8. By 2013-14, all schools will assess the curricular and instructional programs as well as learning environments and earn a 90 percent or higher proficiency for relevancy to student lives based on the Profile for the 21st Century Learning Environment.

The schools in the Diocese of Buffalo are recognized, respected and valued for their distinct combination of academic excellence and faith-based education. School leaders and educators are committed to continuous improvement of their practice through professional development, reflection about instruction and review of data regarding student performance. These practices promote and encourage innovation in and out of the classroom where students are encouraged to develop creative expression and critical thinking. In a culture of academic excellence students are inspired, motivated and presented with the tools and resources to maximize their academic potential.

Academic excellence requires strong leaders with vision who can provide strategic direction and develop measurable and realistic goals that serve to stretch the school community. Highly effective leaders must create collaborative cultures where responsibility and respect abound. While serving as change agents and role models of effective communication skills, our leaders must work to engage parents, parishioners and the local community in advancing our schools’ mission. Empowerment is a valued process for all successful school leaders. The development of imaginative solutions will create purposeful innovation. This will serve as a prerequisite for deep, systematic change in our schools – the kind that is necessary and long overdue.

Higher levels of success can be achieved as we work to forge educational partnerships with elementary, secondary, university/college/seminary leaders. These important partnerships will propel us all forward to develop new programs and initiatives to strengthen and to expand curricular and instructional programs.

Our Catholic schools offer smaller class sizes and curricula competitive with public and other private schools. Our educators and leaders must be highly proficient in 21st century skills. With the proliferation of individualism, secularism, consumerism and moral relativism ever so prevalent in our society, it is critical, more than ever, to provide the atmosphere, context and content for academic excellence and Christian values for students. It is here where our students achieve success and become beacons of hope and ambassadors for Christ. We must share an abiding faith in the power of education to change our world.

With the “flattening of our world”, Catholic schools must embrace globalization. Catholic schools must continue their foothold in academic excellence, moral values, creativity and the development of the total child – mind, body and soul.

Strategy 4.1:
Require the implementation of the Profile of the 21st Century Learning Environment tool to determine the standard of rigor through the assessment, evaluation and evidence presentation of specific practices.
Action Plans:
• Implement and consistently monitor the research- and standards-based core academic curriculum geared to students’ individual needs.
• Weave 21st century interdisciplinary themes (i.e. global awareness, finance, economics, business, entrepreneurial literacy, civic literacy, and health literacy) into core subjects.
• Provide accelerated learning opportunities.
• Integrate the academic curriculum with rigorous technical and career education components.
• Create a school culture where educators work collaboratively to make improving instructional quality and student learning high priorities.
• Require every school leader to be responsible for planning, implementing and assessing continuous learning.
• Review current practices to identify those that yield evidence of effectiveness to strengthen curriculum and instruction, identify areas that require change and implement change to improve student success.
• Create an empowering school culture that creates collective responsibility for student success.
• Develop a Catholic School Graduate Profile for grades kindergarten to eight.
• Assess eighth grade students using the characteristics outlined in the Catholic School Graduate Profile.
• Articulate to staff, parents and students the characteristics and expectations outlined in the graduate profile.

Strategy 4.2:
Engage in the process of self-evaluation and school improvement through the accreditation process or other guided, structured analyses.
Action Plans:
• Participate in Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools Accreditation and use tools and resources to identify each school’s strengths and areas in need of improvement.
• Identify and develop resources and professional development programs as deemed appropriate by the self-study review process.
• Coordinate teams within regional areas to develop and articulate plans to provide resources and expanded programs in specialty areas such as early childhood, science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), music and the arts, International Baccalaureate, gifted education, accelerated programming, programs to meet the needs of diverse learners and students with special needs, within the capabilities of the school as discovered through self-study.

Strategy 4.3:
Collect and analyze student performance data as a means of improving curriculum and instruction.
Action Plans:
• Document, through evaluation processes, that instruction is differentiated, teaching strategies are varied and creative methods are used to meet the needs of all students.
• Implement and monitor curricula aligned with the diocesan Core Curriculum and the New York State Common Core Learning Standards.
• Participate in New York State assessments and use formative assessments to document student learning outcomes and make informed instructional decisions.
• Implement professional learning communities to develop an instructional platform for student success.
• Collaborate with school leaders and representatives from the Department of Catholic Schools to analyze assessment data and realign instruction to move students toward attaining proficiency in all areas.
• Develop intervention strategies for schools where student achievement is below standard as measured by New York State assessments.

Strategy 4.4:
Utilize the Diocese of Buffalo Principal and Teacher Performance Appraisals and require the development of action plans to improve identified areas of focus.
Action Plans:
• Assess systematically and regularly all principals and teachers to evaluate their job performance and active participation in professional development according to the expectations set by the Diocese of Buffalo Principal and Teacher Performance Appraisals.
• Provide professional development for principals to perform their expanded range of responsibilities and to understand their role as leaders in the attainment of the goals outlined in the Faith in Tomorrow strategic plan.
• Develop partnerships with institutions of higher education to establish an effective principal recruitment, professional development, certification and retention process in accordance with diocesan hiring policies.
• Identify potential teacher leaders in the schools to provide support, training and encouragement to assume positions of leadership in their schools and support the process for acquiring the necessary certification to become a principal.
• Align the principal evaluation process with high-performing standards and incorporate procedures to identify areas for support and development.
• Require certification in the assigned content/leadership areas.

Strategy 4.5:
Embrace technology as a tool to enhance the educational experience.
Action Plans:
• Update the school’s technology plan to allow for the maximum integration of technology into curriculum and instructional practices.
• Review and monitor the implementation of the school technology plan.
• Conduct an inventory of existing technology, both hardware and software, and update periodically.
• Create a technology curriculum with emphasis on digital citizenship.
• Share a collection of technology best practices through Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), teacher collaboration and partnerships with businesses.
• Train teachers to incorporate interactive technology in lesson planning (i.e. iPods, iPads, mobile devices, cameras, interactive boards) and require ongoing technology integration.
• Include technology standard and proficiencies from the New York State Common Core Learning Standards in the Catholic School Graduate Profile.
• Model and utilize tools such as webinar software and Web 2.0 tools like blogs and wikis for the exchange of ideas.
• Develop digital resources to improve parent communication, to support parents in their involvement as educational partners and to provide opportunities for parent and community members to hone personal and professional skills.

Strategy 4.6:
Promote the active participation of parents and guardians with the school as partners in the education of their children.
Action Plans:
• Inform parents of their child’s performance on New York State assessments when results are available to involve parents in the remediation planning.
• Invite parents to participate in community-based learning or service-learning activities with their children.
• Invite parents to assist faculty in providing after-school and summer enrichment opportunities.
• Hold parent evenings to assist parents with literacy and math strategies that would support classroom instruction.
• Develop a parent survey soliciting parent input regarding school programs, parent needs, and to assess parent engagement in the school community.

Strategy 4.7:
Appoint a coordinator for elementary, secondary school and university/college/seminary partnerships to solicit input from school/college leaders, design program goals and objectives, and to monitor and assess program implementation and outcomes.
Action Plans:
• Coordinate all middle school, high school and university/college/seminary collaborations.
• Articulate, design and implement innovative and creative models to expand educational programs and options for students.
• Coordinate subject area articulation with middle and high school teachers to review curriculum standards, student skill sets and placement test expectations to better prepare middle school students for high school success in all subject areas.
• Establish a laboratory school where middle school, high school and college programs are shared and where students may proceed with advanced coursework.
• Establish combined middle school and high school pilot programs offering specific concentrations or academy structures in math and science, technology, the arts, and/or foreign language in assigned areas of the diocese.
• Provide professional development opportunities for secondary and elementary leaders and teachers to articulate and share research-based best practices in areas of curriculum development, instructional strategies, program implementation and assessment.
• Solicit enrichment and program ideas, expectations, and preferences from parents and students.
• Create parent and student culture surveys to assess perceptions, enrichment and program ideas, expectations, and preferences.

Strategy 4.8:
Provide professional development programs to teachers and principals to improve curricular and instructional relevancy to student lives and to enhance student engagement.
Action Plans:
• Connect real-world contexts through project-based learning.
• Provide and support access to technology that supports teaching and learning.
• Involve students in the decision making about academic development, and offer choices for projects and learning activities.
• Provide early and ongoing academic and career guidance and planning.
• Require that behavioral and instructional data be used to inform instructional decisions and provide ongoing training on how to utilize data to improve curriculum and instruction.
• Provide opportunities for real-world experts to collaborate with students and teachers to enrich the learning environment.
• Facilitate seamless transitions among Pre-K-12 content that connects prior learning to new learning through curriculum mapping and professional learning communities.
• Create partnerships with businesses and social agencies and provide opportunities for students to pursue experience-based learning.