PROVIDENCE — The Catholic University of America has selected the Diocese of Providence to participate in a pilot accreditation program it has begun to assess Catholic schools across the country.
The Institute for the Transformation of Catholic Education (ITCE) at CUA partnered with the bishops of the United States and other educational leaders to create a framework of guiding principles for K-12 Catholic schools. Dioceses may permit their schools to choose Lumen Accreditation as an alternative to assessment by regional accreditation boards, such as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).
In this way, schools will align their goals for improvement with the Church’s vision for Catholic school mission and identity.
“It’s hard to imagine anything being more fundamentally important than the Catholic identity of our schools. Lumen’s distinctively Catholic accreditation process is a great way to help us reinforce that defining dimension,” James Power, Ed.M., superintendent of Catholic schools, told Rhode Island Catholic.
Lumen Accreditation, developed to unify the renewal of Catholic schools nationally, is founded on the Catholic church’s rich educational heritage. It seeks to renew Catholic schools in the search for truth, beauty, and goodness, integrating foundational elements of the Church’s teachings on Catholic education and seeks to meet the needs of the individual charisms of dioceses and Catholic schools.
“I think it’s an opportunity, looking where we are in education today, as well as Catholic education, that Lumen affords us the ability to really focus on Catholic values, and our faith, which is and should be at the forefront with everything that we’re doing in our schools,” said William F. Klements, M.Ed., assistant superintendent of Catholic schools.
The diocese will begin its preparation to participate in the pilot program on July 1, and will be placed in its St. Thomas Aquinas Cohort.
Dr. Peter Kilpatrick, president of The Catholic University of America, welcomed the Diocese of Providence to the Lumen program, noting its strengths in the area of accrediting Catholic learning institutions.
“Lumen, a distinctly Catholic accreditation program that is centered on Gospel values with fidelity to the Church, will encourage authentic conversations and dialogue regarding Catholic identity and enable our Catholic schools to place the proper emphasis on the human person,” he said in a statement.
Last fall, Andrew Kremer, Ph.D., associate director for program accreditation at the Institute for the Transformation of Catholic Education, held a presentation on Lumen accreditation for Catholic schools for teachers in the diocese.
“We were able to visit the principals in the Diocese of Providence in September and were encouraged by their passion for Catholic education,” Kremer told the Rhode Island Catholic. “We believe this partnership will further the mission of the Catholic schools in Rhode Island and are excited to welcome the Diocese of Providence to the Lumen Accreditation family.”
Eleven schools across the diocese will participate in the pilot year, which will begin this fall.
Six are diocesan high schools and elementary/middle schools: Bishop Hendricken High School, Warwick; The Prout School, Wakefield; St. Raphael Academy, Pawtucket; All Saints Academy, Middletown; Msgr. Clarke School, Wakefield; and Bishop McVinney School, Providence.
The other five are Catholic schools whose principal or pastor, or both, expressed an interest in participating: St. Peter School and St. Kevin schools, Warwick; St. Philip School, Greenville; St. Teresa School, Pawtucket; and Our Lady of Mercy School, East Greenwich.
“This recognition for participation is a testament to the Diocese of Providence’s unwavering commitment to academic excellence and Catholic values,” Klements said.
Across the United States there are many different regional school accreditation boards. In the Northeast, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges conducts its assessments and endorses local education programs every 10 years.
The intent would be for diocesan schools to eventually transition from NEASC accreditation to Lumen, with any work already conducted for the former process credited to Lumen accreditation.
“If I’m the principal of a school thinking about making a switch, I don’t have to start over,” Klements said.
Other Catholic schools in the diocese would have the option of continuing with NEASC or Lumen accreditation, or both.
“The other schools have the ability to choose to keep both; they certainly are able to do so,” Klements added.
“It is our hope that as this goes through in the coming years we’re going to see more and more schools within our diocese coming onboard as they recognize the focus on faith, but also, a more streamlined accreditation process that reduces the number of loopholes and hoops through which administration needs to jump and better allow them to focus on actual teaching, learning and promotion of the faith.”
Klements said that although the Lumen Accreditation program is in its nascent stages with its pilot programs, dioceses such as the Minneapolis/St. Paul Archdiocese is already on board, with others looking to sign on, the fact that it is being done through a major accredited university, one that is valued and trusted, is one of its great strengths.
“Lumen accreditation, so if I’m a parent concerned about whether or not it checks all those boxes, it does,” he said.
Klements said that one important feature of Lumen accreditation is that it takes the place of a full academic accreditation and involves a self-assessment process, under the guidance of the Institute for the Transformation of Catholic Education .
“Once we’re up and running, we are going to be evaluating ourselves in terms of accreditation visits,” Klements said. “That’s not to say that it’s going to be a rubber stamp, because every school has room for growth, every school has things they need to work on, but it is people of our own community, of our own values, who recognize the challenges that we face, and the feedback that we receive should be more authentic and meaningful, and ultimately attainable.”