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Summer Institute for Urban Catholic Educators Planned

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NEW ORLEANS--The National Catholic Educational Association will join with a group of Roman Catholic philanthropists and a prominent Harvard University scholar to provide a summer teachers' institute on urban youths' spiritual growth, an N.C.E.A. official said last week at the group's convention here.

The two-week program, "Teaching for Spiritual Growth,'' is aimed at helping its participants foster spiritual growth among at-risk, inner-city children and youths. It will bring together 12 to 24 urban Catholic-school teachers and youth ministers from around the country to learn from each other and from institute faculty members and to develop projects they can implement in their home areas, said Michael Carotta, the N.C.E.A.'s executive director of religious education.

Such projects could include community service for students or arts appreciation, he said.

The need for spiritual growth among disadvantaged urban children "is not about a lack of spirituality and moral codes,'' Mr. Carotta said, "it's about the lack of certain support systems and the pressures of unique challenges in the inner city.''

Dr. Robert Coles, the noted child psychiatrist, author, and Harvard professor, who has written extensively on the moral and spiritual lives of children, is to be the principal presenter.

The idea for the institute and its financial support came from Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities, a Washington-based group. The institute, which is expected to run three consecutive summers, has an annual budget of $68,000, Mr. Carotta said.

The institute is scheduled to run from July 18-30 at the Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass. The participants are to be announced this month.


Teachers in Catholic schools who say their primary commitment is to the organizational mission of Catholic schools may be better suited to teach in those schools than those who indicate a more general commitment to teaching as their uppermost motivation.

That conclusion emerged from research conducted by Hope C. Tarr for a doctoral dissertation at the Catholic University of America. Ms. Tarr, a research consultant, presented the results of her work to N.C.E.A. members.

The study analyzed data collected in 1989-90 from an anonymous, written survey of 940 teachers in Catholic elementary and secondary schools in the Archdiocese of Boston. The teachers surveyed included lay and religious faculty members and both Catholics and non-Catholics.

The teachers who showed an "organizational'' commitment to their work--by saying they wanted to work in a Catholic environment and saw teaching as their ministry, for example--were significantly more likely to have attended Catholic schools, by 74 percent to 56 percent, than those who indicated that a teaching career was their primary commitment--by saying they wanted to work with young people or have a chance to share their values, for instance.

Ms. Tarr found that teachers who were primarily committed to the organizational mission of Catholic schools were significantly more satisfied in five of seven areas of job satisfaction, including religious aspects, administrative climate, and compensation.

In the areas of professional stimulation and relations with students, those with a primary commitment to a teaching career showed more satisfaction.

Catholic schools need to select and recruit teachers who show prior experience in and with Catholic schools and who feel religion is important, Ms. Tarr concluded, adding that those teachers also have to have a high level of commitment to teaching as a profession.

Once teachers are in Catholic schools, Ms. Tarr said, the schools should provide staff development and in-service programs "to insure that commitment and satisfaction are maintained and enhanced.''

The study results are due to be published this spring in the Journal of Research on Christian Education.


This year, for the first time, a Catholic school has joined the national Accelerated Schools Project, officials told conference-goers here last week.

The inner-city New Orleans elementary school, St. Alphonsus, joins more than 300 schools in 25 states in the project founded and directed by Henry M. Levin, a professor of education and economics at Stanford University.

The project, which seeks to bring at-risk children into the educational mainstream by the end of their elementary school years, emphasizes high expectations for students and shared decisionmaking among the school community.

St. Alphonsus serves 265 children in pre-kindergarten through grade 8. Most of its students are low-income African-Americans and Hispanics, many of whom live in a nearby public-housing project, said Sister Monica Ellerbusch, the principal.--M.L.

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