Catholic Schools

  • Dr. Jill Bickett, '08

    Dissertation Chair: Dr. Martin Connell
    A Case Study of Student Leadership and Service in a Catholic Female Single-Sex High School

    The purpose of this study was to research student perspectives about, and participation in, leadership and service at Catholic female single-sex high schools. This study draws data from a Catholic female single-sex high school in a metropolitan area of the United States. Data collection included school document review, site observation, and interviews of current students (n=10), young alumnae (n=5), mature alumnae (n=5), and current faculty and staff (n=6). The data was analyzed using an adapted theoretical framework of Wenger's (1998) social theory of learning, informed by Lave and Wenger's (1991) concept of communities of practice. This study addresses how the situated experience of the Catholic female single-sex high school affects students' expectations, values, and behaviors regarding leadership and service. The data show that the situated experience of a Catholic female single-sex high school encouraged engagement and interest in leadership and service. Students were empowered to believe that gender should not be an obstacle in seeking positions of leadership or service. However, although the environment was successful in advocating for participation in leadership and service, the social structure, social practices, identity formation, and situated environment tended to reinforce traditional gender-based notions of leadership and service. The culture of the school did not encourage the use of a critical lens to view the inequity that women experience, resulting in student expectations, behaviors, and values that were reproduced from the dominant culture in society. Student relationship to community and Catholicity is also discussed. In order to achieve the benefits of female empowerment advocated by the school, greater emphasis should be placed on identifying and addressing the obstacles to female leadership and service in society at large. There should be continued research to identify effective strategies for empowering female students to participate in leadership and service opportunities in high school, while providing them with a clearer sense of the challenges they will face in leadership and service positions later in life. In this way, the mission of Catholic female single-sex high schools can be more fully realized, which will hasten the day when true gender equity is achieved in the broader social context.

  • Dr. Christian De Larkin, '13

    Dissertation Chair: Dr. Shane P. Martin
    A Study of Teacher Buy-In to a Grading Policy Reform in a Los Angeles Archdiocesan Catholic High School

    This study examined the construct of teacher buy-in (TBI) during a grading policy reform effort in a high school. The purpose of this study was to identify and describe teachers' perceived value to the grading reform. Additionally, the researcher studied teacher behavior by identifying the teachers' actual practice of the policy. The study finally compared the identified reported values of the participants with their actual grading practices to determine the convergence of values and practice.

    The research provided empirical evidence for a new way to study TBI and its relationship to a reform implementation. This study addressed a school-site policy reform effort and described TBI contributing to, and perhaps challenging, current practices in school reform and teacher grading policies. This study described the extent to which teacher bought into the grading policies and provided a framework for studying TBI and grading policies in the context of Standards-Based Reform in the future. The findings and discussion highlight how grading policies are a critical element of the student evaluation process in the increasing movement towards national learning standards and testing.

  • Dr. Rodgers K. Fikwamo, '09

    Dissertation Chair: Dr. Mary McCullough
    Leaders' Perceptions of the Role of Leadership in Catholic High Schools through a Generational Lens

    Up until the 1950s, Catholic school principals were mainly priests, sisters, and brothers who were well grounded in theology, scripture, catechesis, and the Catholic social teachings they received during their formation. Conversely, lay principals who currently staff most Catholic high schools may not have this same Catholic formational training that helped to form the religious mission of schools in earlier years. Hence, this study was developed to investigate current Catholic school leadership models and the way principals' perceptions of leadership may impact the religious missions of Catholic schools. Additionally, the factor of generational diversity may contribute to differences in principal's perceptions of leadership. Thus, the purpose of this study is to investigate how current lay principals from two generational cohorts perceive their roles as leaders and how such perceptions impact the religious mission of their schools. To accomplish this investigation, the researcher employed three elements of the Catholic school leadership framework designated by the United States Catholic Conference (USCC), including educational, managerial, and spiritual leadership. These concepts constitute the framework through which this study examined the principals' perceptions of leadership in Catholic high schools. To collect the data and answer the research questions, this study utilized a qualitative methodology consisting of document analysis, observations, and interviews. To conduct the study, six principals from two generations were selected from Catholic high schools in a large diocese on the West Coast of the United States. Based on the research results, differences were discovered between the generational cohort known as the Baby Boomers and those known as the Xers, where Baby Boomers exhibited more future-focused perspectives and Xers demonstrated a strong focus on values. Baby Boomers also connected the religious mission of the school to the charisma of the founding order or congregation of their school, while Xers relied exclusively on the identity of the diocese. However, despite these generational differences, the study results show that the current principals have not only maintained and preserved the religious mission of the Catholic high schools, but have taken the religious mission to a new level of forming peer Christian leadership among students and teachers.

  • Dr. Karen Holyk-Casey, '12

    Dissertation Chair: Dr. Shane P. Martin
    A Qualitative Study of Three Urban Catholic High Schools: Investigating Parent and Principal Expectations and Realizations of Parental Involvement and the Parent-School Relationship

    This qualitative study investigated parents' and principals' expectations of their roles in the parent-school relationship and how they defined, encouraged, and realized parental involvement within an urban Catholic high school setting. Through pattern analysis and axial coding of the data collected from parents and principal interviews, documents, and observations at parent-school meetings and events, four patterns emerged: (a) the underlying child-centered mission, (b) the parents' role in supporting the student, (c) the parent-school relationship created to support the student, and (d) the principals' role in creating a trusting environment that promotes parental involvement. Further analysis was guided by the parental involvement frameworks of Epstein (2001) and Barton, Drake, Perez, St. Louis, and George (2004) and the Catholic school mission. The findings revealed that the child-centered goal guided the parents' and principals' expectations of shared responsibilities, although the parents varied in how they defined parental involvement activities. Parents expressed the importance of the school's role in creating a caring and respectful environment that encouraged a strong parent-school relationship. The principals addressed the Catholic school mission and how they developed the school culture, climate, and environment to support that mission.

    This study author concluded that Catholic schools have the opportunity to create strong parent-school relationships that encourage differentiated parental involvement. In addition, she concluded that the role of all schools is to provide a relationship built on trust and the knowledge that parental involvement requires consideration of the varied types of involvement and ways in which parents choose to mediate the types of parental involvement.

  • Dr. Anne Herrick, '09

    Dissertation Chair: Dr. Mary McCullough
    A Study of a Secondary Catholic Safe Environment Curriculum: One Diocese's Response

    The purpose of this dissertation is to evaluate the content and implementation of a Catholic Secondary Safe Environment Curriculum in one diocese educating high school students to identify and analyze student understanding of sexually abusive behavior in all forms as measured by the Safe Environment Criterion (SEC) Survey. This curriculum stems from the need created by the clergy sexual abuse scandal that surfaced in the United States Catholic Church in 2002. The U.S. Bishops responded to this crisis by adopting the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (2002). In Article 12 of this Charter, schools and parishes are directed to implement a Safe Environment Curriculum with all students so as to provide intervention as well as prevention skills regarding incidents of clergy/church/school personnel sexual abuse and harassment. This study looked at ways high school students identify and respond to issues of inappropriate boundaries between clergy/church personnel (adults) and students. Mixed methods were used to conduct research to identify student understanding of six criteria created as the basis of Secondary Safe Environment Curriculum in one diocese on the west coast of the United States. A survey was distributed to senior students at the three high schools in this diocese to provide data to assess student understanding of the Safe Environment Curriculum. In addition, interviews were conducted with the Safe Environment Coordinator at each of these schools. This research provides a foundation for future research on the effectiveness of this curriculum in an effort to accomplish the Bishops' goal of teaching students the skills needed to ensure their social safety.

  • Dr. Ann Holmquist, '08

    Dissertation Chair: Dr. Martin Connell
    Walking the Labyrinthine Pathway: An Ethnographic Perspective on Forming Persons-In-Community in a Catholic Secondary School

  • Dr. Shannon Gomez, '08

    Dissertation Chair: Dr. Mary McCullough
    Catholic Elementary School Leadership: What Does the Future Hold?

    Catholic schools are an important element of the educational environment in the United States and are often the subject of effectiveness studies. However, Catholic school leadership, for the most part, is left out of the research loop (Schuster, 2000). While the learner affects schooling outcomes, the leadership of the school principal is the critical component in determining school quality (Sergiovanni, 1997). Today's Catholic schools differ greatly from Catholic schools prior to Vatican II. School leaders are faced with greater responsibilities than their predecessors. For example, within the Los Angeles Archdiocese, Catholic school principals are challenged to strategize different ways to market their schools, increase their enrollment, and raise funds for schools to remain viable. Based on a literature review on Catholic school leadership, including (a) the history of Catholic schools in the United States, (b) Catholic school governance, (c) Catholic school leadership, (d) strategic planning, and (e) the changing role of the school principal in the future of Catholic education, the following three research questions served as the premise of the study: 1. What do Catholic elementary school principals identify as skills needed to lead Catholic schools in the 21st century? 2. What are Catholic elementary school principals' perceptions of how their role is changing? 3. How do Catholic elementary school principals identify their role and the current struggles of implementing a centralized strategic plan in a large Catholic diocese? This study employed a qualitative research design including a document review of the Los Angeles Archdiocese Strategic Plan and a survey containing open-ended qualitative items. This research study was conducted to identify Catholic school elementary principals' role in implementing the current Strategic Plan for the Los Angeles Archdiocese and struggles principals encounter in implementing the Strategic Plan at their school site. Further, this research investigated how the Catholic school principalship is changing and necessary skills that Catholic elementary school principals need to practice for leading these schools in the 21st century. Recommendations were discussed for Catholic elementary school principal training needed to lead future Catholic schools.

  • Dr. Antony Gaspar, '13

    Dissertation Chair: Dr. Jill Bickett
    The Impact of Catholic High School Education: Catholic High School Young Adult Alumni Perception and Engagement in Social Justice Related Activities

    This mixed methods research investigated how young adult alumnae from a Catholic female high school perceive the impact of their high school service experience concerning their "beliefs" about the importance of service, current "engagement" in service, and their beliefs about and engagement with four Catholic Social Teaching principles (life and dignity, care for the poor, solidarity and common good, and rights and responsibilities) related to social justice.

    This research draws data from young adult alumnae from a Catholic female single-sex high school in a metropolitan city of the United States. The data collection included a web-based survey (N=131), individual interview (n=9), and school documents review. Catholic theology of the human person, and Catholic social teaching principles served as the conceptual framework for data analysis.

    The quantitative data revealed that Catholic high school service program experience positively impacts participants' "beliefs" about the importance of service (65%), and the importance of four Catholic social teaching principles (73%). The qualitative data corroborates with the quantitative findings. However, participants lacked translating their beliefs in to action with only 42% reporting as "engaged" in service. Although a majority of participants (60%) reported as engaged in activities related to four CST principles, in reality only 25% are significantly engaged in service in the past 12 months. Catholic educators are invited to examine their service pedagogy and address factors that contribute to low level of service engagement. Further research is suggested to identify factors that would raise the level of service engagement in alumnae's young adult life.

  • Dr. Richard Kruska, '08

    Dissertation Chair: Dr. Shane P. Martin
    Financial Models in Catholic Education

    Catholic education is at a crossroads in the United States, as rising tuition costs present significant challenges to many families' financial resources. At the very least, affording a Catholic education calls for a reprioritization of expenses. However, in many cases, high tuition costs leave parents with no recourse but to remove their children from Catholic schools. As costs and tuition climb, only those with significant financial resources will be able to attend Catholic schools. Hence, maintaining the foundational mission of Catholic education, namely to provide access to education for the poor and oppressed, threatens to become impossible due to the inadequate revenue from tuition-dependent financial models used by Catholic school administrations. Thus, Catholic schools need a critical re-thinking of their financial model in order to make Catholic education accessible to all.

    In order to address the financial crisis in Catholic education, it is first important to understand the various forces that influence the funding of Catholic schools. This study addresses this need by asking the question: "What are the current financial models of Catholic education?" Based on a review of the current literature, and including data from a survey of current Catholic diocesan superintendents, this study defines the current financial models used in contemporary Catholic schools in the U.S. by asking the following questions: What are the parameters or conditions of the model? Who are the beneficiaries of the model? What is the social goal or purpose of the model? What is the strength of the model? What are the weaknesses of the model?

    Through a summary of the survey findings, recommendations begin to emerge that are presented in the following three categories: (a) a need for a purposeful, strategic, comprehensive intentionality in the application of the various financial models available, (b) a need to reframe the leadership model for financing Catholic schools, and (c) a need to review and update the current decentralized model in Catholic education.

  • Dr. Patrick Lynch, '11

    Dissertation Chair: Dr. Marta Baltodano
    Preferential Options and Palimpsests: Transferring the Founders' Catholic Charism from Vowed Religious Educators to Lay Educators

    A decline in the number of vowed religious who teach and administer in Catholic high schools has placed the responsibility for transferring the founders' Charism, the traditional mission and identity of the schools, in the hands of lay educators. This study examined how one Catholic independent single-sex high school established programs and methods to transfer the founders' Charism to its lay educators and students in the areas of social justice, diversity, and social and political awareness.

    The researcher collected data about Charism transference by interviewing five adults selected as a purposive sample and conducting focus groups with 15 students selected on a nominative basis. Additional research included prolonged researcher emic observation and an analysis of school documents and archives; the data were codified and an emergent analysis of the data was performed. The analysis focused on social justice, diversity, and social and political awareness at the school. Informing the analysis were the theories of Catholic Social Teaching, critical pedagogy, and liberation theology. The emergent analysis identified that the school institutionalized the founders' Charism, established an atmosphere of care for others in the areas of social justice and diversity, and promoted awareness of feminine identity and a sense of students as leaders, as well as an understanding of social justice and diversity issues. However, factors including social reproduction, social capital, cultural capital, and class complicated the transformational praxis of action in the areas of social justice and political and social awareness.

  • Dr. Matthew Mallon, '13

    Dissertation Chair: Dr. Elizabeth Stoddard
    Male Chinese Student Transitions to an American Secondary Catholic Boarding School

    The purpose of this qualitative study was to understand the perceived experience of Chinese students during their first year attending a Catholic co-educational boarding and day school in the United States. Data collection included semi-structured interviews of five current students, a faculty and staff questionnaire, and an analysis of the schedule of events for the new boarding student orientation. The data was analyzed using the inductive