Pacelli partners with education program

Published 9:14 am Friday, December 30, 2016

By Laura Sheedy

Grade 6-12 Activities Director 

For the past three years, Pacelli Catholic Schools, in collaboration with other Diocese of Winona schools, have been part of the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) to develop a common, aligned curriculum for all subject areas.

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The ACE Collaborative for Academic Excellence sustains and strengthens under-resourced Catholic schools through leadership formation, research and professional service to ensure that all children, especially those from low-income families, experience the gift of an excellent Catholic education. The ACE Collaborative is a sustained professional development program that strengthens curriculum, instruction, and assessment in Catholic schools by increasing collaboration among teachers. The Collaborative endeavors to cultivate a learning community in which teachers share ideas and resources toward the goal of improving their own curriculum and instruction. Implemented over several years, the ACE Collaborative includes annual diocesan workshops and ongoing work at the school level led by teachers and principals, and additional support for diocesan administrators as they seek to institutionalize this collaborative process. Collaboration is carried out through team discussion and on-line communities. (

Over a period of six years, Pacelli schools will be aligning their curriculum and developing best-practices in instruction and assessment using a collaborative process developed by Notre Dame. A cycle is used to focus on each curricular area over a three-year period. Year one focuses on team and department outcomes using state standards and research to design K-12 curriculum. Outcomes are developed using higher level Bloom’s Taxonomy verbs and rigorous standards are developed that meet or exceed state standards. Year two moves into course outcomes and lesson development. Year three concludes the cyclical process with assessment.

One teacher representative from lower elementary (grades K-3), upper elementary (grades 4-5), middle school (6-8) and high school (9-12) from each school gathers at the diocesan level for collaborative work and then bring information back to share at their respective schools. The process begins with a three-day intensive workshop where research-based best practices are explored and integrated into curriculum.

Teachers then return three times to continue the process by writing and refining a common curriculum using the Minnesota Standards and the Notre Dame ACE curriculum method. This method promotes collaboration among teachers using professional learning communities and fostering a culture of continuous improvement. The Notre Dame ACE curriculum process helps create a curriculum that shares a “story” with a true beginning, middle and conclusion for the school year.  After completing the three-year process with the support of Notre Dame, the process will be continued for each curricular area within respective schools.

Social Studies, math, science, and religion teachers have started this three-year continuous improvement process. Reading (language arts) will begin the cycle in 2017. As a middle school math teacher, I am in year two of this collaborative process. What I have found the most helpful about this process is the time spent talking with the other teachers. Teachers are always busy, but on these days, time together has been an amazing opportunity to learn not only with each other but from each other. The time to ask “What is working for you,” “What do you struggle with,” “How do you deal with this issue,” has been as helpful as the curriculum development itself.

Our math unit goals are set; now we are in the process of teaching the “story” of math. The Notre Dame ACE curriculum method allows individual teachers the freedom to structure daily lessons using their personal teaching style while at the same time aligning to the same story line that other teachers in the Diocese of Winona are using. This process itself has made me feel more connected to the curriculum. It has made me think outside my box of what I have used in the past.

“The treasure of Catholic schools lies in the committed teachers and principals who staff them. Their aspiration for excellence is best served when they engage together in sustained discussions about essential issues and implement subsequence decisions as professional teams. The purpose of the Collaborative is to facilitate these discussions and the decision-making that follows.” — Tom Doyle, Ph.D., Founder and Coordinator. (

If you are interested in learning more about Pacelli Catholic Schools visit our website at, email or call 507-437-3278.