Students at St. Dorothy School work together in small groups.

Loyola’s Center for Catholic School Effectiveness (CCSE), housed within the School of Education, has released the first National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools, in collaboration with the Roche Center for Catholic Education, housed within the Lynch School of Education at Boston College, and the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA). This landmark document offers critical school effectiveness standards to more than 7,000 schools across the country.

“I commend everyone for their hard work on this vital project,” says David Prasse, PhD, dean of the School of Education, Loyola University Chicago. “I know that dioceses and Catholic schools across the country will benefit greatly from the guidance that this final document provides.”

This initiative provides national defining characteristics, performance standards, and benchmarks that will enable all sponsors of Catholic elementary and secondary schools to assess, strengthen, and sustain their operations. The document will ultimately help determine how well a school is fulfilling its obligation to those who benefit from its services (students, parents/guardians, families, faculty, and staff), as well as to school donors and contributors, the Catholic Church, and the local community.

“These standards and benchmarks should be looked upon as all-encompassing school effectiveness standards that give a common framework of universal characteristics of Catholic identity and agreed-upon criteria for Catholic school excellence,” says Lorraine Ozar, PhD, director of the CCSE and an associate professor in Loyola’s School of Education. “They have been developed and vetted by a national task force of Catholic school educators and supporters through a collaborative process that began in October 2009 at the Catholic Higher Education Collaborative conference in Chicago.”

The Standards and Benchmarks
The final document contains three types of statements grounded in Church teachings, best practices, and proven success of those committed to the future of Catholic elementary and secondary education in the United States.

The Defining Characteristics flow directly from Church teachings and define the deep Catholic identity of Catholic schools. These nine characteristics serve as the platform on which the standards and benchmarks rest. The defining characteristics authenticate the standards and benchmarks, justifying their existence and providing their meaning.

The Standards describe policies, programs, structures, and processes that should be present in mission-driven, program-effective, well-managed, and responsibly governed Catholic schools. The standards address four domains: Mission and Catholic Identity, Governance and Leadership, Academic Excellence, and Operational Vitality.

The Benchmarks provide observable, measurable descriptors for each standard. Benchmarks provide a solid basis for future development of more detailed self-assessment and diagnostic instruments, data collection and reporting structures, and accreditation tools, as appropriate at the local, diocesan, regional, and national levels.

To view the standards and benchmarks in their entirety, please visit or

“These standards and benchmarks provide a vital framework for Catholic schools to continue to provide excellence in education for years to come. We are grateful to the many people who contributed to this important effort,” says Michael J. Garanzini, S.J., president and CEO of Loyola University Chicago.

Standards and Benchmarks Timeline
Commencing in fall 2009, the task force developed a first draft of the document that was reviewed by participants at the Chief Administrators of Catholic Education’s national conference in October 2010. A second draft was made available for open review at the NCEA’s national convention in April 2011. Finally, a task force of select domain experts, leaders in Catholic education, including bishops and pastors, and other key stakeholders provided feedback that led to the document available today.

“Over three years, the task force focused on creating a foundational document that would be practical and useful at many levels, and be based on a collaborative process involving all stakeholders,” says Patricia Weitzel-O’Neill, executive director for the Barbara and Patrick Roche Center for Catholic Education, Lynch School of Education, Boston College. “The task force did just that. This document is a game-changer for Catholic schools and is accessible to all. It clarifies the brand, supports the work of advocacy, and provides Catholic Institutions of Higher Education a blueprint for professional programs for Catholic school personnel.”

Dr. Karen Ristau, president of NCEA, whose organization represents nearly 7,000 Catholic elementary and secondary schools nationwide, applauds the work of the educational leaders who created the standards.

“The energy and vision behind the National Standards are exceptional. While we have had documents about Catholic education in the past, this one is quite specific in its definitions of exactly what comprises a Catholic school. This foundational document will ensure Catholic schools keep the promise they make to families and the community,” says Dr. Ristau.