Diocesan high schools ranked in U.S. top 50

Notre Dame, Knoxville Catholic on national honor roll; ACT scores surge

MAKING THE GRADE Notre Dame High School Principal Perry Storey, center, and Father Patrick Brownell, right center, join Notre Dame faculty, staff and students in celebrating the school’s selection to The Cardinal Newman Society’s 2012-13 Honor Roll of outstanding U.S. Catholic schools. Also pictured, from left, are Sister Marie Monique Uppgaard, Sister Margaret Mary Sallwasser, Tony Tortora, Sister Mary Evelyn Potts, Bridget Haywood, and Sister Celeste D’Souza. Courtesy of Gayle Schoenborn

Notre Dame and Knoxville Catholic have been named two of the top 50 Catholic high schools in the country, according to the 2012-13 Catholic High School Honor Roll competition announced by The Cardinal Newman Society.

The Honor Roll has recognized excellence in Catholic identity, academics and civic education at Catholic high schools across the United States since 2004.

Students and faculty at Notre Dame in Chattanooga and Knoxville Catholic High School were notified of the ranking Sept. 20 during all-school assemblies.

Students, staffs and faculty at the schools greeted the news with cheers. The announcement also was well received by the diocese.

“The longer I’m in the Diocese of Knoxville, the more I’m impressed by the dedication of our parishes and schools. A case in point is these two high schools being named to this prestigious list. It shows the Catholic commitment to our community,” said Bishop Richard F. Stika.

Notre Dame and KCHS also were informed last month that their students’ scores on the ACT college entrance exam exceeded the state average in every category.

According to The Cardinal Newman Society, selection to the Honor Roll distinguishes each school as one of the finest Catholic schools in the nation, with the biennial list publicized nationally.

Schools apply for the Honor Roll by completing three surveys during the application period every other spring. Each school completes three surveys to gauge excellence in Catholic identity, academics, and civic education. Honor Roll staff members compile the survey data and use a complex scoring algorithm to determine excellence in the three areas.

The Cardinal Newman Society said this year’s top 50 Honor Roll schools are diverse: large and small, new and long-established, both highly selective and with open enrollment admissions policies, and high and low tuition rates.

Sister Mary Marta Abbott, superintendent of Diocese of Knoxville schools, said selection of Notre Dame and KCHS to the Honor Roll is a great thing for the diocese and its education mission.

“It’s exciting that both of our high schools have attained top 50 status,” she said. “It says a lot for our faculty and staffs.”

She pointed out that the schools are making repeat performances. Notre Dame made the list in 2010 and KCHS was on it in 2008.

Notre Dame Principal Perry Storey called the recognition “a good team effort” and said the school celebrated the news Thursday with an assembly.

“It’s indicative of the great things occurring in Catholic education. This gives us a benchmark of how we’re doing as a Catholic school in the United States. It’s real validation that we’re on the mark with our education programs,” he said.

Mr. Storey and KCHS Principal Dickie Sompayrac noted there are more than 1,200 Catholic schools in the United States educating nearly 600,000 students, with many of those schools under consideration for the Honor Roll.

“It’s really a great honor for our teachers, staff, students and our parents,” Mr. Sompayrac said. “This honor of being named a top 50 Catholic high school in many ways validates our partnerships with our parents and supporting parishes as a truly authentic Catholic institution. It validates the outstanding commitment and work of our faculty and staff.”

Sister Mary Marta Abbott presented Mr. Sompayrac and the KCHS staff and students with the Honor Roll certificate at an all-school Mass and assembly Sept. 20.

She, Mr. Storey and Mr. Sompayrac agree that inclusion on the Honor Roll sends a message that the diocese is committed to outstanding Catholic education.

“It speaks very highly of the leadership of Bishop Stika and his mission of quality Catholic education. He has done an outstanding job in this area,” Mr. Storey said.

St. Cecilia Academy in Nashville was the only other Catholic high school in Tennessee on the list.

The top 50 schools are located in 21 states, with Pennsylvania having the highest number of honorees with seven schools, followed by Texas with six and Michigan with five. Archbishop Edward McCarthy High School in Florida is the largest school with 1,489 students. St. Ignatius College Preparatory School and Faustina Academy, both in Texas, are the smallest schools with 48 students each.

The Catholic High School Honor Roll was created by The Acton Institute in 2004. The Cardinal Newman Society assumed the program this year, consistent with its mission of helping Catholic families and promoting faithful Catholic education.

“Since competition began in 2004, the Honor Roll has been a helpful tool for administrators, families, and benefactors in recognizing the quality of a Catholic high school,” said Patrick J. Reilly, president of The Cardinal Newman Society. “The Honor Roll schools are a reminder that Catholic education is getting better every day—not only academically, but in the renewal of Catholic identity—and we are delighted to see the increased level of competition among the schools that participated in the program this year.”

The common trait among the selected schools is an institutional commitment to providing an integrated and faithful Catholic education across all disciplines and in all areas of student activities, according to the society.

The high schools’ good news extended to test scores as well.

Their composite ACT scores continued a five-year trend of rising and exceeding the state average, going from 24.3 in 2011 to 24.5 for the 2012 graduating year.

The state average composite score for 2012 graduates was 19.7, up from 19.5 in 2011.

The average ACT score in English at the Catholic high schools was 25.3. In math it was 23; in reading it was 25.2; and in science the average score was 24.


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