s create and support school leaders
n of those on the margins
l tenet of their leadership.
The POWER of partnership
— Dr. Martin Scanlan
Marquette and local higher education peers join to give Catholic K-12 schools a boost By Nicole Sweeney Etter
When Shorewood’s St. Robert School started to see more students with special needs, it was clear that it needed to make changes. Fortunately, the Greater Milwaukee Catholic Education Consortium was a ready resource, and St. Robert has since become a leader in including special needs students in the classroom. “It’s been exciting for me to see the really big things we’ve accomplished with the support of the GMCEC,” says Lauren Beckmann, the school’s principal. New challenges have transformed the face of Catholic education — changing demographics, financial pressures, and a shift toward more lay teachers and administrators, to name a few. But Catholic K-12 schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee now have five powerful partners: Marquette, Alverno College, Cardinal Stritch University, Marian University and Mount Mary College. It’s the first time all the colleges in a diocese have teamed up in this way, a model that is attracting national attention. Since it launched in 2007, the GMCEC has worked collaboratively with the Milwaukee Archdiocese Office for Schools to serve more than 500 teachers and administrators from 80 archdiocesan schools. The consortium, which was kick-started with funding from the Stollenwerk Family Foundation, concentrates on three key areas: professional development, Catholic mission and identity, and organizational effectiveness. Marquette has played a pivotal role. Consortium coordinator Dr. Jennifer Maney, Grad ’91, ’08, works out of the College of Education, and the university has helped with everything from raising nearly $100,000 for programming to designing a new website. This fall, the GMCEC hosted a three-day summit on school governance at Marquette, attracting 150 Catholic education leaders from across the nation.“It really put Marquette and the consortium on the national map of Catholic education,” Maney says. Acknowledging “pockets all across campus that have helped with so many initiatives,” Maney is especially appreciative of College of Education faculty — including Dr. Martin Scanlan, Dr. Francesca Lopez and Rev. Jeffrey LaBelle, S.J. — and Dean Bill Henk, who have shared their expertise with educators from Catholic K-12 schools. “I’ve been excited that one of the main issues the consortium is focusing on is building the capacity of schools to support a diverse population of students, to serve kids on the margins, whether they’re on the margins for poverty or disability or language,” says Scanlan, an assistant professor of educational policy and leadership whose research focuses on students with special needs. At St. Robert, changes are already under way. Instead of relying on what Beckmann calls “a specialist hero” to take care of students with special needs, classroom teachers are being trained to serve a diverse range of students. Last school year, St. Robert transformed its reading curriculum to a workshop model so teachers can better serve students of varying levels. A longtime first-grade teacher told Beckmann, “Never in all my years have I seen students learn so much, so fast, and have so much fun doing it.”