Why Benchmark Guidelines?

When school leaders implement the NSBECS, whether for accreditation or for other school improvement planning, they adopt and pursue a process of self-study to determine how well the school is performing in relation to some or all of the benchmarks in the four domains of NSBECS.  Typically, the leadership of a school will establish teams of teachers and possibly other constituents assigned to specific standards and benchmark(s).  In Fall 2012, the Catholic School Standards Project published on this website a set of benchmark rubrics for teams to use in gathering evidence and data to score the school’s performance on benchmarks.  Although great effort went into writing benchmarks and corresponding rubrics that would be clear and user-friendly for Catholic school educators, there always remains room for interpretation. On the one hand, local interpretation serves to engage and invest the school community in the results of self-study; on the other hand, it may potentially limit the reliability of evidence and data gathered consistently across schools and dioceses. 

As a step toward achieving inter-rater reliability regarding the scoring of school performance on the benchmarks, a group of Catholic university educators undertook the task of creating Guidelines for Interpreting and Scoring Benchmarks. These educators, members of CHESCS (Catholic Higher Education Supporting Catholic Schools), met in Chicago in February 2013 to outline a strategy for developing and publishing the Benchmark Guidelines.  From this initial think tank, a smaller Steering Committee led the work of drafting and publishing the Guidelines and Glossary through small committees representing higher education, diocesan and school leadership, networks and NCEA.

Benchmark Guidelines

  • Standard 1 Guidelines

    Standard 1:  An excellent Catholic school is guided and driven by a clearly communicated mission that embraces a Catholic Identity rooted in Gospel values, centered on the Eucharist, and committed to faith formation, academic excellence and service.

    Benchmark 1.1  The governing body and the leader/leadership team ensure that the mission statement includes the commitment to Catholic identity.  Download Benchmark Guideline 1.1

    Benchmark 1.2  The governing body and the leader/leadership team use the mission statement as the foundation and normative reference for all planning.  Download Benchmark Guideline 1.2

    Benchmark 1.3  The school leader/leadership team regularly calls together the school’s various constituencies (including but not limited to faculty and staff, parents, students, alumni(ae) to clarify, review and renew the school’s mission statement.  Download Benchmark Guideline 1.3

    Benchmark 1.4  The mission statement is visible in public places and contained in official documents.  Download Benchmark Guideline 1.4

    Benchmark 1.5  All constituents know and understand the mission.  Download Benchmark Guideline 1.5

  • Standard 2 Guidelines

    Standard 2:  An excellent Catholic school adhering to mission provides a rigorous academic program for religious studies and catechesis in the Catholic faith, set within a total academic curriculum that integrates faith, culture, and life.

    Benchmark 2.1  Religious education curriculum and instruction meets the religious education requirements and standards of the (arch)diocese.  Download Benchmark Guideline 2.1

    Benchmark 2.2  Religion classes are an integral part of the academic program in the assignment of teachers, amount of class time and the selection of texts and other curricular materials.  Download Benchmark Guideline 2.2

    Benchmark 2.3  Faculty who teach religion meet (arch)diocesan requirements for academic and catechetical preparation and certification to provide effective religion curriculum and instruction.  Download Benchmark Guideline 2.3

    Benchmark 2.4  The school’s Catholic identity requires excellence in academic and intellectual formation in all subjects including religious education.  Download Benchmark Guideline 2.4

    Benchmark 2.5  Faculty use the lenses of Scripture and the Catholic intellectual tradition in all subjects to help students think critically and ethically about the world around them.  Download Benchmark Guideline 2.5

    Benchmark 2.6  Catholic culture and faith are expressed in the school through multiple and diverse forms of visual and performing arts, music and architecture.  Download Benchmark Guideline 2.6

    Benchmark 2.7  The theory and practice of the Church’s social teachings are essential elements of the curriculum.  Download Benchmark Guideline 2.7

  • Standard 3 Guidelines

    Standard 3: An excellent Catholic school adhering to mission provides opportunities outside the classroom for student faith formation, participation in liturgical and communal prayer, and action in service of social justice.

    Benchmark 3.1  Every student is offered timely and regular opportunities to learn about and experience the nature and importance of prayer, the Eucharist, and liturgy.  Download Benchmark Guideline 3.1

    Benchmark 3.2  Every student is offered timely, regular, and age appropriate opportunities to reflect on their life experiences and faith through retreats and other spiritual experiences.  Download Benchmark Guideline 3.2

    Benchmark 3.3  Every student participates in Christian service programs to promote the lived reality of action in service of social justice.  Download Benchmark Guideline 3.3

    Benchmark 3.4  Every student experiences role models of faith and service for social justice among the administrators, faculty and staff.  Download Benchmark Guideline 3.4

  • Standard 4 Guidelines

    Standard 4: An excellent Catholic school adhering to mission provides opportunities for adult faith formation and action in service of social justice.

    Benchmark 4.1  The leader/leadership team provides retreats and other spiritual experiences for the faculty and staff on a regular and timely basis.  Download Benchmark Guideline 4.1

    Benchmark 4.2  The leader/leadership team and faculty assist parents/ guardians in their role as the primary educators of their children in faith.  Download Benchmark Guideline 4.2

    Benchmark 4.3  The leader/leadership team collaborates with other institutions (for example, Catholic Charities, Catholic higher education, religious congregation-sponsored programs) to provide opportunities for parents/ guardians to grow in the knowledge and practice of the faith.  Download Benchmark Guideline 4.3

    Benchmark 4.4  All adults in the school community are invited to participate in Christian service programs to promote the lived reality of action in service of social justice.  Download Benchmark Guideline 4.4

    Benchmark 4.5  Every administrator, faculty, and staff member visibly supports the faith life of the school community.  Download Benchmark Guideline 4.5

  • Standard 5 Guidelines

    Standard 5: An excellent Catholic school has a governing body (person or persons) which recognizes and respects the role(s) of the appropriate and legitimate authorities, and exercises responsible decision making (authoritative, consultative, advisory) in collaboration with the leadership team for development and oversight of the school’s fidelity to mission, academic excellence, and operational vitality.

    Benchmark 5.1  The governing body, representing the diversity of stakeholders, functions according to its approved constitution and by-laws.  Download Benchmark Guideline 5.1

    Benchmark 5.2  The governing body systematizes the policies of the school’s operations to ensure fidelity to mission, and continuity and sustainability through leadership successions.  Download Benchmark Guideline 5.2

    Benchmark 5.3  The governing body, in collaboration with or through the actions of the leader/leadership team, maintains a relationship with the Bishop marked by mutual trust, close cooperation, continuing dialogue, and respect for the Bishop’s legitimate authority.  Download Benchmark Guideline 5.3

    Benchmark 5.4  The governing body, in collaboration with or through the actions of the leader/leadership team, maintains a constructive and beneficial relationship with the (arch) diocesan Education Office consistent with (arch)diocesan policy pertaining to the recognition of Catholic schools by the Bishop.  Download Benchmark Guideline 5.4

    Benchmark 5.5  In the case of a parish school, the governing body, in collaboration with the leader/leadership team, maintains a relationship with the canonical administrator (pastor or designee of Bishop) marked by mutual trust, close cooperation, and continuing dialogue.  Download Benchmark Guideline 5.5

    Benchmark 5.6  The governing body engages in formation and on-going training and self-evaluation for itself and the leadership team to ensure the faithful execution of their respective responsibilities.  Download Benchmark Guideline 5.6

  • Standard 6 Guidelines

    Standard 6:  An excellent Catholic school has a qualified leader/leadership team empowered by the governing body to realize and implement the school’s mission and vision.

    Benchmark 6.1  The leader/leadership team meets national, state and/or (arch)diocesan requirements for school leadership preparation and licensing to serve as the faith and instructional leader(s) of the school.  Download Benchmark Guideline 6.1

    Benchmark 6.2  The leader/leadership team articulates a clear mission and vision for the school, and engages the school community to ensure a school culture that embodies the mission and vision.  Download Benchmark Guideline 6.2

    Benchmark 6.3  The leader/leadership team takes responsibility for the development and oversight of personnel, including recruitment, professional growth, faith formation, and formal assessment of faculty and staff in compliance with (arch)diocesan policies and/or religious congregation sponsorship policies.  Download Benchmark Guideline 6.3

    Benchmark 6.4  The leader/leadership team establishes and supports networks of collaboration at all levels within the school community to advance excellence.  Download Benchmark Guideline 6.4

    Benchmark 6.5  The leader/leadership team directs the development and continuous improvement of curriculum and instruction, and utilizes school-wide data to plan for continued and sustained academic excellence and growth.  Download Benchmark Guideline 6.5

    Benchmark 6.6  The leader/leadership team works in collaboration with the governing body to provide an infrastructure of programs and services that ensures the operational vitality of the school.  Download Benchmark Guideline 6.6

    Benchmark 6.7  The leader/leadership team assumes responsibility for communicating new initiatives and/or changes to school programs to all constituents.  Download Benchmark Guideline 6.7

  • Standard 7 Guidelines

    Standard 7:  An excellent Catholic school has a clearly articulated, rigorous curriculum aligned with relevant standards, 21st century skills, and Gospel values, implemented through effective instruction.

    Benchmark 7.1  The curriculum adheres to appropriate, delineated standards, and is vertically aligned to ensure that every student successfully completes a rigorous and coherent sequence of academic courses based on the standards and rooted in Catholic values.  Download Benchmark Guideline 7.1

    Benchmark 7.2  Standards are adopted across the curriculum, and include integration of the religious, spiritual, moral, and ethical dimensions of learning in all subjects.  Download Benchmark Guideline 7.2

    Benchmark 7.3  Curriculum and instruction for 21st century learning provide students with the knowledge, understanding and skills to become creative, reflective, literate, critical, and moral evaluators, problem solvers, decision makers, and socially responsible global citizens.  Download Benchmark Guideline 7.3

    Benchmark 7.4  Curriculum and instruction for 21st century learning prepares students to become expert users of technology, able to create, publish, and critique digital products that reflect their understanding of the content and their technological skills.  Download Benchmark Guideline 7.4

    Benchmark 7.5  Classroom instruction is designed to intentionally address the affective dimensions of learning, such as intellectual and social dispositions, relationship building, and habits of mind.  Download Benchmark Guideline 7.5

    Benchmark 7.6  Classroom instruction is designed to engage and motivate all students, addressing the diverse needs and capabilities of each student, and accommodating students with special needs as fully as possible.  Download Benchmark Guideline 7.6

    Benchmark 7.7  Faculty collaborate in professional learning communities to develop, implement and continuously improve the effectiveness of the curriculum and instruction to result in high levels of student achievement.  Download Benchmark Guideline 7.7

    Benchmark 7.8  The faculty and professional support staff meet (arch) diocesan, state, and/or national requirements for academic preparation and licensing to ensure their capacity to provide effective curriculum and instruction.  Download Benchmark Guideline 7.8

    Benchmark 7.9  Faculty and professional support staff demonstrate and continuously improve knowledge and skills necessary for effective instruction, cultural sensitivity, and modeling of Gospel values.  Download Benchmark Guideline 7.9

    Benchmark 7.10  Faculty and staff engage in high quality professional development, including religious formation, and are accountable for implementation that supports student learning.  Download Benchmark Guideline 7.10

  • Standard 8 Guidelines

    Standard 8:  An excellent Catholic school uses school-wide assessment methods and practices to document student learning and program effectiveness, to make student performances transparent, and to inform the continuous review of curriculum and the improvement of instructional practices.

    Benchmark 8.1  School-wide and student data generated by a variety of tools are used to monitor, review, and evaluate the curriculum and co-curricular programs; to plan for continued and sustained student growth; and to monitor and assess faculty performance.  Download Benchmark Guideline 8.1

    Benchmark 8.2  School-wide and aggregated student data are normed to appropriate populations and are shared with all stakeholders.  Download Benchmark Guideline 8.2

    Benchmark 8.3  Faculty use a variety of curriculum-based assessments aligned with learning outcomes and instructional practices to assess student learning, including formative, summative, authentic performance, and student self-assessment.  Download Benchmark Guideline 8.3

    Benchmark 8.4  Criteria used to evaluate student work and the reporting mechanisms are valid, consistent, transparent, and justly administered.  Download Benchmark Guideline 8.4

    Benchmark 8.5  Faculty collaborate in professional learning communities to monitor individual and class-wide student learning through methods such as common assessments and rubrics.  Download Benchmark Guideline 8.5

  • Standard 9 Guidelines

    Standard 9:  An excellent Catholic school provides programs and services aligned with the mission to enrich the academic program and support the development of student and family life.

    Benchmark 9.1  School-wide programs for parents/guardians provide opportunities for parents/guardians to partner with school leaders, faculty, and other parents/guardians to enhance the educational experiences for the school community.  Download Benchmark Guideline 9.1

    Benchmark 9.2  Guidance services, wellness programs, behavior management programs, and ancillary services provide the necessary support for students to successfully complete the school program.  Download Benchmark Guideline 9.2

    Benchmark 9.3  Co-curricular and extra-curricular activities provide opportunities outside the classroom for students to further identify and develop their gifts and talents and to enhance their creative, aesthetic, social/emotional, physical, and spiritual capabilities.  Download Benchmark Guideline 9.3

  • Standard 10 Guidelines

    Standard 10:  An excellent Catholic school provides a feasible three to five year financial plan that includes both current and projected budgets and is the result of a collaborative process, emphasizing faithful stewardship.

    Benchmark 10.1  The governing body and leader/leadership team engage in financial planning in collaboration with experts in nonprofit management and funding.  Download Benchmark Guideline 10.1

    Benchmark 10.2  Financial plans include agreed-upon levels of financial investment determined by the partners involved who may include but are not limited to parishes, dioceses, religious orders, educational foundations, the larger Catholic community, and responsible boards.  Download Benchmark Guideline 10.2

    Benchmark 10.3  Financial plans define revenue sources that include but are not limited to tuition, tuition assistance/scholarships, endowment funds, local and regional partnerships, public funding, regional cost sharing, (arch)diocesan and/or religious communities’ assistance, foundation gifts, entrepreneurial options and other sources not listed.  Download Benchmark Guideline 10.3

    Benchmark 10.4  Financial plans include the delineation of costs for key target areas such as instruction, tuition assistance, administration, professional development, facilities, equipment, technology, program enhancement/expansion, capital projects and other planned projects.  Download Benchmark Guideline 10.4

    Benchmark 10.5  Current and projected budgets include a statement of the actual and projected revenue sources, indicating an appropriate balance among revenue sources, and a statement of actual and projected expenditures including the actual cost per child, benchmarked compensation/salary scales, and other health benefits and retirement costs.  Download Benchmark Guideline 10.5

    Benchmark 10.6  Financial plans include educational materials for distribution to all members of the community explaining the total cost per child and how that cost is met by identifying the percentage of cost that is paid for by tuition and the remaining amount of cost that is supported by other sources of revenue.  Download Benchmark Guideline 10.6

    Benchmark 10.7  The governing body and leader/leadership team provide families access to information about tuition assistance and long-term planning for tuition and Catholic school expenses.  Download Benchmark Guideline 10.7

    Benchmark 10.8  The governing body and leader/leadership team ensure that appropriately developed financial plans and budgets are implemented using current and effective business practices as a means of providing good stewardship of resources.  Download Benchmark Guideline 10.8

  • Standard 11 Guidelines

    Standard 11:  An excellent Catholic school operates in accord with published human resource/personnel policies developed in compliance with (arch)diocesan policies and/or religious congregation sponsorship policies, which affect all staff (clergy, religious women and men, laity and volunteers) and provide clarity for responsibilities, expectations and accountability.

    Benchmark 11.1  Human resource programs are professionally staffed at the appropriate level (i.e central office, school office) and ensure full compliance with human resource policies.  Download Benchmark Guideline 11.1

    Benchmark 11.2  Human resource policies delineate standards for position descriptions including staff responsibilities and qualifications, hiring, compensation, and benefits, as well as standards for professional development, accountability, succession planning and retirement.  Download Benchmark Guideline 11.2

    Benchmark 11.3  Human resource policies ensure that competitive and just salaries, benefits, and professional growth opportunities are provided for all staff.  Download Benchmark Guideline 11.3

    Benchmark 11.4  Human resource policies ensure that institutional planning includes investment in personnel growth, health care and retirement.  Download Benchmark Guideline 11.4

  • Standard 12 Guidelines

    Standard 12:  An excellent Catholic school develops and maintains a facilities, equipment, and technology management plan designed to continuously support the implementation of the educational mission of the school.

    Benchmark 12.1 The school’s facilities, equipment, and technology management plan includes objectives to support the delivery of the educational program of the school and accessibility for all students.  Download Benchmark Guideline 12.1

    Benchmark 12.2 The school’s budget supports facilities, equipment, and technology management with specific funds for capital improvements, depreciation, and replacement.  Download Benchmark Guideline 12.2

    Benchmark 12.3 The school’s purchasing, and physical and technological improvements are, by design, done in alignment with the mission and the school’s planning and curricular goals, and consistent with environmental stewardship.  Download Benchmark Guideline 12.3

  • Standard 13 Guidelines

    Standard 13:  An excellent Catholic school enacts a comprehensive plan, based on a compelling mission, for institutional advancement through communications, marketing, enrollment management, and development.

    Benchmark 13.1 The communications/marketing plan requires school leader/leadership team and staff person(s) to insure the implementation of contemporary, multiple information technologies to reach targeted audiences, and to establish reliable and secure databases and accountability to stakeholders.  Download Benchmark Guideline 13.1

    Benchmark 13.2 The enrollment management plan requires the governing body to review and the school leader/leadership team to supervise annual and continuous measurement and analysis of both enrollment and retention patterns for all student groups.  Download Benchmark Guideline 13.2

    Benchmark 13.3 The development plan requires school leader/leadership team, in collaboration with the governing body, to insure that key strategies are in place to identify, grow and maintain significant funding prospects, including alumni(ae), over time and when appropriate.  Download Benchmark Guideline 13.3

The many Catholic educators generously contributed their time and talent to develop these Guidelines are recognized in our Acknowledgements section. Their dedication and commitment to the continuing excellence and future of Catholic schools is greatly appreciated and deeply acknowledged, along with the extensive support of their institutions to further Catholic education.

Catholic School Standards Project

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