President Bush praises ACE at Faith-Based Schools Summit

Author: Arts and Letters

Calling the need to soundly educate all American children one of the nation’s “greatest civil rights challenges,” President Bush singled out the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) as a key program that is helping to provide a more hopeful future for the country’s youths at a meeting of faith-based leaders, policymakers, and business and foundation leaders held last month in Washington, D.C.

Speaking at the White House Summit on Inner-City Children and Faith-Based Schools held April 23, President Bush said he was impressed by ACE, a program that provides college graduates an opportunity to earn master of education degrees while serving as teachers in understaffed Catholic schools nationwide.

“It’s an interesting way to participate in making sure the Catholic schools and the faith-based schools stay strong, and that is to educate teachers – actually go in the classrooms to make sure that there’s adequate instruction available,” the president said. “The people at Notre Dame commit to teach for two years as they earn their master’s degree in education. And it turns out that when you get a taste for being a teacher, that you tend to stay. And so today there are about 650 ACE teachers and graduates who work at Catholic schools across the country.”

ACE’s founder, Rev. Timothy R. Scully, C.S.C., professor of political science and director of the Institute for Educational Initiatives (IEI) at Notre Dame, also presented an address at the summit. In his talk, titled “Higher Education: Signs of Hope,” Father Scully discussed the role of higher education in supporting inner-city and faith-based schools, especially during a time of crisis with Catholic schools closing across the country at an alarming rate.

“Ironically, we experience these closures at precisely the time when our country is demanding, desperately, what these schools are best at providing: demonstrably excellent education, with enduring results, especially for at-risk and minority students, in a cost-effective, adaptable and compassionate environment,” Father Scully said.

In his speech, Father Scully also highlighted the strategies that Notre Dame and ACE have developed to catalyze the renewal of the nation’s Catholic schools, emphasizing that Catholic higher education “must play a decisive role in sustaining and strengthening these schools, which, despite the recent losses, remain the largest, most effective, and most unique private school system in the world.”

A fellow of Notre Dame’s Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies, Father Scully focuses his research on comparative political institutions, especially political parties and democratic governability. He oversees the work of the University’s Center for Research on Educational Opportunity and ACE, Notre Dame’s signature program that provides hundreds of Catholic schoolteachers to under-served communities across the country.

Father Scully served as Notre Dame’s executive vice president from 2000 to 2003, and as vice president and senior associate provost from 1994 to 2000. He serves as a Fellow and Trustee of the University.

Ordained a Holy Cross priest in 1981, Father Scully was graduated from Notre Dame in 1976 and earned master’s and doctoral degrees in political science from the University of California, Berkeley. He is a member of the Trinity Foundation Board in Dublin, Ireland; the Woodrow Wilson Center Board; and the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, D.C., as well as the New York Council on Foreign Relations. He serves as a trustee of the University of Notre Dame, Australia.

More than 85 recent college graduates from a wide variety of educational disciplines enter ACE each year. They take courses and participate in teacher training projects at Notre Dame during their two summers in the program and are assigned to full-time teaching positions at schools in more than 30 cities and 14 states during the academic year. After two years, the students graduate with a master’s degree, and about 75 percent elect to remain in education.

Accompanying Father Scully to the White House last month were a group of Notre Dame faculty and staff also invited to participate in the summit: Rev. Sean McGraw, C.S.C., the co-founder of ACE and the program’s chaplain; Rev. Lou DelFra, C.S.C., program coordinator for the Office of Campus Ministry; T.J. D’Agostino, programs coordinator for the IEI; and Steve Perla, director of ACE consulting and a policy advisor on Catholic education for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Nicole Stelle Garnett, John Cardinal O’Hara, C.S.C., Associate Professor of Law, also was in attendance.

In his concluding remarks at the summit, Father Scully expressed hope for the future of faith-based, inner-city education.

“The crisis we currently face is a crisis of imagination and of will – and that’s good news, for we lack neither,” he said. “Together, we cannot and will not fail. We know the dark statistics and the gloomy trends – it’s important we know them if we’re going to right them. But let us not get so used to looking at the darkness that we allow it to cover up the light: signs of hope abound if we have the imagination and will to see them.”

To watch President Bush’s remarks to the White House Summit on Inner-City Children and Faith-Based Schools in their entirety, click here .

Originally published by Julie Hail Flory at on May 13, 2008.