June 8, 2018 - Feast of the Sacred Heart
Dear Members of the Sacred Heart School Community,
Today marks the end of the 2017-2018 academic school year with the wrap up of days of professional in-service for our faculty and staff. Solemn ceremonies have formally marked the "crossing of thresholds" for students, Prize Day, and Graduation. Heading into the summer, we say "adieu" to another wonderful year at the Rosary. Endings are times of celebration and also times for reflection. I would like to share some thoughts on the year which underscore future directions for the 2018-2019 school year.
Throughout this past year, Sacred Heart participated in the AdvancED Accreditation process, the third of three accreditation processes in three years: Sacred Heart Commission on Goals (SHCOG), Independent Schools Association of the Southwest (ISAS), and AdvancED. I am happy to report that our school has earned the distinction of AdvancED accreditation for a five-year term by the State of Louisiana and the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Rating schools using an Index of Education Quality (IEQ), AdvancEd measures performance across three domains of standards: 1) Leadership Capacity; 2) Learning Capacity; and 3) Resource Capacity and the results of classroom observations. On a scale of 100 to 400, IEQ results provide information on how a school is performing compared to expected criteria. I am pleased to report our institutional rating as 375.70. This is an outstanding result - an affirmation of our mission, strength, and position as a school.
Many parents inquire about our standardized tests results. On the PSATs, SATs, and ACTs, our students' scores are surpassing state and national mean averages in Language Arts, Science, Math, and Reading. Unique reporting associated with the SAT allows us to see how our students compare to students in other independent schools. Again, Sacred Heart's mean scores surpass those of independent schools when compared to other all-girls and co-ed populations. In the last year, over half of our freshmen scored above the 90th percentile on the PSAT 8/9. This test indicates if students are "on track for college."
Considered the gold standard in evaluating the rigor of the academic program and therefore important for college admissions purposes, we now offer 12 on-site Advanced Placement courses, and through our partner SophieConnect (our proprietary Network of Sacred Heart Schools online program), students can take up to four additional AP classes. In 2016-2017, students in grades 10-12 took 149 AP tests. Nearly 90% of our students scored a 3.0 or above, which enables them to be eligible to receive college credit for these courses. We are pleased to announce that in Math and Science, our scores are steadily increasing - an outcome we have given considerable support and effort to attain. Our continuous focus on data and careful analytics is increasing our knowledge of which specific content areas are needed to fine tune our instruction.
Test preparation is effective, but genuine support for academic excellence occurs every day through a robust curriculum in every class. We are so excited at Sacred Heart to see the emergence of a robotics club, coding programs, and the prolifera of STEAM projects - everything from 3-D generated prosthetic hands to lighted streetcars to rooftop gardens - in our Innovation Labs and Makerspaces on the Rosary and Mater Campuses. The enthusiasm for design thinking is gaining traction across all Divisions, and we are seeing the positive consequences of this innovative approach to learning throughout the curriculum. The students love to go to the Innovation Lab and the Makerspaces!
At the end of the journey, our 65 graduating seniors walked through the gates of Sacré Coeur with 187 scholarships and 12 million dollars to support their studies. That number is not inflated. It is a true testament to the dreams, drive, and determination of our students. We cannot wait to see how our newest class of Sacred Heart alumnae change our world.
Besides exceeding expectations on accreditations and tests, our students are taking off across the world on their journeys to becoming global citizens. In 2017-2018, students participated in exchange programs in 13 countries of the world, including Chile, Australia, Peru and, of course, France. Sacred Heart students in 10 U.S. cities exchanged with our students to strengthen the bond of Sacred Heart sisterhood within our Network of Sacred Heart Schools. The Rosary has earned a reputation for being one of the most popular cities and schools for exchange. Looking ahead and eastward, we are working on expanding our relationships of exchange to New Zealand and Japan.
Last year, our students became more fluent in world languages through an expanded curriculum. In Little Hearts, Lower School, and Middle School our students are learning Mandarin, French, and Spanish. In the Upper School, students had the option to intensify their studies of languages in the classroom as well as through SophieConnect and Catholic Virtual. This year, several Upper School students enrolled in the latter to study Mandarin, Latin, and German.
More similar than different, our arts and athletic programs are attracting larger numbers of students each year. In the new Richard C. Colton, Jr. Center for Performing and Fine Arts, our students put on both Shrek and Godspell as part of the theater program. In athletics, the Cardinals brought home three state champion team titles, one state runner-up team title, three state bronze team finishes, and 10 individual state champion titles. Through arts and athletics, our students in increasing numbers are developing confidence, courage, creativity, and commitment through their active participation in these programs. We are proud of their resolute spirit and determination to "get in the game," "to run the race," and to the conviction that "the show must go on."
Yes, we had a wonderful year. It was filled with many beautiful experiences in our classrooms and throughout the community. Our celebration of the Bicentennial of St. Philippine Duchesne at St. Louis Cathedral last November was an event for the history books, and it will be remembered by all for years to come. Two hundred years in mission is something to celebrate, and our community did that in style at a Mass with Archbishop Aymond presiding and a reception complete with an outstanding pink buffet of desserts to delight the palettes of all the young at heart. The "Aloha Auction" was island-style and awesome. If you weren't there, well, it was a terrific party in the best place for a party - our front courtyard. Our "Let Your Heart Sail" Congé was thrilling with more rides, booths, and the addition of Friday night. For our Headmistress' Dinner, the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group put on a feast from its best restaurants. Across these events, Give ASH Day, and GiveNOLA Day, we saw higher participation levels, increased volunteerism, and increased financial support for the school.
In every accreditation and focus group, the factor that comes to the top of our ratings is our school mission, identity, and culture. Repeatedly, our school is recognized as providing an exceptional environment of care and support. We are consistently commended for our deep sense of personal relationships. These observations drive directly to the essential charism of our mission to "make known the love of God through the heart of Jesus." Each day, I am so grateful to walk through these gates, and humbled, to serve this educational mission. No matter how challenging or miraculous (as it can feel on some days), I bend towards the Mystery of the calling to serve something greater than any one of us.
This is my hope for each one of our students: that they form a deep personal relationship with God through the knowledge of Jesus' heart - a heart that is kind, loving, forgiving, and generous. To this end, our Liturgies and times for prayer, our Campus Ministry programs in each Division, and our community-wide celebrations of special Catholic Feast Days throughout the year nurture the spiritual child so that she thrives and grows in her faith and Catholic identity. Last year, we commissioned 16 Eucharistic Ministers for prayerful service at our all-school Liturgies. To me, this reflects the efficacy of religious formation - a genuine desire to share in the sacramental life of the Church through service.
In closing, we recognize the many continuing opportunities presented each day for growth and improvement. We are aspirational as we end the year - hoping, reaching, and committing to reach higher and higher for our students. Hopefully, we inspire them and ignite their passion to reach high toward their goals. We are working to open their hearts to be loving, caring, and faith-filled young women each day. And, it is a joy to see them grow each year into beautiful girls and young women.
We appreciate being on the journey with you, accompanying young people in discovering that which God is calling them to be for the world. Have a blessed and grace-filled summer. We look forward to an exciting 2018-2019 school year.
Sr. Melanie A. Guste, RSCJ, Ph.D.