Published to the Cincinnati Enquirer October 31, 2019. St. Jude School in Bridgetown, Cincinnati is a community rich in tradition and history, known for its welcoming community, dedicated families, and strong academics and faith development. The school is balanced, having large school advantages with a small school feel, providing a nurturing environment to meet the needs of each student. The school started in 1958 and still thrives today with 473 students and 40 educators focused on educating the whole child.
For several years, a quarterly awards program primarily for students in grades 4-8 has existed to recognize academic achievement and behavioral metrics. This year, the school is revamping their student awards to focus on celebrating the whole child to match the mission of the school. “When we looked at our previous awards program with parents, teachers, and community members, it became clear that the awards focused on limited aspects of our mission,” says principal Lou Eichhold. In that spirit, with the help of many stakeholders, the school drilled down to recognizing the core values of Learning, Living the Gospel Message of Jesus through Kind and Christ-Like Behavior, and Service. Each of the recognitions fits nicely into one of these silos.
Here are a few things that are staying the same: one child in each first through third grade room will be recognized as the Top Mathlete or Reading Rocket. This is awarded by the teacher to the child who most exceeded her expectation during that trimester in that subject. Also, St. Jude will continue the “Judite Kind and Christ-Like” award, given to one child in each first through eighth grade class chosen by the students. This is awarded to the students who most exhibited these qualities on a daily basis.
This year the school is expanding on recognitions following the core value of kind and Christ-like behavior. Firstly, the school is adding a class-wide recognition called the “St. Jude Spirit Award.” This will be 2 traveling trophies, one for K-3 and one for 4-8. The specials teachers will choose one class at each of these levels to be recognized for their hard work, positive attitudes, and good behavior during the specials classes of art, music, gym, library, technology. Each classroom has its own patron saint with their own particular charism and qualities. Each classroom will have patron saint award chosen by the teacher in each classroom based on that saint’s qualities.
The second core value of learning will be adjusted a bit this year. The Academic Honor Roll will be simplified this year for grades 4-8. “In the past,” explains Assistant Principal Cassandra Albanese, “there were four different levels of Academic Honor Roll. Each one depended on the number of A’s and B’s that a student earned.”
This year, St. Jude will have just 2 levels of academic honors: High Honors and Honors. High Honors will be given for straight A’s in all subjects, and Honors for any combination of A’s and B’s. Eichhold explains why. “Grades in and of themselves aren’t bad things, but when they become the focus over the learning, we need to re-evaluate. Great learning isn’t always clean; students grappling with content actually leads to more permanence. We’re hoping that by splitting the categories it into larger silos, kids will focus more on what they are learning rather than putting too much value into every single earned point.” Going away from the quarter model to trimesters will also provide students with more opportunities to show their learning to earn a final grade.
The next change has to do with St. Jude’s Personal Development Honor Roll. In the past, fourth through eighth grade students who had no more than 1 homework and behavior notices in a quarter would get a certificate of recognition. This was a good thing and a majority of our students earned this award. However, it set one bar for success. It’s okay for kids to have different bars.
Eichhold tells a story about his own life to describe the need for a change, “When I was growing up, my older sister very rarely missed a homework assignment. In fact, she remembers only three in eight years. Me on the other hand, if I missed only 3 a quarter, my mom would have been tickled. With the previous definition of personal development success, if we each missed just one homework assignment, we would have both been considered successful. However, that behavior was a near failure for her and an unbelievable accomplishment for me. Anyone who has more than one child or is a sibling can relate to this story on some level about something, be it sports-related, academic, or behavioral in nature.”
Instead this year, the fourth through eighth grade kids wrote goals the first week of school. The goals are individual to each child based upon their individual needs and talents. Working toward a goal is a great life skill and gets kids in a growth mindset. The goals ranged from sitting with different groups of students at lunch, to always being prepared for class, to missing fewer than a given amount of assignments.
St. Jude’s last core value is Service. Service has always been a cornerstone of the St. Jude education with a 20+ year partnership with the neighboring school Margaret B. Rost, team and club organized service opportunities, and the school’s annual St. Jude Day of Service. This year, St. Jude will be adding a service recognition. Students that do a minimum of 10 hours of service a trimester will get a certificate of recognition and will get their names posted in the school. Albanese further points out, “We believe that this recognition serves as the means to the end of jump starting students’ lives of Christian service. It will also provide thousands of hours of service to our community every year.”