Diocesan schools to ‘Celebrate the
Beauty of Every Child’ this school year

FALL RIVER, Mass. — Steve Perla is entering his third year as superintendent for the Diocese of Fall River Catholic Schools. During his tenure Perla has emphasized seeing the gift that every student is and providing them with the faith-based education they need to succeed. Building on this, and in partnership with the diocesan Pro-Life Office, Perla has set this year’s theme as “Celebrate the Beauty of Every Child.” This theme was inspired by several of the initiatives the Catholic Schools Office is launching this year. 


This year, students in kindergarten through grade eight will be taking the MAP Growth Assessment instead of the historically-used IOWA Assessment. This change was made on the recommendation of a committee that reviewed assessment options and determined that the MAP Growth Assessment will better serve students and teachers. Instead of having one long testing session in the spring, students will take a short assessment three times a year. Because the assessment is computer-based, teachers will receive their students’ scores in almost real time and can make adjustments to their instruction to meet the needs of each student. 

To support this change, Dr. Mary Pat Tranter, director of Strategic Initiatives, will work with schools to provide data analysis support and professional development to teachers to help them utilize this new data source. The change to MAP is aligned with the Catholic Schools Office emphasis on data-driven instruction which sees data as a tool to identify each student’s strengths and weaknesses and provide additional support or challenge as needed. 


Perla is a passionate supporter of special education and firmly believes that Catholic schools should serve students with mild to moderate special needs. To that end, he and the Catholic Schools Office team have helped the Diocese of Fall River Catholic Schools increase the public special education services they receive. As a result of their efforts, students in the five Fall River elementary schools were able to receive onsite speech services. This was enormously helpful for families who in previous years had to transport their students back and forth between their Catholic school and the public school, where the service was offered, losing valuable instruction time. 

To further help students receive the services they are eligible for, Perla helped establish Project Access. Project Access is a joint effort with the Archdiocese of Boston, the dioceses of Worcester and Springfield, the Christian Schools Network, and Jewish Day Schools to lobby at the state level for services for students. Project Access has hired Mary Ann Hart to lobby on behalf of students for nursing services and additional onsite special education services. Hart started in August and will work closely with Perla on key issues the state is considering this year. 

Catholic schools in Fall River and New Bedford are entering their second year of a Math Initiative aimed at improving instruction and student learning. Thanks to a grant from the Flatley Foundation the Catholic Schools Office has brought in Looney Consultants to provide professional development and instructional coaching for teachers. Both are aimed at helping teachers differentiate their instruction to help students with different learning needs gain mastery of the content. Based on Looney’s recommendation, this year seven elementary schools are moving to Eureka Math Curriculum which includes an online component that allows for personalized learning. St. Stanislaus School in Fall River is moving to Saxon Math to align with their Classical Curriculum. 

Throughout this year the Catholic Schools Office will be working with its schools to “Celebrate the Beauty of Every Child” and recognize efforts being made at the school level to help every student reach their God-given potential. They will also work with the Pro-Life Office to plan events and activities to help schools and parishes embrace this theme and live it out. At the beginning of this school year Perla wishes to express to each member of the Catholic Schools Alliance community “my best wishes and prayers to each and every student for a faith-filled and successful school year. I most especially pray that God’s beauty is continuously manifested in each and every one of our school communities.” 

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