Share this story

 | By Margaret Dubose

Mission-focused and Innovative

Diocesan Catholic Schools Re-Accredited by Cognia

The Diocese of Birmingham’s Catholic schools have recently received system re-accreditation as a result of an engagement review that took place April 4-7 of this year. The schools received high marks and numerous commendations for the incredible work accomplished and the unified means of operation. During the review, a team of external experts reviewed evidence and interviewed pastors, Diocese of Birmingham chancery leadership, parents, teachers, principals, school staff, students, and diocesan and local school advisory council members. Through this process, the review team gained a broad understanding of institution quality and prepared a final report, outlining commendations and recommendations for improvement.

Cognia, the accrediting body, is a global, nonprofit improvement organization which provides accreditation and other professional services to more than 36,000 schools in 85 countries. Accreditation is pivotal in leveraging education quality and continuous improvement. Using a set of rigorous research-based standards, the Cognia Accreditation Process examines the whole system — the program, the cultural context, and the community of stakeholders — to determine how well the parts work together to meet the needs of learners. Using Cognia Performance Standards, the review team provides valuable feedback to systems, which helps to focus and guide each institution’s improvement journey. The standards are used to evaluate the institution’s effectiveness based on leadership capacity, learning capacity, and resource capacity.

One of the metrics provided by the review is the Index of Education Quality (IEQ) as a holistic measure of overall performance based on a comprehensive set of standards and review criteria. IEQs can range from 100 to 400, with the national average over the last five years at approximately 281. An IEQ of 275 and above indicates the institution is beginning to reach the Impact level and is engaged in practices that are sustained over time and are becoming ingrained in the culture of the institution. The Diocese of Birmingham Catholic Schools earned an IEQ of 334. The diocese received an IEQ of 281 during the last engagement review in 2015. This score increase provides further evidence of the commitment to continuous improvement and the achievement that continues to occur throughout diocesan schools.

As this IEQ score indicates, the review team’s findings were excellent. One of the key commendations was the unification through a common mission statement and the diocesan Strategic Plan for Catholic Education. The report stated, “The Diocese of Birmingham (diocese) school system has a strong belief in its mission statement. Stakeholder interviews shared that Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Birmingham provide an excellent educational experience in the Catholic tradition enabling all students to develop their God-given talents.” A review of the mission documents, the diocese and school websites, the superintendent’s report, and focus group interviews validated this finding. The theme of being mission guided was apparent to the team. Each stakeholder group shared similar insights about the mission and how the diocese and schools communicate, share, and live out these ideals.

Another key finding reflected the system’s commitment to a high-quality education for all of its students. Interviews from all stakeholder groups indicated that it is important for students to achieve academically while being taught the knowledge of the Catholic beliefs, practices, and traditions. Teachers and students verified not only the expectations for teaching and learning but also that they were offered solid support from school leaders, parents, and advisory councils. Students reported that they feel supported in their academic and social development. Students also shared that they have opportunities to grow and learn in an atmosphere very clearly aligned with the mission and vision of what it means to receive a Catholic education.

The Diocese of Birmingham parochial schools should be commended for the successful way stakeholders are mission-focused. This focus led to innovative programs, consistently improving student learning, creating a sense of community, and preparing them for their future.

To view the full report and learn more about the mission-focused, innovative academic and spiritual learning in diocesan schools, please visit