Frequently Asked Questions
For questions regarding MIS policies, procedures and requirements, please reference the MIS Parent/Student Handbook, which can be found at [here]
Does MIS use Common Core?
MIS does NOT use Common Core, and it is not used by any other Catholic school within the Dallas Diocese. We use our own curriculum based on the National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools. Our current version is based on the original collegiate document standard adapted with permission of the Archdiocese of Hartford, CT. It can be found at [here]
As an education initiative in the United States that details what K-12 students should know in English and math at the end of each grade, Common Core seeks to establish conformity in education standards across the states. Texas has elected not to use Common Core and sets its own curriculum.
Since Common Core is a national program for public schools, most Math and English books (including some we use at MIS) now notate “Common Core” on the cover. This simply means that they are adaptable or usable with the common core but can be used in other frameworks. Our curriculum sets what is taught, not the text book, but we are limited to what is available from the publishers.
Who determines which text books we use?
The Diocese of Dallas Catholic Schools Office provides each diocesan school with a list of approved textbooks. At MIS, the textbook options are reviewed and selected by the teachers with veto power by school administration.
Textbooks rarely undergo major revisions because it is a costly process for the publishing companies. The ones that you see labeled “common core”, such as the Envision math books used in grades 4 and 5, were produced before Common Core became a negative buzzword. Using textbooks labeled “common core” does not mean we teach to the Common Core. It simply means that the books are marketed as a book that can be used in curriculums under the Common Core standards.
Please remember that textbooks do not create our curriculum. They are a tool used to help meet our own standards-based curriculum. Pearson is a textbook conglomerate that publishes the highest percentage of textbooks used in the U.S.; therefore, the majority of the books on our approved list are published by Pearson or one of its subsidiaries.
What are some of the key performance indicators used by MIS to evaluate success?
MIS uses the Iowa Assessments and a separate ability test each fall in grades 1-8 to adjust curriculum, not to determine child’s readiness for next grade. The consistency of each child’s score is also reviewed as they move from grade to grade to define areas where a child may need additional assistance. Formerly known as the ITBS, the Iowa Assessment is one of top two nationwide achievement tests (the other is the Standford) and is the test most widely used in Texas outside of state tests.
High school acceptance rates are a good indicator of overall performance for a school. On average, 92% of our MIS graduates are accepted into their first choice of private high schools and 100% receive one of their top two choices. This is an excellent rate, especially given the soaring number of applicants that Catholic high schools (such as Jesuit and Ursuline) are receiving now as families steer away from the higher priced Episcopal schools.
The number of Valedictorians/Salutatorians is also a good indicator of long-term performance for a school. Many MIS grads have achieved valedictorian/salutatorian status at their high schools over the years…the most recent being 2015.
MIS participates each year in the PSIA and scores well compared against other schools given the number of MIS students that choose to attend. It should be noted that MIS does not “teach to” the academic fair tests nor does MIS require certain students to attend. MIS relies on the students to prepare themselves, but teachers will provide focus topics for students. Since the PSAI is not held on campus, many MIS parents/students choose not to attend when invited…so MIS generally has a much smaller number of students attending than the larger schools like St. Rita and St. Monica.
How is RenWeb’s ParentWeb used by MIS?
ParentWeb is mainly used to post grades and class lists. It is also used for parents to edit their own family information. Most teachers post class calendars or course descriptions and include a weekly posting of grades and assignments. It is noted that some school work, like essays, take longer to grade than other assignments, so parents may note some delays in grades being posted.
Why is Grade 4 a challenging year for students?
Transitioning from primary (3rd) to intermediate (4th) is a milestone in the way students learn; thus grade 4 is a challenging year for most students in all schools. Students go from the primary grades where they “learn to read” to the intermediate grades where they “read to learn”.
In grade 4, students use the text books more and worksheets less. The math textbook changes in grade 4 to allow a better correlation to the middle school math program. Teachers use differentiated learning (different avenues of learning) to help students make sense of new concepts. Teachers may present the same content in several different ways, and some methods may not be in the textbook.
Departmentalization of subjects allows teachers to teach certain subjects to all students in the grade level, and departmentalization at MIS begins in grade 4. Students in this grade change classes for math, reading, social studies and science. Students in grade five change classes for math, reading, social studies, science, religion and English.
At the end of each school year, teachers in grade 4 provide an orientation meeting for the students in grade 3 to familiarize them with some of the differences that they will encounter (ie, upstairs, skirt instead of jumper, books instead of worksheets). Teachers identify areas needing adjustments and making necessary changes to ease the transition.
Why doesn’t MIS offer Spanish immersion or other language programs?
There are no schools in Diocese of Dallas that offer Spanish immersion. The Diocese of Dallas sees the value of Spanish for this region of the U.S. and requires that Spanish is the foreign language taught if one is offered. A few diocesan schools offer a second foreign language as an elective 2 times per week for one quarter of the school year.
Spanish instruction is not a state or diocesan requirement. In the K-8 diocesan schools, the purpose of Spanish is to expose the students to the language in a manner which will help them learn Spanish as a foreign language in high school.
State requirements dictate the amount of minutes spent on each subject per week. Class schedules are checked during the required accreditation process to verify that the minimum time requirements are met. Beginning in grade 4, there is a significant increase of time required for both science and social studies. Therefore, it is difficult to adjust schedules to accommodate additional time for special programs such as Spanish.
Currently, at MIS Kindergarten students have Spanish 1 time per week and students in grades 1-6 have Spanish 2 times per week. A third day for Spanish classes is used for grades 7-8.
Can you explain the vocabulary program used in Grades 4-8?
In grades 4-8, the vocabulary series used is designed to be taught in one semester. During the other semester, students in grades 4-8 are taught prefixes, suffixes and roots of words which allow them easier interpretation of the meaning of larger unknown words. This vocabulary program is a great tool to help students be prepared to take the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE).
Note that in grade 4, MIS allows 2 weeks per unit. Occasional interruptions (ie, Lent’s Stations of Cross, ice days, etc.) may cause the unit to continue into a 3rd week.
What is Enterprise City?
This cross-curricular program replaces a section of 4th grade social studies from February through mid-April (about 8 weeks). It covers economic concepts as well as math and language arts. The students receive grades throughout the program.
The program allows hands-on learning which culminates in a trip to Enterprise City located in one of Richardson ISD’s elementary schools. At the city, the students practice being producers and consumers. They receive paychecks, open bank accounts, run shops, pay payroll, etc.
MIS has participated in Enterprise City for over 20 years. Since the program is in huge demand, Enterprise City has a long wait-list. If MIS decides not to participate in the program, we would lose our day. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to get it back.
How is safety addressed at MIS?
The safety of our students is of utmost importance at MIS and we employ a variety of security measures in our daily efforts to provide a safe, secure learning environment. The January 2013 Mustang Stampede newsletter gives a review of these measures which reflect our community’s high expectations for school safety. It can be found at [here]. In the time since that newsletter was published, MIS has installed over $100,000 in security upgrades including:
• A remodeled front entry with camera security system and magnetic-lock doors that can be locked/unlocked with the touch of the button from the office. The new entry also offers a solid wall for extended protection to the Kindergarten Hallway.
• A visitor management/tracking system, with visitor stickers made from a scan of the visitor’s drivers license. This system, called Raptor, was purchased for us by the MIS Parent Teacher Club.
• Replacement of 50+ year old doors in the junior high and kindergarten wings
• New double-keyholed doorknobs on every classroom and exterior office that can be locked from either inside or outside of the room with a key, to replace old doorknobs which required locking from the exterior.
How does MIS approach bullying?
No child deserves to be bullied. At MIS, every faculty and staff member works to identify bullying when it occurs and put a stop to it as quickly as possible. This is done in a way that respects the dignity of all involved: bullied children are protected and supported, kids who bully are taught more positive and effective ways of interacting, and bystanders are guided and given strategies that empower them to get involved.
Each year, MIS brings in multiple speakers to address bullying with our students and faculty—including professional speakers from Aim for Success, the Farmers Branch police, and professional counselors. Individual breakout sessions with our staff counselor are also done within various grades, both to prevent bullying and to address issues when problems arise. In addition, peer workshops are held with in conjunction with local Catholic High School students to help our students recognize and respond properly to bullying.
An article that might help with understanding bullies and the true definition of what constitutes bullying can be found at http://tweenparenting.about.com/od/socialdevelopment/a/Profile-of-The-Bully.htm.
Why doesn’t MIS provide a bus service?
A bus service survey taken in 2012 showed that there was not enough interest in areas north of the school to accommodate the high price associated with using a bus service.
How does MIS Approach Fundraising?
Over the years, our parent surveys have expressed strong opposition to fundraising activities, and our Advisory Councils have worked hard to reduce the amount of fundraising done through the school. Therefore, the school focuses on two main financial development activities per year that generate $75,000 and up: our Annual Giving Campaign and our Heart of Gold Auction. We also allow book fairs in the library as they contribute towards academic growth as well as gain funds for the library ($10,000-12,000 annually).
The MIS Parent Teacher Club (PTC) and Mary Immaculate Dads (MIDs) have been asked to focus on community building rather than fundraising. They sponsor social activities (ie, Obstacle Course, Chili Cookoff, Spagetti Dinners) that will also generate some revenue for their organizations—each between $1000-3000 which ultimately goes towards a directed purpose to MIS such as field trips and wish list items—but their main purpose for these activities is to build community.
That said, the PTC does oversee the buck-a-jeans day activity (generating about $400 each month to supplement field trips) and the Fall Festival (from which MIS receives $10,000). They also oversee retailer reward clubs such as Amazon.com and Kroger rewards that do not require out of pocket from our parents other than what they would already be spending.
Occasionally the PTC sponsors Restaurant Nights, but they have found that these generate only a couple of hundred dollars at best and they distract parents from attending other PTC or MIDs social activities during the month.
Note that MIS/PTC/MIDs do not require “supportive selling” product-based fundraising, which was most fervently opposed in our parent surveys. However, you may see our students doing that through their outside scouting and club sports, which are not school driven.