Leading Innovation – What does it take?

You’ve heard it: at Holy Family Catholic Schools, we are proud to claim a leadership role in innovative education practices. But you might be wondering, what exactly does it take to be a leader in innovation?

It’s a fair question. So, here, we’ll take an opportunity to cut through the accolades and share the story of one shining new example that is undeniably innovative. The program is called “EDGE,” representing four core principles: engagement, discernment, growth and excellence.

This year, Holy Family has introduced a program that is not only unique to our area but also to the State of Iowa and serves as a standard-bearer of education practices across the nation. 

In the pursuit of research-based programs applying innovative education practices that align with Holy Family’s ideals, a team of faculty discovered California-based Summit Learning, an organization that partners with schools across the country to help provide personalized learning environments. The program modeled the objectives identified by the Holy Family team so closely, they knew Summit would be the perfect partner for our schools.


Is it access to technology? YES!

With the belief that information access should never be a barrier to learning, Holy Family has long been a proponent of one-to-one technology, providing laptops for each student to use as their own throughout middle and high school. Laptops and tablets are also readily accessible for use in elementary and preschool classrooms.

Is it one-on-one mentoring, fostering habits for success? YES!

With the support of a personal mentor throughout their middle and high school experience, students have the opportunity to set and track short-term academic goals and long-term college and career goals. They are challenged to think about their future on a regular basis and develop habits of success, including learning strategies, emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills. With this guidance, students learn what it takes to achieve their dreams and evaluate their ideas for the future along the way.

Is it an independent, personalized learning environment? Why, YES!

In Holy Family schools, we see the importance of preparing our youth for a world we can’t imagine.  No doubt, we’ll cultivate our share of doctors, teachers, electricians and engineers, but what about those jobs of the future we haven’t yet conceived of?  How can we possibly prepare for those? One thing we can do is equip our students with the life skills they’ll need to navigate the world around them.

Children are natural-born investigators; EDGE recognizes that and approaches learning differently. Rather than lessons formatted around a presentation of answers for students to learn and memorize, EDGE students are prepared with the skills necessary to find the answers on their own.  As adults, we know that life presents challenges with nobody there to give us the answers; the better equipped we are to address our challenges, the more likely we will prevail.

Through the Summit Learning platform, EDGE focuses on key elements of career and college readiness, as identified by Stanford University. Students are not evaluated entirely on what they know, rather, more weight is given to the demonstration of applied cognitive skills.

Working at their own pace through much of the lesson content, students access assessments as they feel ready to do so. Teaching methods and time spent on concepts become individualized so students each achieve subject mastery at their own pace and in a learning-style best geared for them, personally.

Program studies have shown that through this personalized approach to learning, many students who have historically struggled are able to access the curriculum in new ways, while students who excel are finding opportunities to accelerate their progress even further.

Is it fostering a sense of purpose through real-world applications? YES!

Faith in Action is a unique component of EDGE that is built into the regular school day. Each experience offers a week-long opportunity to connect students with local experts to develop their social and spiritual awareness, while also putting their knowledge and skills to the test. By engaging in relevant and meaningful enrichment experiences, students more fully realize what God is calling them to do in college, career and life. No matter what students hope to accomplish, they need a plan to make their dream a reality.


An emphatic “YES!” to all of these things. Independently, each of these practices brings real value to our students but integrated as part of a comprehensive program, these practices offer a solid foundation from which our students will launch into the world that lies ahead.  We believe this is how education will look in 20-30 years. Why not roll up our sleeves and get started right away?

In the 2017-18 school year, 25 Mazzuchelli Catholic sixth-graders are piloting the EDGE program. Over five years, Holy Family plans to implement EDGE in sixth- through 12th-grade with at least one section of 25 students per grade level. Elementary options are also being explored.

To learn more about the EDGE or the benefits of a Catholic school education at Holy Family, click here to request information or schedule a visit today!

Learn more about EDGE, Holy Family’s Personalized Learning Program.

Contact Us

Holy Family Catholic Schools
2005 Kane St., Dubuque IA 52001
(563) 582-5456