Our Approach to Education

The educational outgrowth of our Catholic identity is recognition and love for each child, made in God’s image and likeness (Gen 1: 26), as an individual and as a learner.  We embrace our unique opportunity as a Catholic school to nurture the whole child, and we strive to enrich all aspects of the child’s life through faith formation, strong academics, support for social and emotional growth, and a variety of high-quality opportunities.  Following the clear teaching of the Church, we recognize parents as the primary and principal educators of their children and value our partnership with them. 

As a staff, we embrace professional development as part of the school’s commitment to continual improvement, and we work hard to develop expertise in pedagogy; we are a learning institution as well as a teaching institution.  Our teachers are state-certified, qualified, passionate and faith-driven professionals who are giving of their time and themselves to our school’s mission and God’s work. (See the infographic below for more information.) Relying on the expertise and interests of our faculty, we are innovative as a school.  Engagement and healthy relationships are key concepts we value and often discuss.  We meet students’ individual academic needs in a supportive, Christian environment that also provides an appropriate level of challenge.


Our academic program includes four overnight, curricular, experiential trips from grades 3-8 that allow students to form closer bonds as a class and to grow in confidence and independence as individuals.  Educational technology (2:1 student: device ratio in K-5 and 1:1 Chromebooks in 6-8) is readily available, and students learn basic coding and robotics as part of the curriculum. SHCS uses STAR testing from Renaissance and the IOWA tests for outside validation of our academic progress. Our STREAM program is intentionally interdisciplinary, and students learn STEM in a way that is also beautiful (arts) and infused with faith (religion).

Our teachers collaborate with two learning specialists, two librarians/educational technology experts, our school counselor, two deans of students, a STREAM coordinator, the director of student support and six qualified instructional assistants to deliver our curriculum.

  • In elementary grades (K-5), children learn the Catholic faith, math, language arts, social studies and science; and they attend regular “specials” classes in visual art, music, Spanish, library/technology, and physical education.  We make many intentional, though gradual, transitions in these elementary years in study skills and growth in independence and responsibility.  Students learn core subjects from their homeroom teachers in grades K-3; 4th and 5th grades are more departmentalized as students prepare for Middle School.

  • In our Middle School, we want our students to feel loved and known, to be engaged in their learning, to lead the school, to find or develop a passion, and to show ownership for the school as a whole.  We leverage our preschool-8 model to allow for authentic leadership opportunities for our Middle Schoolers.  While they will learn in a traditional curriculum, they will learn in innovative ways, including project-based learning opportunities and our 1:1 Google Chromebook program.  Students continue their core classes of English Language Arts, math, science, social studies, and religion; each core class meets every day.  Our alumni and their parents state strongly that our program prepared students for an outstanding secondary school experience.

    Homeroom teachers look holistically at each child’s experience in Middle School, and students will participate in gender-separate advisory groups and experience the beautiful Theology of the Body program in religion class.

  • The Middle School experience starts with Soar into Sixth, an orientation to our Middle School.  As new members of the Middle School, students are given their first real opportunity to more deeply explore their interests.  Sixth graders take ability-grouped math courses and spend 90 minutes each day on English Language Arts. Sixth graders take quarter-long rotating courses in visual art, music (piano or choir), robotics, and Service Learning — a course designed to allow students time to perform service and to learn why we serve.

  • In addition to differentiated math courses, students with exceptional ability enroll in Language Arts, an immersive, dual-language program with five days a week of instruction in English language arts and the equivalent of high-school level-one Spanish. In seventh grade, the idea of allowing a child’s natural gifts and interests to be cultivated truly comes to fruition.  Students are able to choose from a variety of electives in visual arts, music, wellness, and Catholic leadership.  A very memorable part of seventh grade is the week-long, interdisciplinary Camp Greenville trip every fall.

  • Eighth grade is designed to prepare students for the academic demands of high school.  Students continue on their math, Spanish, and language arts pathways, while again choosing among a range of electives. The peer tutoring elective, popular among our students, allows eighth graders to help younger students grow academically — a good example of the leadership opportunities SHCS provides.  We strive to offer our 8th graders a special year that includes monthly celebrations for “8th on the 8th” and a capstone trip to Washington, DC, that features a visit to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Test Scores

The left chart below illustrates the national percentile rank of each grade at SHCS on the IOWA standardized test in 2018 out of the more than 200,000 participant schools.  The composite score consists of tests in math, reading, science and social studies. 

The right chart below shows the long-term success of SHCS students, according to data provided by Knoxville Catholic High School.  Our students consistently out-perform their peers at the local, state, and national levels on the ACT.  Our alums’ average ACT of 26 in 2018 is five points higher than the national average of 21. In 2017, SHCS alums graduating from KCHS earned $6.3 million in scholarship money, and in 2018, they received $4.7 million.  

IOWA Composite 2018
ACT Scores

Religious Education

Our students experience a curriculum that is intentionally infused with Catholic identity so that they grow in faith as well as wisdom.  Sacred Heart students receive evangelization and catechesis through our religion curriculum, but also through the example of clergy and faculty, attendance and participation at Mass, daily prayer, devotionals, retreats, regular opportunities for confession, and through the example of the saints and the language of virtue. Our students prepare during the school day for the Sacraments of Reconciliation and First Communion in second grade and Confirmation in Middle School.  As the Cathedral school of the Diocese, we are forming Christian leaders to impact society, and we find every opportunity to give children leadership opportunities during their journey at Sacred Heart Cathedral School.

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