Brother Robert R. Bimonte, FSC, president of the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA),responded today to mounting concern over the organization’s advocacy for the Common Core education standards in Catholic schools, and a related grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to train teachers on the Common Core, as revealed by Catholic Education Daily Last week.
In an email sent today to NCEA members and obtained by The Cardinal Newman Society, Brother Bimonte said,“Some of you have probably been reading or hearing concerns about Catholic schools and the Common Core State Standards.” He then directed readers to an online statement that purportedly clarifies the NCEA’s work on Common Core and provides information “about a grant NCEA recently received from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.”
Brother Bimonte apparently looks to deflect criticism by publicly outing other Gates Foundation beneficiaries in the email including the Archdiocese of Seattle, Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, the Catholic University of America and the Cristo Rey Network. “NCEA is not the first Catholic entity to receive a grant from the Gates Foundation,” he writes. But an examination of the other grants reveals none related to Common Core, which has been developed primarily under the sponsorship of the Gates Foundation, or to anything else controversial.
Otherwise, today’s statement is very similar to the organization’s previous statement on the Common Core State Standards in May 2013, and offers very little new information. In both statements, the NCEA reiterates that the Common Core State Standards “are not a curriculum.”
“That,”said Patrick J. Reilly, president of The Cardinal Newman Society, “ignores the fact that the Common Core standards are intended to guide the development of curricula and testing in schools nationwide, which is a clear goal of the Gates Foundation.
“Our schools need standards and assessments that keep the focus on key objectives of Catholic education,” Reilly told a meeting of bishops earlier this week. “Under Common Core, Catholic schools will be focused on very limited, secular goals, and their success will be evaluated with the same narrow criteria. Catholic identity is an add-on, not essential.”
Today’s statement from NCEA begins by saying the association is committed to working with its membership to build academic excellence that is based on “a rigorous curriculum infused with Catholic values as we prepare our students for this life and life everlasting.”
Reilly addressed this concept at the meeting earlier this week, stating,“There’s a large difference between infusing Catholic identity into schools governed by secular standards, and starting from Catholic principles, which form the standards themselves.”
He continued, “In many of our colleges and universities, hospitals, and charities, we have seen the results of adopting essentially secular standards while attempting to put on Catholic identity like a costume. It would be tragic for this to occur in our Catholic schools.”
The latest NCEA statement offers the following regarding the Gates Foundation grant:
NCEA recently received a grant from theBill and Melinda Gates Foundation to support professional learning opportunities for teachers and administrators in dioceses and schools that have chosen to implement the new math standards. NCEA will use these funds to defray the costs for teachers and administrators attending these summer workshops and to develop an online portal for Catholic teachers and administrators to engage in discussions as well as share mathematics lessons. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has no control over the content or processes used in conducting NCEA’s educational conferences.
Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.