In the latest of a series of papers from The Cardinal Newman Society on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), veteran Catholic school administrator Dr. Jamie Arthur asks, “Are academic outcomes (SAT, PSAT, ACT, college acceptance) how we measure the success of Catholic education?” Citing canon law and other Church documents, she demonstrates that Catholic schools should also be concerned with student formation and Catholic mission.
Arthur, who is Senior Fellow with the Newman Society’s Catholic High School Honor Roll, suggests that both parents and educators need to keep Catholic identity at the center of conversations about curricula and the CCSS. Everyone involved in Catholic education has a role in preserving their schools’ religious identity:
Governing boards, clergy, and superintendents need to carefully weigh who is placed in the position of Principal/Head of School and entrusted with the academic, managerial, and spiritual leadership of the school. Catholic parents have both the obligation and the right to educate their children in the Catholic faith (Canon 793) and must act as an advocate for their child by working in partnership with the school. It is the obligation of all constituencies to protect and defend Catholic education, as it is one of the primary evangelization arms of the Church with a legacy that spans over a century.
Arthur’s report is the sixth in a series of papers which are part of the Newman Society’s Catholic Is Our Core project, helping keep key stakeholders in Catholic education – Catholic families, pastors, teachers, principals, superintendents and bishops – informed about the Common Core and its potential impact on Catholic education.
Arthur explains that Catholic schools have been held against various academic benchmarks since 1895. But it is essential that they not lose sight of their core mission:
From a Catholic identity perspective, a debate could be suggested as to whether the mission of Catholic education is truly at the center of the controversy surrounding the Common Core. If we take to heart the integral formation of each child and consider the goals set forth by the USCCB in Renewing our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium (2005), efforts surrounding the nuances of the Common Core need to be directed to ensuring that Catholic school leadership understands and supports the mission of Catholic education, that parents are considered partners in the education of their children, and ecclesiastical authorities (or their delegates) ensure that the standards and curriculum used in every school support and strengthen Catholic identity. A discussion as to how Catholic school leaders assess excellence in education should be at the forefront of conversations surrounding Catholic education.
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