The Cardinal Newman Society continues to be a prominent voice in the national debate about Common Core State Standards and its impact on Catholic schools, as evidenced in a recent report by Our Sunday Visitor.
“We need to start with the basis of our Catholic faith and then build our curriculum around that,” said Bob Laird, director of programs for The Cardinal Newman Society. “The mission of the Common Core is dramatically different than the mission of Catholic education.”
In December, The Cardinal Newman Society issued a statement on the Common Core and launched CatholicIsOurCore.org to help families, educators and Church leaders better understand the potential impact of the new standards on Catholic schools.
Laird pointed out how the Common Core is “untested” and “flawed,” such as in its English standards which emphasize informational texts over literature, and in its Mathematics standards that delay learning algebra. OSV reports:
“It’s good that students learn how to read briefings and memorandums, but not at the expense of reading literature,” Laird said. “In Catholic schools, you’re reading the source documents, whether it’s poetry, whether it’s math. You’re reading the source documents so students get not just a cursory overview, but also understand what it’s all about.”
Laird also criticized the Core’s math standards for pushing algebra back to high school. He said delaying algebra and other mathematical disciplines to the higher grades may prevent some students from pursuing engineering, accounting and other math-based careers.
The Cardinal Newman Society has issued a number of reports by education leaders on various topics related to the Common Core. A report authored by Dan Guernsey of the National Association of Private Catholic and Independent Schools (NAPCIS) is on “10 Critically Important Adaptations to the Common Core for Catholic Schools.”
In the OSV article, Guernsey echoed Laird’s emphasis on Catholic identity being the foundation for Catholic schools, noting that a school’s curriculum is based on its standards. “Catholic school, Catholic standards, Catholic curriculum,” he said.
Guernsey also reportedly challenged the claims made by The Common Core Catholic Identity Initiative (CCII), a project of the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA), on the quality of research done in making the standards. OSV reports:
Guernsey said “non-educators” crafted the Common Core ELA standards, which he said are based on assumptions that were not research-driven. Other critics also make the point that the Common Core has not been not sufficiently “field-tested.”
…While saying that a “significant majority” of the Core’s standards are “quite generic and non-offensive,” Guernsey challenged the CCCII’s claims, adding that the Core’s drafters relied on assertions not supported by research or data.
“A Catholic curriculum should be based on the conviction that all truths ultimately converge in their source: God,” Guernsey said. “This standard, among others, is sorely lacking in the Common Core.”
Guernsey highlighted how a Catholic school’s mission is different. He told OSV:
“With the Common Core, it’s coming out of the public school system, and it has a very utilitarian twist on education. It’s basically saying, ‘Our mission is college and career readiness,’"
“Our mission is much broader, much more focused on the human person,” Guernsey said. “College and career-readiness is a natural byproduct of what we do, but it’s not why we do what we do.”
“We want our students’ education to be based on transcendent truth, not the truth in the world of the text,” Guernsey said.
In conclusion, Laird said, “This is a good opportunity for school districts, superintendents and Catholic schools to step back and say, ‘Why are we really here?’ and maybe go back, look at the entire curriculum and implement a more classical curriculum.”
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