Thursday, May 26, 2016

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Common Core Architect to Keynote National Catholic Education Conference

The National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) has announced that Common Core architect David Coleman will keynote the association’s annual convention next March in San Diego, Calif., raising anew concerns that the Catholic association remains devoted to the Common Core standards despite serious concerns about their impact on Catholic schools.

This comes soon after the NCEA’s assertion of a “new direction” including “more fulsome advocacy” and “serving as the national voice for Catholic schools,” a role that appears to subvert the leadership of Catholic bishops in advocating and representing diocesan schools. By its own count, more than 1,000 Catholic elementary and secondary schools in America are not represented among the NCEA’s membership.

Coleman, whose connection to Common Core is deceptively omitted from the NCEA bio released for the convention, “played a leading role in the development of the Common Core State Standards” according to his bio at AchievetheCore.org.

The NCEA tapped Coleman to speak during the opening general session of their annual conference for Catholic educators on Tuesday, March 29,on the topic “Reverence, Excellence and Educating for Life.”

In his opening letter to educators attending the conference, NCEA President Brother Robert Bimonte, FSC, assured participants, “At NCEA 2016, you will be in the presence of teachers and leaders committed to a faith-filled and academically excellent education.”

“As you explore this preliminary program, I am sure you will find many workshops that will aid and inspire you in your work,” he said.

The conference features several workshops for teachers on incorporating Common Core’s standards and techniques in the classroom: “Comprehension Instruction and the Common Core: Scaffolding Beginning Readers to Complex Text,” “Infusing Writing (and Common Core) into Religion/Theology” and “Response to Intervention and Common Core Standards.”

The Newman Society broke the news in November 2013 that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation paid the NCEA over $100,000 to support teacher training and materials on implementing Common Core standards in Catholic schools.

According to the Common Core State Standards Initiative, Common Core standards “are designed to ensure students are prepared for today’s entry-level careers, freshman-level college courses, and workforce training programs.” But Catholic education properly emphasizes integral formation and a faith-centered, values-laden, literature-based approach to teaching and personal witness that is generally discouraged by Common Core.

“Catholic education is much more than the limited focus of Common Core standards and the required instructional approaches to ‘deliver on the promise’ of them,” said Dr. Denise Donohue, deputy director of K-12 programs at The Cardinal Newman Society. “Catholic education was designed to address the needs of the whole man so that he might reach the eternal destiny for which God intended him. The curriculum is intentionally imbued with teachings of the Catholic faith so as to form students to become saints and not simply ready for college or career.”

The Newman Society has documented numerous concerns about the controversial Common Core State Standards and their potential impact on Catholic schools and students through its Catholic is Our Core program.

“Within a curriculum of a Catholic school, certain standards based upon a Christian anthropology of man need to be initially present before other standards are added,” said Donohue. “These standards articulate the foundational premises of the uncovering and understanding of objective truth; the dignity of the human person as made in the image and likeness of God; the fostering of Christian virtue as illuminated by Gospel principles; the synthesis of faith, life and culture from a Catholic worldview; and the integral formation of the whole person (body, mind and spirit) in light of his or her ultimate end.”

“Instead of narrowing the focus to college and career readiness and continuing the academic competition with public schools, Catholic schools might bode well to review their standards in light of the principles set forth above,” she added.

The Newman Society’s Donohue warned that Common Core standards “fail miserably” at keeping Christ and the Catholic faith as the true core and focus of Catholic education.

How faithful do we actively search for the ‘Truth’ in all subject areas? Do we use literature to uncover the proper nature of man, his problems and his experiences in trying to know and perfect both himself and the world? Do we value literature for how it cultivates the aesthetic faculties of man, hands down the cultural patrimony of our faith, and leads one to internalize virtuous behaviors, values, and attitudes? Do we seek to find the beauty, harmony, proportion, radiance and wholeness present in mathematics, and recognize the power of the human mind as a gift from God and a sharing in his divine nature?

“These types of questions should be asked before considering any type of standards for a Catholic school,” she said. “Common Core Standards fail miserably when one begins with this lens.”

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.

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