Frequently Asked Questions about the Common Core State Standards- April 21, 2014
Purpose and Background:The history of Catholic schools in thiscountry is diverse and expansive.Our
schools have educated millions of young people over the years by providing them
a superior academic background, always pointing the way to eternal life.The success of Catholic schools in handing on
the faith, generation after generation, is a bright light in the history of the
Church in the United States. Catholic
schools located in urban settings, in small towns and rural communities continue
to challenge students to use their gifts. Teachers in over 6594 Catholic elementary and
high schools in the United States do an excellent job preparing over 1.9
million young people for the challenges of higher education in a competitive
world.99% of Catholic school students
graduate from high school on time, and 85% of Catholic school graduates attend
Because the Common
Core State Standards (CCSS) were not developed specifically for Catholic
schools, there are growing concerns about the effect of these standards on
Catholic schools in our country. Questions about the applicability
of the CCSS are being raised in Catholic schools across the country.These Frequently Asked Questions are intended
to respond to some of those concerns.
The CCSS are a set of K-12 public school standards developed in
English language arts and mathematics.There has been a great deal of local, state,
and national debate about the origin, quality, purpose and effect of CCSS.There appears to be wide disagreement over
the CCSS.Proponents believe that CCSS
provide a set of common, career-ready internationally benchmarked standards.Opponents believe that CCSS have resulted in
federal overreach into schools, loss of parental choice, and a loss of academic
rigor.The disparity of these views has
created confusion, misinformation and misunderstanding and has made meaningful
dialogue about CCSS difficult.
Concerns about CCSS have been publicly addressed to the
Committee on Catholic Education by parents, educators, and concerned
individuals within the Catholic community.These concerns include the fear that the CCSS were adopted too hastily,
in some cases, and with inadequate consideration of how they could change the
character and curriculum of our nation's Catholic schools.In order to respond to these concerns, it is
essential to consider them through the broader lens of the purpose and mission
of Catholic education and
the principle of subsidiarity.
1. What is the purpose of a
on Christian Education reminds us that "a true education aims
at the formation of the human person in the pursuit of his ultimate end and the
good of the societies of which he as man is a member and in whose obligations as
an adult he will share" (1). In order to achieve the aims of a true
education, the Church freely establishes schools that intentionally promote the
Gospel of Jesus Christ with the purpose of forming Christian men and women to live well now so as to be able to live
with God for all eternity.Catholic
schools should be in dialogue with culture providing contributions through a
Catholic world view, forming character through a basic respect for the dignity
of the human person, developing intellectual and moral virtues, and fostering
the formation of Christian discipleship through the sacraments and the Catholic
liturgical tradition.The orientation of
a life centered on Jesus Christ is the filter of the quality of a Catholic
school. The document, The Catholic Schools, states: "The
specific mission of the school, then, is a critical, systematic transmission of
culture in the light of faith and the bringing forth of the power of Christian
virtue by the integration of culture with faith and of faith with living" (49).
2. Who is responsible for
education in general and Catholic schools In particular?
Parents are the first educators of their
children as a God-given responsibility. They
are the first to introduce the faith to their children.Parents exercise this fundamental responsibility
with the aid and support of both the Church and civil community. Both have a vested interest and responsibility
in education of the young.Parents possess
the fundamental right to choose the formative tools that support their
convictions and fulfill their duty as the first educators.
The Catholic Church,
through the authority of the local bishop, establishes
schools to be of assistance to parents as the primary educators of their
children as well as to fulfill her duty to assist people to live the fullness
of the Christian life.Schools can be diocesan, parish, regional,
and private. The diocesan bishop has the
right and duty of oversight and visitation for Catholic schools with the
support and assistance of the Catholic community. The bishop employs the gifts and talents of
parents and the professional educational community at all stages of
establishing and operating Catholic schools at the local level. The instruction and formation in the Catholic
school must be grounded in the principles of Catholic doctrine.
3. What role do standards play in Catholic schools, and who is
responsible for their development?
Standards are not new to Catholic schools in
this country.The Catholic educational
community in the United States has been in dialogue about standards in
education at the state level for many years.Dioceses have reviewed, adapted, adopted or rejected state standards
when creating and implementing diocesan guidelines.Each diocese has responded to state standards
in light of the needs and common good of the schools in the diocesan area.
At the diocesan level, the Office of
Catholic Education, in consultation with the diocesan bishop, pastors, teachers,
and parents, is responsible for guidelines and standards for curriculum
implementation in the Catholic schools.Superintendents or Directors of Catholic schools are to take care that
the instruction given in Catholic schools is "at least as academically
distinguished as that in the other schools of the area."
Superintendents and administrators are often in the position of balancing the
mission of the Catholic school with the expectations of the parent community
that our schools be academically superior to the area public and private
schools.This requires knowledge of
academic standards surrounding our Catholic schools.
Catholic schools must
consider standards that support the mission and purpose of the school as a
Catholic institution. Attempts to compartmentalize the religious and the
secular in Catholic schools reflect a relativistic perspective by suggesting
that faith is merely a private matter and does not have a significant bearing
on how reality as a whole should be understood.Such attempts are at odds with the integral approach to education that
is a hallmark of Catholic schools.Standards
that support an appropriate integration should be encouraged.
One of the strengths of Catholic schools
is that there is great latitude at the local level related to standards,
curriculum, textbooks, teaching methods and implementation in the
classroom.Catholic schools, and the
teachers within Catholic schools, typically take account of the academic
environment in which they find themselves both nationally and locally.This allows teachers to prepare and challenge
students who will be transferring to secondary and higher education
In addition to helping students to succeed
academically, Catholic schools are intimately concerned with teaching young
people the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This
takes place in an environment that communicates a love of learning and the
excellence of the good moral life as taught in the Catholic tradition.This is accomplished through developing
excellent habits of mind and heart, a respect for the dignity of the human
person, and the love of the sacramental life of the Church. If you have
questions about the local diocesan guidelines, please consult the diocese's
website or the diocesan Catholic schools office.
4. Are Catholic schools required to use the Common Core State
Because Catholic schools are
private schools, they are not required to use CCSS.If a Catholic School at the local level has
chosen to implement the standards in whole or in part, it is because it has
judged them to be of assistance to the academic quality of the Catholic school
without detriment to its mission and purpose.If, by contrast, a Catholic school at the local level has chosen not to
implement those standards, it is because it has judged them, for a variety of
reasons, not to be of such assistance.
The CCSS should be neither adopted
nor rejected without review, study, consultation, discussion and caution.Catholic schools must take into consideration
the horizon of the local, state and national education landscape and the
influence and application of the CCSS.To
ignore this would place our students at a significant disadvantage for their
post-secondary education, which is not an acceptable option for our
families.For example, the SAT and ACT
assessments, as well as other standardized tests, will be geared to the CCSS.Such realities are among the factors that
must be taken into account when judging whether it is best to adopt, adapt or
reject the CCSS.In preparing our students for the future,
Catholic schools must constantly emphasize creativity, critical and analytical
thinking, and real-world application in light of Catholic culture and teaching,
and be always intent on guiding our students to academic success.
5. Why is the principle of
subsidiarity important in the discussion of standards in Catholic schools and
CCSS in particular?
In the Church, the principle of
subsidiarity directs that human events are best handled at the lowest possible level,
closest to the individuals affected by the decisions being made. In the matter of education, this involves the
competent authority at the diocesan and local levels.This principle provides a great strength for
Catholic schools as it gives the local diocesan and school community the
ability to make decisions at the school level related to guidelines and
curriculum.It also allows for
adjustments and adaptations to be made by teachers and administrators for the
children under their care. This is the
great strength of Catholic schools. They
control and direct their own curricula.
The importance and effectiveness of this
principle is well illustrated in the varied approaches utilized by Catholic
dioceses in addressing CCSS in Catholic schools.Each diocese, in consultation with the members
of the local educational community, has decided on an approach to the CCSS that
takes into account these local circumstances and the needs of their schools in
light of the mission of Catholic schools.This has been decided after consultation, review, study, and discussion
of the impact of CCSS at the local level.And because the situation and needs of each diocese is different, so
have been the responses to CCSS.Some
(1) Found the academic rigor of the diocesan
guidelines to exceed the CCSS;
the CCSS as one resource among many in developing diocesan guidelines and
that the adoption of the CCSS does not support the goals and academic needs of
the school communities;
to the CCSS only as a reference to improve the curricula they already have;
parts of the CCSS; and
the CCSS as a primary source for implementation of diocesan standards.
Many dioceses have already published a
rationale and statement regarding their position on the CCSS which is extremely
helpful to the local community in understanding the reasons for the position
and any action taken.
Because each bishop has the duty to establish
and oversee the Catholic Schools in his diocese, the Committee on Catholic
Education respects the right and duty of each bishop and those who, collaborating
with him, have responsibility for the direct supervision of Catholic schools in
the diocese, to direct the discussion related to CCSS at the local level. The Committee encourages a rigorous
discussion at the local level that reinforces a solid understanding of the
philosophy and mission of Catholic schools with a clear rationale for the
standards and guidelines implemented by the diocese.
6. Does participation in CCSS require Catholic school students to
participate in student data collections, assessments, or mandated textbooks?
Catholic schools decide which assessment they will use.Many Catholic schools have used a variety of
nationally normed tests to measure and assess student progress.Standardized tests are beneficial because
they provide parents, teachers, principals and other administrators with
important information about the effectiveness of instruction in our schools and
student preparation for success in high school and college. Participation in the CCSS does not require
Catholic schools to participate in longitudinal data base collections or
assessment. Participation in standardized testing does not require that our
schools collect data on children or their families.In keeping with privacy acts, Catholic
schools never share or publish individual test scores without parental permission
and report scores only in the aggregate.
Some of our Catholic schools have voluntarily
participated in state and national assessments such as National Assessment
Education Progress (NAEP).The performance
of our students on these assessments often positively impacts the perception by
parents and community stakeholders of how well our schools perform. Catholic
schools have consistently performed well on these national assessments.In addition Catholic schools carefully
monitor textbook and resource materials.In some instances the purchase of textbooks can be supported by state
subsidies and the schools have the ability to choose from a number of
publishers and materials.Principals and
teachers in our Catholic schools are acutely aware of the importance of a very
careful review and selection of textbooks that support its mission and purpose.
7. Why is
this discussion so important?
Church recognizes that the civil government has the responsibility to assist parents
in fulfilling their obligation and right to educate their children. The Church
applauds any effort by the state and federal government to ensure that an
excellent education is available for all children in the United States.The CCSS was developed for a public school
audience.But the CCSS is of its nature
incomplete as it pertains to the Catholic school.Our schools have resisted the need to adopt
educational trends while addressing the ever changing needs of children in
education.We have tried to integrate
the best in education while leaving behind what is not appropriate to the
Church's educational mission. As our
world becomes increasingly secularized, it will be a task of the Church through
an appropriate education to help parents and families sift through the
realities and difficulties of the culture and provide a solid foundation and
basis for living as disciples of Jesus Christ.
The bishops who attended the Synod on the New
Evangelization said:"If evangelization is to be true to itself,
it cannot take place apart from education; it is directly related to it." Catholic
schools are an integral part of the New Evangelization. The school is a
critically important community by which our families are supported in living a
life centered on God.
Dale McDonald and
Margaret M. Schultz, The Annual
Statistical Report on Schools, Enrollment and Staffing: United States Catholic Elementary and
Secondary Schools, 2013-2014 (Arlington, VA: National Catholic Education
Association, 2014), x.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd
ed.), Washington, DC:Libreria Editrice
Vaticana- United States Conference of Catholic Bishop, 2000), nos. 1885 & 1894;
Compendum of the Social Doctrine of the
Church, Washington, DC:Libreria
Editrice Vaticana- United States Conference of Catholic Bishop, 2004) nos.
Declaration on Christian Education, Gravissimum Educationis (Vatican II, October 28, 1965 )
Catholic School (Congregation for Catholic Education, March
of Canon Law: Latin-English Edition: New English Translation (Codex Iuris Canonici
[CIC]), (Washington, DC: Canon Law Society of America, 1998), canon 793; Compendum of the Social Doctrine of the Church, no. 240.
of Canon Law (CIC), cc. 794; 796 §1.
See Code of Canon Law (CIC), 806 §2. "Directors of
Catholic schools are to take care under the watchfulness of the local ordinary
that the instruction which is given in them is at least as academically
distinguished as that in the other schools of the area."
See Catechism of the Catholic Church no.1883,
"The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity,
according to which 'a community of a higher order should not interfere in the
internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its
functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate
its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to
the common good.'"
Decree Concerning the
Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church, Christus
Dominus(Vatican II, October 28, 1965) http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decree_19651028_christus-dominus_en.html (14).