What Do Common Core State Standards and Catholic Schools Have in Common?

Article excerpt

Many in the Catholic education community deem it better to be proactive rather than reactive and are adopting the standards in a manner that is consistent with their mission and culture

Since 1983, education reform has focused on standardsbased education as a means to remedy what the report "A Nation at Risk" termed "the mediocre performance" of American school children. Almost 30 years later, the nation is still grappling with the importance and impact of standards on educational outcomes. More than ever, Catholic schools are drawn into the discussion.

Why National Standards and Why are States Adopting Them?

Several factors have influenced the development of the Common Core State Standards initiative: 1) an equity imperative that seeks to provide all students with a high-quality education regardless of where they attend school; 2) global competitiveness, which requires a workforce with different skills and education; and 3) a wide diversity of current curriculum standards and calculation of student achievement levels across the states.

The poor performance of American students on international assessments such as TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) and PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) has been attributed to the fact that all higher-scoring countries have national standards and assessments with rich professional development activities for teachers based on those standards.

The World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report 2011-2012 that ranks countries on how well their educational systems meet the needs of a competitive economy placed the United Stated 26th. Also, comparisons of achievement levels of student performance on state assessments and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) evidenced significantly lower state cut scores to reach proficiency levels than those set by NAEP. This has prompted calls for more uniformity and consistency in what all students across the nation should know and be able to do at each grade level.

What is the Common Core Initiative and How is it Impacting Education?

Currently 46 six states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have adopted voluntarily the Common Core State Standards, and many Catholic schools are doing so as well. The Common Core State Standards have been developed by a group convened by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Through a national vetting process, they produced college-and career-readiness standards for English-language arts and mathematics for grades ? to 12 that are "research- and-evidencebased, internationally benchmarked, aligned with college and work expectations and include rigorous content and skills." The standards are more narrowly focused in terms of content, but require greater depth regarding content-based application of principles and practice.

Schools began implementing the standards during the past school year, with full implementation expected by 2014 when national assessments will be available. Textbooks, digital media, curricula, standardized tests, professional development programs and teacher preparation programs in colleges and universities are being aligned to the standards. States are revising policies for recruiting, preparing, developing and supporting teachers and administrators so they are able to implement the standards effectively. These developments will directly affect the resources available to Catholic school educators and teachers to be hired in the future. Consequently, many in the Catholic education community deem it better to be proactive rather than reactive and so are seeking to adopt the standards in a manner that is consistent with their mission and culture.

Will the Common Core Standards Secularize the Catholic School Curriculum?

Maintaining the unique mission and independence of Catholic schools in their choices of curricular and program designs should not be affected by adoption of the standards. …