"The 'National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools' describe how the most mission-driven, program-effective, well-managed and responsibly governed Catholic schools operate. They are offered as school effectiveness standards rather than curriculum content standards, although they support curriculum development consistent with national standards and the Common Core State Standards."
Introduction to Standards and Benchmarks
Catholic Schools in collaboration with parents and guardians as the primary educators seek to educate the whole child by providing an excellent education rooted in Gospel values. Since the founding of the first Catholic school, the United States Catholic bishops speaking in conference have supported Catholic schools as foundational to the mission of the church. As recently as 2008, Pope Benedict XVI, during his visit to the United States, stated that "Catholic schools are an outstanding apostolate of hope. ..addressing the material, intellectual and spiritual needs of three million children" (Pope Benedict XVI, Address to Catholic Educators, April 17, 2008, Washington DC, par. 5).
The bishops of the United States, particularly in the seminal document, "To Teach as Jesus Did" (1971), continuously underscore the three-fold mission of our Catholic schools-to proclaim the Gospel, to build community and to serve our brothers and sisters. In their most recent document, "Renewing Our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium" (2005), the United States Catholic bishops emphasized that the entire Catholic community is called to evangelize our culture, and stressed that Catholic elementary and secondary schools play a critical and irreplaceable role in this endeavor. In this same document, the bishops committed themselves and called on the entire Catholic community to ensure that Catholic schools continue to provide a Gospel-based education of the highest quality. "Education is integral to the mission of the church to proclaim the good news. First and foremost, every Catholic institution is a place to encounter the Living God, who in Jesus Christ, reveals his transforming love and truth" (Pope Benedict XVI Address to Catholic Educators, April 17, 2008, Washington, D.C., par. 2).
While the bishops in their document, "Renewing our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium" (2005), recognized challenges in the areas of the changing face of our church, personnel and finances, they expressed strong commitment to the future of Catholic schools. They called on the Catholic community to reach out to the broader community in order to address these challenges. "Our vision is clear: Our Catholic schools are a vital part of the teaching mission of the church.... We must respond to challenging times with faith, vision and the will to succeed because the Catholic school's mission is vital to the future of our young people, our nation and most especially our church." (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Renewing Our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium 15).
Recognizing the imperative that Catholic schools must provide an excellent academic program within a faith-filled environment, these "National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools" have been produced to provide a national articulation of defining characteristics and performance benchmarks that will enable all sponsors of Catholic elementary and secondary schools to assess, strengthen and sustain their operations. The rich conversation among diocesan personnel, school leaders, Catholic educational networks, the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), and Catholic university scholars and leaders at the Catholic Higher Education Collaborative (CHEC) conference on school leadership held at Loyola University Chicago in October 2009 surfaced the possibility and desirability of joining many voices into a single foundational statement that could serve as a basis for developing and validating local standards with the added credibility of a broader national vision. …