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California Catholic Schools Superintendents Move “Beyond” Common Core

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January 1, 2015

Superintendents of California’s Catholic schools have issued a statement on how they intend to adjust the Common Core School Standards (CCSS) to the unique goals and mission of Catholic education.

“Common Core” is an effort to improve competence in education developed by a broad coalition of educators and partners.  The effort traces its roots to state educators trying to standardize learning outcomes across the United States.  Before the CCSS - now adopted by 45 states, including California - education standards were literally all over the map.

The CCSS is a set of high‐quality academic expectations in English/language arts (ELA) and mathematics that define the knowledge and skills all students should know and be able to do to be on track for success in college and careers. The standards promote critical thinking and reasoning skills that students need. But Catholic schools have the added dimension of passing on the faith.  So the nation’s Catholic schools are incorporating some of CCSS’s beneficial aspects, into an effort known as the known as the Common Core Catholic Identity Initiative (CCCII). 

More than half of the nation’s archdioceses and dioceses have are now using the CCCII standards.

“While we recognize the independent value of the CCSS, we also recognize and hold sacred the tremendous responsibility we have as Catholic educators to pass on the faith,” said the superintendents of all 12 archdioceses and dioceses in California.                                                                                  

They also pledged to assist “Catholic elementary and secondary schools in integrating elements of Catholic identity (Christ’s Gospel message, Catholic values, Scripture, Church social teachings, encyclicals, etc.) into curriculum and instruction based on the CCSS.”

The California Catholic Conference’s Education Committee commended the superintendents’ good work. Bishop Edward Clark, chairman of the committee, thanked them for their Catholic educational leadership:

“In their statement, the Superintendents recognize the sacred role of Catholic schools to educate the whole person,” said Bishop Clark.  “The Education Committee commends them for keeping the Gospel message central - insuring the spiritual growth and well-being of students - as they also strengthen the traditional academic excellence of Catholic education.”

The superintendents recognized the potential value of CCSS help Catholic schools “excel at a high academic level.”

“The CCSS do this, in part, by providing for deeper analysis, text-based responses, and critical thinking for English Language Arts (ELA) and an integration of conceptual understanding, computation, and application for math.”

It is important to acknowledge the new standards, explain the Catholic educators, because the CCSS will be central in the college admissions process, including University of California admissions. So preparing Catholic school students with the new standards will that assure their graduates remain competitive.

Perhaps the key area where Catholic schools will retain their independence is in the materials they use in schools.                                          

The Catholic superintendents emphasize that “Catholic schools are not, and have never been, mandated to use state curriculum or resources and they will continue to choose their own texts and materials in accordance with Catholic values.”

The National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), an umbrella association for most U.S. Catholic schools, emphasizes that the new standards “in no way compromise the Catholic identity or educational program of a Catholic school….there are no mandates for any Catholic school to follow any federal rules.”

The Superintendents also emphasized that the Common Core sets the “destination” and that Catholic schools have long adapted public standards to their curriculum:  “Standards are a roadmap of educational benchmarks – the destination where we want students to ultimately arrive. They are not curriculum, which is a specific course of study, and can be viewed as the vehicle we drive to reach the destination.”

Catholic schools in California will continue to develop their own curriculum, as they have always done – one that will continue to emphasis Catholic values and identity.

In fact, values remain at the core of the Catholic approach to education.

At the start of this school year Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez said “The Church is committed to providing an education that goes far beyond facts and figures and information. Those things are important. But just as important are the virtues and values that make life “real” and truly worth living.

“The virtues and values that help our children grow up with a “transcendent” perspective. That helps them to see with the eyes of Jesus.”

You can read the Superintendent’s complete statement here.