Catholic School Officials See Value in High, Consistent Learning Goals


The Catholic Citizens of Illinois report that Michigan’s Diocese of Marquette recently announced its schools will pursue a liberal-arts curriculum instead of one aligned to the Common Core (which the article mischaracterizes as a “set of federal education standards”).

Although church officials acknowledge the “base” content emphasized by Common Core could offer a reference to faith-based schools, they point out that Catholic education is rooted in spiritual principles—which are better met through a framework designed specifically for Catholic schools

It is absolutely the prerogative of Catholic leaders to design an education system that aligns with and complements the tenets of the faith. The Common Core is a voluntary set of education standards for public schools – and private and faith-based schools are in no way required by states to adopt them.

Overwhelmingly, states that adopted the Common Core have made changes to build on the framework and ensure their learning goals meet students’ needs. That’s exactly how the standards were intended. The Common Core was always meant to be a floor, not a ceiling, Jim Cowen explains. And since most states adopted the Common Core six years ago, only one—Oklahoma—has reverted back to inferior academic expectations.

A Harvard study this year notes, “In short, the Common Core consortium has achieved one of its key policy objectives: the raising of state proficiency standards throughout much of the United States.” Likewise, by implementing high-quality assessments that align to higher expectations, states have begun to provide more accurate information to parents and teachers.

However, the Catholic Citizens of Illinois article suggests education systems that build on the Common Core are a “recipe for standardized work-force preparation.” That is simply not true. Educators regularly explain that the Common Core engenders greater creativity and flexibility in their classroom. And if teachers run into concerns, they are able to raise those with local authorities, who have full control over decisions relating to education policies.

“The Common Core is not a federal takeover of our schools, nor does it force teachers into a rigid model for classroom instruction,” more than 20 State Teachers of the Year wrote previously. “In fact, under the Common Core, teachers have greater flexibility to design their classroom lessons—and can, for the first time, take advantage of the best practices from great teachers in other states.”

“Contrary to popular perception, Common Core was designed to be less prescriptive than many states’ previous standards,” US News & World Report noted last year. “Like the rules or regulations that provide direction to other professions, rigorous standards provide a loose guide for teachers to follow, while still allowing teachers ample room for creativity in how they develop and execute their daily lessons.”

Catholic leaders have full leeway to decide what education models are best for their students. As many acknowledge, the Common Core provided a useful platform to build rigorous expectations tailored to those needs. That’s a big step forward, no matter what it’s called, for students, families and teachers.