Rigorous, Comparable Education Standards Are Imperative to a Quality Faith-Based Education, Too


Catholic schools should “move above and beyond the flawed Common Core Standards by embracing truly Catholic standards of excellence,” the Cardinal Newman Society argues.

The article cites eight “bad reasons” Catholic schools should reject high, comparable standards – including a rejection of the fact the issue has been politicized and states are now beginning to see improvements as a result of raising academic expectations.

“Five years into the Common Core experiment, the [test score] data is at best mixed,” the article claims.

That allegation, however, runs counter to evidence from states and school districts. This year, most states administered assessments aligned to higher education standards. A majority made significant improvements in math and reading proficiency. Notably, some of the biggest gains were made by third-grade students, who have spent most of their academic careers learning to meet higher standards.

“These findings send a clear message that it’s a mistake to retreat from high standards or go back to low-quality tests,” explains New Mexico Education Secretary Hanna Skandera, especially as state and local leaders assume more control under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

It’s important to note, as we have previously, that Catholic school leaders are free to decide which education standards to use for their schools. As private institutions, it is the prerogative of Catholic schools to use standards that complement and align with the tenets of the faith. Like all non-public schools, Catholic schools are not required to implement the Common Core, or any other set of education standards.

Even so, many church officials point out that high, comparable education standards can inform academic expectations for Catholic schools. The Archdiocese of Chicago wrote previously that integration of college- and career-ready education standards could serve to “complement the existing expectations for academic excellence that have historically been at the core of Catholic education.”

Across the country, states and school districts are taking full control of their learning goals, reviewing and tailoring them to ensure they meet area-specific student needs. That comports with the original intention of the Common Core, which was always meant to set a floor, not a ceiling, on which states could build on further.

In that sense, the Common Core has achieved its purpose. States have adopted higher academic expectations, and even as they make adjustments they are keeping the bar high for students. A Harvard University 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.”

That trend aligns well with parents’ attitudes for their own children. Polling this year shows that parents strongly support rigorous, consistent education standards that prepare students for college and careers and high-quality assessments to measure growth to those expectations.

As states and districts develop plans to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act, it is important that policymakers continue to build on these improvements by keeping expectations high. Catholic leaders, too, should insist on high standards that fully prepare young people for success in college and careers.