Catholic Parents: If Parochial Schools Use Common Core, Why Not Enroll Your Student in Public School?
A Catholic grandfather sbumitted this question to the Springfield, IL Diocese:
Has the Diocese of Springfield, IL adopted or adapted the Common Core Standards in the Catholic schools? The response from the Diocese:
Thank you for your question via the diocesan website regarding the Common Core State Standards. Below are several points about our Catholic schools and the common core standards.
- Catholic educators from the diocesan office down to the school level respect the fact that our Catholic schools are rooted in excellence in academics that flows from excellence in faith formation. The mission of our schools is to promote the Gospel and teachings of Christ and use this to form our youth for life on earth and for the eternal life thereafter. This mission is central to all that happens in our schools. No one would do anything to compromise that mission.
- Academic rigor is a focus that our schools have and will always continue to embrace. This is evident in the achievement results, accomplishments, honors, and successes displayed by our students. No one in Catholic education in our diocese has any intention of undermining that. In most areas, the Catholic school standards already in place exceed the common core. This will not be given up.
- Standards have been part of our Catholic schools’ instructional process for many years via local school curriculum standards, diocesan standards, and state standards. Standards selected target the goal of seeking the best instructional methods to educate our children and further develop their creativity, critical thinking, and real world applications—all through our Catholic lens—to prepare our students for college, career, and above all, a strong faith life.
- As our educators review the common core, they are adapting only what fits the schools’ unique Catholic mission. They will be infusing Catholic identity into all as has been the tradition in our schools. No one in our Catholic schools system will surrender the academic freedom we enjoy as nonpublic schools. Careful review, study, consultation, discussion, and caution have been observed every step of the way in dealing with the common core standards to protect our mission.
- Our Catholic schools will continue to recognize that parents are the first educators of their children in the area of faith. The Catholic school setting respects this and offers parents the opportunity to partner with parish and school to instruct and form their children in the principles of Catholic doctrine—the Truth of Christ. This doctrine is integrated through the academic areas of instruction and will continue in that way.
- Our diocesan schools office recognizes and uses the resources of the Common Core Catholic Identity Initiative (CCCII) which is a national working group that involves collaboration between Catholic universities, corporations and sponsors invested in Catholic education, and the National Catholic Educational Association. The primary goals of this group are to assist Catholic schools and dioceses with the design of Catholic schools curriculum standards and to ensure those core standards selected are totally infused with faith, values, and Catholic identity. I hope these points give you some insight on the schools in our diocese.
Sincerely, Jean Johnson
Superintendent of Catholic
Schools Dioceses of Springfield in Illinois
Below are three letters regarding the Catholic response to Common Core in its parochial schools. A student poses similar questions to the Archbishop of Cincinnati in an op ed article. A superintendent in the Cincinnati Archdiocese responds to these questions which are similar to the Springfield, IL diocesan response. Then read the response from the student pointing out how Common Core is antithetical to Catholic doctrine.
If you agree with the student’s opinion on the disparate goals of a Catholic education vs a Common Core education, why would you keep your child in a parochial school utilizing Common Core State Standards?
To the Most Reverend Dennis M. Schnurr, Archbishop of Cincinnati,
It is with great reluctance that I address this letter to Your Excellency today, and it is with the sincerest concern for the hearts and minds of the children who have been entrusted to your Archdiocese, and for the integrity of our shared Catholic dogma that I bring to public attention a disturbing course of action on the part of the Archdiocese. As a lifelong Catholic and Cincinnatian, a student, and a product of the Dominican and Jesuit traditions, I know firsthand the difference a Catholic education can yield in the life of a child, not only from the perspective of holistic faith-formation, but also in an academic sense given the rigor and individualization of Catholic curricula. The unique merging of challenging academic content with Catholic doctrine in a socially-enriching environment is a school choice that I value exceedingly, which is why the Archdiocese’s adoption of the untested Common Core State Standards, which jeopardizes this distinct brand of education, dismays me.
Your Excellency, the exploration of quintessentially Catholic works is among the most valuable and characteristic functions of a Catholic institution. Given that CCSS drives standardized assessments, which shape the curricula of Catholic teachers who will now be evaluated by their pupils’ test scores in accordance with federal mandate, and given that Common Core ELA standards lend no credence to Catholic texts or concepts, where is the foreseeable value in the imposition of these standards? What a travesty that Catholic educators should be discouraged from assessing both the literary and theological implications of Augustine’s “Confessions” and other religious works in the classroom simply because they do not fit national consortia’s conception of what it means to be “college and career ready,” and what a pity that the Church in Cincinnati should condone such an insular and utilitarian understanding of preparedness. What a shame that Catholic education should be robbed of its definitive tenets and made to be like any other nationalized option, thereby decreasing school choice and indicting the rich heritage of Christian learning.
Moreover, if the Church contends that parents, clergy and Catholic educators are to serve as a child’s primary influences in learning and faith-formation, how might one reconcile the Catholic model with reforms that remove parents from the education process, reduce teachers to paper-pushers, and concern learning with the vocational rather than the metaphysical, thereby elevating state over church? Your Excellency, our Archdiocese already had standards; they regularly outperformed the standards of other local schools. Why, then, should we abandon them and adopt untried standards that cannot be altered due to national copyright, that experts have deemed developmentally inappropriate, that violate the principles of federalism via Race to the Top, and that mine students’ longitudinal data? I implore you to heed the mounting concerns of your flock and to reconsider your adoption of Common Core for the sake of your Archdiocese’s children and the integrity of Catholic education itself.
Dr. Jim Rigg is superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
I read with interest the column in Monday’s Enquirer imploring Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr not to adopt the Common Core standards. As a lifelong educator, I have paid closed attention to the development and implementation of the Common Core across the country. Based upon the number of questions our schools and my office have received on this subject, it is evident that the Common Core is very much on the minds of the people of Ohio.
Monday’s column was written by Mr. Paul Mittermeier, a graduate of our schools and a current student at Hillsdale College. As someone who is not an educator in our schools, Mr. Mittermeier is evidently not aware of the stance of the Archdiocese in regards to the Common Core. His statements that the Archdiocese is “adopting” Common Core and that our curriculum does not present the Catholic faith are inaccurate.
The mission of our Catholic schools is to form children in the faith values and academics that they will need to successfully change a troubled world. Our schools boast generations of success in this mission, and continue to manifest some of the highest academic results in the country. More importantly, our students lead in their dedication to their communities, and demonstrate genuine care and compassion for those around them.
In order to achieve this mission, we must ensure that our programs are high quality and up-to-date. The Common Core movement represents an enormous paradigm shift in the way that knowledge, in both public and private schools, is delivered to students. As schools obligated to provide superior teaching and learning, we would be remiss in ignoring such a significant movement. However, we are not “adopting” the Common Core. We are “adapting” the standards. These words are more than just semantics. Adaptation means that we take the Common Core standards, which are integrated into Ohio’s Learning Standards, make them more rigorous, and infuse them with the Catholic faith. We are taking the best of the Common Core and making it our own, to the ultimate benefit of our students.
One of the great advantages of private education is that we have the flexibility to adapt what is happening around us. I would challenge Mr. Mittermeier, or any other interested party, to view the revised instructional standards of the Archdiocese and identify any standards that are not rigorous, or that contradict the Catholic faith. Indeed, I think Mr. Mittermeier would discover that our standards shine with the beauty of our faith, and call our students to even deeper levels of understanding. We have made this offer repeatedly, and have yet to receive a substantive concern about our standards.
When parents enroll their children, they form a partnership with their Catholic school. This partnership is built upon mutual trust, transparency, and advocacy for the best interests of their child. I encourage all parents to become properly educated about the Common Core, and to speak with their own teacher or principal, or contact my office, with any questions. Our website, www.catholiccincinnati.org, contains a Frequently Asked Questions document that clarifies our stance as well.
Thank you for reviewing my recently-published open letter to Archbishop Schnurr and for taking the time to respond, Dr. Rigg. Let me first and foremost re-affirm my commitment to the Catholic faith, to the preservation of quality Catholic education as both a means of learning and faith-formation, and to the Archdiocesan institutions with which our city is blessed; as a graduate of St. Gertrude Elementary and St. Xavier High School, I will be among the first to attest to the exceptionality of our Catholic schools, which is why I voice my grievances regarding the Common Core State Standards to begin with- that our local schools might be protected from degradation and that the quality of their spiritually and academically demanding curricula might be ensured.
Having reviewed the Archdiocese’s revised instructional standards and your assertion that Cincinnati Catholic schools are merely adapting, not adopting, the Common Core State Standards, I respectfully contend that my concerns stand unaddressed and unanswered. Given that the Catholic Church defines education as process of both academic and metaphysical enrichment and as something that transcends practicality and encompasses faith formation as well, and given Common Core’s emphasis on utilitarianism (embodied by its deliberate exclusion of anything that does not apply within the workplace or that falls outside the purview of “college and career readiness” as defined by national consortia), why would the Archdiocese “adapt to what is happening around it” by utilizing a framework that is fundamentally opposed to education as defined by the Church? If the Archdiocese truly values flexibility in curricula such that it can include definitively Catholic texts, works and lessons, then why would it invoke a model that discards these items as “superfluous” and “impractical” and that fosters the likening of Catholic education to any other brand of education through standardized assessments that discount Catholic identity? Even if Archdiocesan employees had the leeway to implement CCSS selectively and to “adapt” the standards to the Catholic framework- a process that is inhibited by national copyright- the decision to use elements of Common Core would still not make sense, as the standards operate upon the premise that vocational utilitarianism is the sole aim of education and that Catholic texts and thinkers like Aquinas, Augustine and Albert the Great have no place in the learning process, which effectively juxtaposes the standards to Catholic ends in education. The Church ought not “respond to what is happening around it” simply for the sake of engaging the fleeting whims of culture and society; rather, it ought to assume a careful stance of observation by which it cautiously discerns what it should and should not engage. In other words, it ought to thoroughly and thoughtfully research and weigh Common Core in the context of its own ends and ideals rather than simply “jumping on the bandwagon” because public and other schools have done so. It ought to draft its own standards such that they are inclined towards the Catholic vision, not adopt a model that irrefutably takes issue with certain Catholic tenets such that it can try fruitlessly to change that model and to make it compatible.
Furthermore, the crux of my initial premise and your rebuttal focuses on the implications that Common Core holds for Catholic education in particular; it does not even address the broader question of Common Core’s viability in education at large. If the Archdiocese does in fact assert that specific elements of the standards are worthy of implementation, then what is it to make of Core-aligned assessments and the high frequency of their administration? What is it to make of longitudinal data-mining by way of these tests, which violates a student’s right to privacy and anonymity, and what is it to make of the standards’ violation of the principles of federalism by way of Race to the Top and the selective awarding of grants by the Department of Education on the basis of their adoption? What is it to make of the statements by a growing number of psychologists and professionals that CCSS are “developmentally-inappropriate” and that the standards themselves do not adequately correlate with early childhood development? Are these the criteria by which the Archdiocese deemed the standards worthy of adoption- even for the purpose of selective adaptation?
The bottom line is quite simple: at its genesis, Common Core takes a vocationally utilitarian approach to education, which is divergent from the Church’s stance that education is also about spiritual formation and the pursuit of truth for the liberation of the human spirit. Given this difference, the Church’s decision to work with a fundamentally opposite framework (partially or completely) is illogical when the Church also has the option of devising its own definitively Catholic model. It is for this purpose and for the preservation of Catholic integrity in education that I once again implore His Excellency Archbishop Schnurr to reject the Common Core State Standards in their entirety.
Published December 4, 2014