Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Rev. Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D.

1/30/2014 (5 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

There are some myths about the CC and Catholic schools that need to be dispelled.

What is my advice to Catholic parents, teachers, administrators and clergy?  Press the "pause" button.  There is no need for us to jump on-board an untested program.  Catholic educators have never been given to fads (which is, again, a reason for our on-going success).  Let's see where and how the dust settles.  My educated hunch is that we shall see that the project will die aborning; we shall be spared the expenditure of time and treasure, while we forged ahead with what we have known to be a winning product all along.  "Faith, Knowledge, Service."

Rev. Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D. is the Executive Director of the Catholic Education Foundation.

Rev. Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D. is the Executive Director of the Catholic Education Foundation.

Highlights

By Rev. Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

1/30/2014 (5 months ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Common Core, Catholic Schools Week, Catholic Educators, parochial school, Rev. Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D.


  
PINE BEACH, N.J. (Catholic Online) - I pen these thoughts in the lead-up to Catholic Schools Week 2014, whose theme this year is: "Catholic Schools: Faith, Knowledge, Service."
   
As you might suspect, the Catholic Education Foundation has been very involved in the national conversation on the Common Core Initiative.  Kindly allow this editorial to bring you up to speed on the topic from both the purely secular point of view, as well as from the specifically Catholic angle.
   
I want to begin by making what should be a self-evident assertion: Catholic educators are not adverse to high standards and academic accountability.  Indeed, we have been the perennial bearers of both throughout this very dark period of American education, now spanning more than fifty years.  As a Mormon teacher in Idaho said to me more than three decades ago: "The story of Catholic schools in America can be summed up as, 'Never has so much been done with so little.'"

That assessment came back to me recently as I learned of a large city in New Jersey which expends nearly $43,000 per child in the government schools, while the Catholic schools in that district spend less than $10,000.  Will anyone be surprised when I go on to say that the students in the so-called public schools of that city emerge with negligible skills in math and language arts, even as the Catholic school students perform at and even beyond national levels.  Nor is such out-stripping limited to the inner-city phenomenon; evidence is continually mounting that shows similar results in suburbia as well.  "More bang for the buck," as some would crudely put it.
   
That said, let's situate the current Common Core debate in history.  Already in the early days of the Reagan presidency, concerns were raised about the embarrassing data surfacing which showed American youth lagging woefully behind young people in dozens of countries, including many "third-world" nations.   The "Back to Basics" movement, which began in the 1970s, picked up steam in the Reagan years.  "No Child Left Behind" and "Race to the Top" were other national efforts to improve student achievement.  Everyone, it would seem, for a long time has realized that there is a problem; remedies have varied, often according to political stances.  In that sense, the Common Core is no different from earlier attempts to fix the mess.  If that is so, why the outcry now, when such a response did not occur with past initiatives?
   
Anthony Cody offers a valuable "back story" with his "Common Core Standards: Ten Colossal Errors" from an objective pedagogical position.  Permit me to highlight a few of them.
   
Cody's first objection is that "the process by which the CC standards were developed and adopted was undemocratic."  Unlike its predecessors in educational reform, this project had no input from the very people most affected: parents (on behalf of their children) and teachers (key to its implementation).  Conversations on the process were labeled "confidential," ostensibly to keep dissenting voices at bay.
   
A few months ago, the Archbishop of a major diocese told me that until I had discussed the CC with him, he had never even heard of it.  I told him not to feel bad because, although 47 states had adopted it, 78% of the public had never heard of it, either!  In point of fact, state legislators were voting for a program about which they knew very little, often because the final product did not even exist at that point. 

In other words, they were being asked to take a "pig in a poke," reminiscent of the process leading to the adoption of Obamacare, as legislators who raised questions were told to accept it and then let it get worked out in time.  Of course, we have seen in all too many ways how that has worked out.  Interestingly, as of last count, at least seventeen states have backed out of the CC, or are in the process of doing so.
   
Cody and other critics maintain that the CC "violates what we know about how children grow and develop."  Amazingly, no experts on early childhood education were involved in the drafting or review of the CC. 
   
A serious flaw in the program is its "market-driven" approach as it unabashedly places college- and career-readiness above all other educational goals.  Surely, anyone imbued with a classical instinct - let alone a Catholic one - will be repulsed by such a thrust.  True education is not about getting onto the next rung of the educational ladder, nor about making lots of money; it's concerned with bringing about human flourishing or fulfillment.  Thus, whether or not there is tangible "pay-back" to studying Vergil's Aeneid, it is still a very good and worthwhile thing to do.  Why?  Because to know is always better than not to have known.
   
Other critiques of the CC point to: its rigid expectations, failing to take into account local and personal differences; the fact that it will add to the current testing mania (and, therefore, teaching to the test); ironically, a lowering of standards in many instances (especially for the majority of Catholic schools); the collection of yet more data on students, thus heightening the potential for violations of privacy and confidentiality; the lack of evidence to support the need for the program and, most especially, for its effectiveness (which has never been seriously tested).
   
Now, there are some myths about the CC and Catholic schools that need to be dispelled.  Contrary to some over-reactions:  there is no mandate for Catholic participation; even if participating, there is no requirement to use the curriculum materials offered; college entrance exams (ACT or SAT) are not (yet) tied to the CC; for us, it is not a take-it-or-leave-it affair, which explains the divergent  policies of dioceses: adopt, adapt, ignore - although it should be noted that many dioceses have given a strong "no" to the project (e.g., five of the six dioceses of Wisconsin).  An issue to consider, however, is whether states with non-public school voucher programs can or will seek to mandate acceptance of the CC as a condition for voucher eligibility (if that happens, there would certainly be constitutional/religious freedom issues).
   
At a philosophical level, we should also reflect on the following: first, it is legitimate, from a political and social viewpoint, to question the involvement of the federal government in education; which leads to the second point, namely, that Catholic social teaching has always stressed the principle of subsidiarity, that is, engaging in activity at the lowest level possible (which helps explain why our schools have been successful); third, to ask why the Gates Foundation (no friend of Catholic values) so eagerly gave a $100,000 grant to the National Catholic Education Association to promote the CC - and why the NCEA so eagerly accepted it. 

One need not be a Catholic "Tea Partier" to call for discussion of such matters.  Indeed, in a unique coalescence of people, both liberals and conservatives have expressed grave reservations about the CC, while no less an educational leader than Diane Ravitch of NYU has done the same and as the two major figures in the drafting of the CC (Sandra Stotsky/language arts; James Milgram/math) both dropped off the project because of their intense disappointment with its direction and outcome.
   
The Catholic Education Foundation weighed in on all this very early in the game.  In my official capacity as CEF's executive director, I was proud to be among the 130 Catholic signatories to the October 16 letter that went to every Catholic bishop in the country, bringing the issue forward in a very public way for the first time.  In October, CEF co-sponsored (with the Catholic High School Honor Roll and the National Association of Private Catholic and Independent Schools, among others) a workshop for Catholic school administrators on this topic.  In November, we likewise co-sponsored an informational breakfast for the bishops of our nation during their annual meeting in Baltimore (more than a quarter of the dioceses were represented).
   
What is my advice to Catholic parents, teachers, administrators and clergy?  Press the "pause" button.  There is no need for us to jump on-board an untested program.  Catholic educators have never been given to fads (which is, again, a reason for our on-going success).  Let's see where and how the dust settles.  My educated hunch is that we shall see that the project will die aborning; we shall be spared the expenditure of time and treasure, while we forged ahead with what we have known to be a winning product all along.  "Faith, Knowledge, Service."

-----

Rev. Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D. is the Executive Director of the Catholic Education Foundation. This article first appeared in the Catholic Educator and is republished with permission. The mission of  The Catholic Educator is to serve as a forum through which teachers, administrators and all others interested in Catholic education can share ideas and practices, as well as to highlight successful programs and initiatives to bring about a recovery of Catholic education in our times.The Catholic Education Foundation, Inc. is a 501(c)3 national non-profit organization formed to ensure a brighter future for Catholic education in the United States

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2014
Sports:
That sports may always be occasions of human fraternity and growth.
Lay Missionaries: That the Holy Spirit may support the work of the laity who proclaim the Gospel in the poorest countries.



Comments


More U.S.

Deacon Keith Fournier: The Courage of the Catholic Bishops, Religious Liberty, Hobby Lobby and ENDA Watch

Image of Deacon Keith Fournier is Founder and Chairman of Common Good Foundation and Common Good Alliance. A married Roman Catholic Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, he and his wife Laurine have five grown children and six grandchildren, He serves as the Director of Adult Faith Formation at St. Stephen, Martyr Parish in Chesapeake, VA. He is also a human rights lawyer and public policy advocate. Deacon Fournier is a graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville (Theology and Philosophy, BA), the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University (Theology of Marriage and Family, MTS), and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law (JD). He has completed requirements for the PhD in Moral Theology at the Catholic University of America and is writing the PhD dissertation on the teaching of St. John Paul II.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The Catholic Bishops are doing an excellent job standing up for Religious liberty as a fundamental human right. One of my growing concerns is that many Catholics do not even read what they are saying. Sadly, in a propagandized media where sound bites substitute ... continue reading


Thousands of Christians Flee Under Death Threat From Tyrannical Caliph and ISIS Jihadists Watch

Image of (Pictured: Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, or Caliph Ibrahim) At first, Christians were ordered to gather in a central place to receive the directive from the self appointed Caliph. Understandably, given the track record of this maniacal tyrant, few did. So, the text of the statement was issued as a formal declaration to all Christians - We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract - involving payment of Jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

By now, everyone who is in anyway concerned about what is happening to Christians in Iraq has heard the horrific news. The madman who claims to be a descendant of Mohammed, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi - who in his delusion and grandiosity has taken to calling himself ... continue reading


Obama demands that illegals be allowed to enter U.S. Watch

Image of Tens of thousands of illegal, unaccompanied minors have flooded into the United States since 2014 began, often escaping violence in war torn Central American countries.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

President Barack Obama's administration is considering whether or not it will allow hundreds of minors and young adults from Honduras and other war-torn Central American states to enter into the United States illegally and without crossing into the country ... continue reading


Are you ready for the next dust bowl? California is! Watch

Image of A new study suggests that the Colorado River Basin is rapidly running out of water, which may be disastrous for the seven states it supplies.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

According to a report published by the American space agency and the University of California, the water crisis that is punishing the southwestern United States is likely to worsen. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The report found that the prime source of water ... continue reading


PLAGUE OF BIBLICAL PROPORTIONS: Mayflies descend on Wisconsin Watch

Image of When summer arrives, Mayflies take flight and proceed to mate before immediately going back to the water to lay eggs and die.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It's a plague of Biblical proportions. Ugly mayflies have descended on the state of Wisconsin, covering up exterior services like so much black, metallic dust. Photos coming out of Wisconsin is sure to send viewers itching - so beware of some of the sights in ... continue reading


Catholic Bishops Decry Obama's LGBT executive order as imprudent act of religious discrimination Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The chairmen of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty and Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth have been strong in their condemnation of President Obama's legislation on LGBT employees. "Today's ... continue reading


A Tribute to Protestant Bishop Tony Palmer, Friend of Francis and Champion of Christian Unity Watch

Image of The late Bishop Tony Palmer with Pope Francis- He was catapulted into prominence in the broader Christian community when, while meeting with his friend the Pope in January, he was given a recorded message from Francis to deliver to a large group of charismatic, evangelical protestant leaders who gathered in the United States. The video went viral. It moved millions to sincere prayer for the healing of the divisions in the broken Body of Christ and is prompting a renewed commitment to common apostolic action between Christians.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

I never personally met Bishop Tony Palmer. However, I look forward to spending an eternity in the full communion of God's love with him. I appreciated his Christian courage and felt that his efforts were prophetic. He wrote his life - and lived his ministry - ... continue reading


Exclusive: Tribute to Bishop Tony Palmer, A Life Dedicated to Unity Watch

Image of (Pictured: Left to Right - Dirk West, Matteo Callisi, Bishop Tony Palmer, and Deacon Darrell Wentworth) - Faith to Bishop Tony Palmer was a dynamic, lived experience and, as a result, his life built up the whole Body of Christ and tore down the walls some have built to separate us from each other! What a legacy! A true example of living Jesus' prayer in John 17! (Deacon Darrell Wentworth)

By Deacon Darrell Wentworth

Monday, July 21, 2014, was supposed to be like most Mondays - the start of a work week. But Deacon Keith Fournier sent me a text informing me that my friend, Bishop Tony Palmer, had died. Shock went through my body as I processed that news; then disbelief as I ... continue reading


Anarchy in Chicago! Weekend of crime tears city apart Watch

Image of The weekend of July 18 saw the death of five people and the wounding of 47 in Chicago.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

There were 47 shooting victims in Chicago this weekend, five of which ended up being fatal, statistics from the Chicago Police Department report. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Chicago officials met on July 21 to discuss the city's recent surge in gun ... continue reading


The Contraceptive New York Nanny, Bill Donohue and the Catholic League Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The idea that the government is now in the business of arm-twisting women not to have more children - immediately after childbirth - is morally obnoxious and socially disturbing. It is so apt that this is happening in a city where its mayor lusts for abortion ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Sirach 44:1, 10-15
1 Next let us praise illustrious men, our ancestors ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 132:11, 13-14, 17-18
11 Yahweh has sworn to David, and will always remain ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:16-17
16 'But blessed are your eyes because they see, your ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 26th, 2014 Image

Sts. Joachim and Anne
July 26: By tradition Joachim and Anne are considered to be the names of ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter