Newman Society Urges Focus on Catholic Identity Amid ‘Backlash Over Common Core’

Dec 11, 2015 by

By Adam Cassandra –

In a widely published Associated Press (AP) report this week on the “backlash” against Common Core Standards in Catholic schools, The Cardinal Newman Society’s Dr. Dan Guernsey made clear that the main focus of Catholic education should not be the college and career preparation associated with the Standards, but on getting students “into heaven.”

“Right now, Catholic schools are still trying to figure out how they respond to the Common Core and how deeply they embrace it,” Guernsey, director of the Newman Society’s K-12 program, told the AP.

Guernsey explained that the focus of Catholic education must remain “on the development of students’ ‘mind, body and spirit.’”

“We don’t open Catholic schools to get kids into college,” he said. “We open Catholic schools to get them into heaven.”

The AP reported: “The backlash against standardized testing is rippling through some Roman Catholic schools as they balance the college-driven Common Core learning standards with spiritual goals,” noting that only about half of the 195 dioceses in the U.S. have adopted the Standards, according to the National Catholic Educational Association, since they were released in 2010.

The report quotes Sister John Mary Fleming, executive director for education at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), saying that the uproar over Common Core creates “an opportunity for Catholic schools to review our mission: What is our mission and how does the curriculum support that mission?”

The USCCB published an FAQ page last year on its website offering some guidance on how to approach Common Core and the purpose of Catholic education.

“The Declaration on Christian Education reminds us that ‘a true education aims at the formation of the human person in the pursuit of his ultimate end and the good of the societies of which he as man is a member and in whose obligations as an adult he will share,’” the USCCB stated. “In order to achieve the aims of a true education, the Church freely establishes schools that intentionally promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the purpose of forming Christian men and women to live well now so as to be able to live with God for all eternity.

“Catholic schools should be in dialogue with culture providing contributions through a Catholic world view, forming character through a basic respect for the dignity of the human person, developing intellectual and moral virtues, and fostering the formation of Christian discipleship through the sacraments and the Catholic liturgical tradition,” the statement continued. “The orientation of a life centered on Jesus Christ is the filter of the quality of a Catholic school.”

The statement went on to note, “The Church recognizes that the civil government has the responsibility to assist parents in fulfilling their obligation and right to educate their children. The Church applauds any effort by the state and federal government to ensure that an excellent education is available for all children in the United States.”

But the USCCB also acknowledged that the Common Core Standards were “developed for a public school audience” and are “incomplete as it pertains to the Catholic school.”

“As our world becomes increasingly secularized, it will be a task of the Church through an appropriate education to help parents and families sift through the realities and difficulties of the culture and provide a solid foundation and basis for living as disciples of Jesus Christ,” according to the statement.

In May, the Newman Society released two reports marking the fifth anniversary of the Common Core Standards that highlighted continued doubts about their value to Catholic education as part of its Catholic is Our Core program to protect Catholic identity in schools.

Dr. Denise Donohue, deputy director of K-12 programs, highlighted the successes of Catholic schools that are not using the Standards in her report “Many Diocesan and Private Catholic Schools Find Success Outside of Common Core.”

Donohue and Guernsey co-authored a separate report released in May, “Disconnect between Common Core’s Literary Approach and Catholic Education’s Pursuit of Truth,” explaining why the Common Core’s English Language Arts (ELA) standards are problematic for Catholic schools.

A number of administrators from Schools of Excellence on The Cardinal Newman Society’s Catholic Education Honor Roll told the Newman Society last month that Common Core State Standards pose a significant conflict to Catholic curricula.

“Regardless of the standards employed,” said Jamie Arthur, senior fellow and manager of the Newman Society’s Catholic Education Honor Roll, “Catholic identity must be at the core of instruction and pedagogy, implemented by faithful administrators and teachers who understand the importance of their role in the formation of students.”

Source: Newman Society Urges Focus on Catholic Identity Amid ‘Backlash Over Common Core’

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