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Exploring how Catholic schools approach the Common Core
THURSDAY, JANUARY 23, 2014 12:28 PM

The educators and administrators of U.S. Catholic schools believe in keeping high academic standards for their students. In addition to providing a fertile learning ground for those youths, Catholic school teachers instruct their students in the faith, values and social justice themes inherent in the religion. When the developers of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) presented their new, more rigorous academic benchmarks, Catholic school leaders saw it as a proactive approach to education from the public sector. However, they did not want to implement the Standards immediately. Catholic leaders believe the Standards align with those of the Catholic church, but also think the CCSS could use some improvement. 

Catholic support of CCSS in the U.S.
In 2009, state governors and education experts from across the country came together to develop the CCSS. They believed that they could help create intelligent and skilled workers by designing rigorous academic benchmarks for students in kindergarten through high school. With the help of the new Standards, when those children graduated from high school, they would leave smarter and more capable than ever before. The developers of the CCSS and the leaders of the Catholic church share the same vision.

Leaders of Catholic dioceses believe that implementing the Standards will help students in a variety of ways. Some think the Standards give students a clear-cut view of what is expected of them in college. Catholic school teachers encourage their students to attend college, and many of them go on to earn a university degree. Diocese leaders think the Standards also prepare elementary and middle school children who want to attend public high schools. They believe the implementation of the Common Core at the early stages of education will expose students to the type of textbooks aligned with the CCSS. Catholic school leaders see many benefits to the CCSS, however, some concerns remain.

Adapting to the Common Core

According to Rick Maya, the superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Sacramento, the Standards are a blueprint for education, not a lesson plan founded upon the Catholic identity. That is why he and 11 other superintendents of California's dioceses came together to discuss the merits of the Standards and whether to implement the CCSS in their schools. They decided to support standards developed by the National Catholic Educational Association called the Common Core Catholic Identity Initiative (CCCII). These standards are similar to the Common Core, but are influenced by the faith and values of the Catholic Church.

According to the NCEA, the CCCII's mission focuses on providing a positive, nurturing experience of God and the Catholic Church. These experiences do not have to exist outside the context of an excellent academic education. The CCCII launched in June 2012 and represents the collaborative efforts of Catholic universities, corporate sponsors, PK-12 Catholic educators and the NCEA. These groups developed the CCCII to achieve two goals. First, they wanted to empower Catholic schools and dioceses by giving them the ability to design and coordinate the implementation of the CCSS within the context of the Catholic faith. After successfully planning the implementation of the Standards in Catholic schools, the CCCII aims to infuse the CCSS with the values inherent in the Catholic identity.

Catholic supporters of adapting the Common Core believe that academic changes need to take place to give their children the ability to compete at an international level in the future. According to Erik Swanson, the deputy superintendent of the Diocese of Sacramento, helping children achieve their goals remains the Catholic Church's first priority.

"With these Standards, there's so much freedom underneath them to get to the destination," Swanson told U.S. News & World Report. "That's one of the things the church can really take advantage of because within that freedom, we can then make sure we're raising our kids not only to go to college, but to go to heaven."