19 September 2014

A Message from the Superintendent on the Catholic Academic Standards of Excellence

Roman Catholic theology is comprised of the teachings of the Catholic Church, which bases its conclusions on Scripture and Sacred Tradition, as interpreted by the Magisterium. The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston is very proud of its tradition of uniting the strongest of this Catholic theology within our schools with an intense academic rigor. As successful as our schools have been, we refuse to rest on our history of strong Catholic identity and high academic achievement and allow complacency to set into our program. To that end, we introduced the idea of the Catholic Academic Standards of Excellence within all the schools in our school system.

The United States Department of Education put forth the idea of a Common Core State Standards protocol and it was quickly endorsed by two different groups in the early 2000’s. The basic idea was to bring diverse state curricula into alignment with each other by following the principles of standards-based educational reform. These two separate groups focused initially on math and the various areas of reading/language arts in the public schools. To date, these are the only two subject areas that have reached a national consensus on implementation.

There has been some controversy over the past several months about the nature, scope and perhaps even fear of the federal government’s perceived intrusion into school programming, and as an extension, a child’s education and development. Many pundits have expressed the concern over certain agendas that might be promoted over existing/established curricula and new ideas. These same pundits claim the Common Core State Standards Initiative is positioning what is being taught in public schools as running contrary to constitutional rights and national ideals; and therefore public schools, and the children that attend, might also be at some sort of risk.

Our Catholic schools have utilized curriculums and standards that have many similarities with those in our public school counterparts for many years…even decades. However, the key element in our programming is how much further we are able to go with our prescribed standards. Perhaps because of the dedication of our staffs, the demographics of our student population or a combination therein, our Catholic schools have always had the opportunity of doing more than what was expected in our public schools while being infused with the gift of Jesus Christ. Parents are paying a premium for their children to attend our Catholic schools and therefore have an expectation of receiving more in the process. The Catholic schools have always delivered on that expectation.

So how are Catholic schools defined in light of these sweeping educational reforms? For one, Catholic schools never, ever, lose sight of the mission to teach the Gospel values of Jesus Christ that are essential to the Catholic faith and to the development of the next generation of Catholics in West Virginia. Second, Catholic schools must continue to strive for a level of academic rigor that meets the highest of expectations of the Bishop, the parents and the communities served. Lastly, Catholic schools will refuse to allow gaps in the educational program to develop because of inattentive leadership. Catholic schools will work within the framework of the Common Core State Standards, but the standards our schools will adopt will be reflective of our Catholic values and traditions.

There have been many discussion forums where the Common Core State Standards protocol, as it is being delivered in the public school sector, has been dismissed as an overreaching program of the Federal or state governments to take control over the American school system. There have been claims of “data-mining” public school students’ responses, mandated delivery models, common pacing and the removal of teacher creativity in the learning process. These fears have never been put onto the Catholic school program and in good conscience could never be put on our program. Rest assured that the public schools in West Virginia and the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston have never assessed, delivered content or governed their schools in a similar fashion…and we won’t start now.

Our Catholic schools will welcome the research that comes from the strong data that aligns the Common Core State Standards, associated with the math and reading/language arts, necessary for high achievement within our schools. However, our Catholic schools will continue to invest considerable time and educator talent to make sure these standards are reflective of our Catholic identity and rigor for which the Catholic schools have been celebrated. There is no one size fits all model in Catholic education. Our Catholic students are celebrated for their diversity, social awareness and independent thought. Our Catholic school programs will continue to promote Gospel values, academic excellence, social justice and personal fulfilment throughout the State of West Virginia.

The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston’s Catholic Academic Standards of Excellence will make our outstanding program even better. Our Catholic schools have always been a tremendous resource for the faith community. The value added with the Catholic Academic Standards of Excellence in our schools will guarantee our success of our children as they face the challenges ahead. The Catholic Academic Standards of Excellence strives to assist our Catholic educators in developing excellent school-based curriculum that faithfully implements the Common Core State Standards and effectively integrates elements of Catholic Identity with honesty and integrity.
– Vincent de Paul Schmidt