Photo credit: CollegeDegrees360 via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Report: Eight Reasons Why Catholic Schools Should Not Adopt Common Core


Photo credit: CollegeDegrees360 via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo credit: CollegeDegrees360 via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

The Pioneer Institute and American Principles Project teamed up today to release “After the Fall: Catholic Education Beyond the Common Core,” a white paper exploring how the Common Core standards have infiltrated Catholic schools across the country and why Catholic educators should reject them and opt instead for the sturdier foundation to be found in the rich Catholic educational tradition.

The paper’s authors, all of whom work in the area of Catholic education, specifically address the eight most common myths used to argue for the implementation of Common Core in Catholic schools and refute each of them one by one:

Myth #1: “[The Common Core standards] are high-quality standards that will keep test scores high and enable Catholic schools to compete with public schools.”

Reality: “Catholic schools have been outperforming public schools by double-digit margins for the last 20 years on federal National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading and math tests (often referred to as “the nation’s report card”). Catholic-school college preparation is outstanding, with over 99 percent of students graduating from high school and 84 percent going on to four-year colleges (almost double the public-school rate). Once they get to college, Catholic-school graduates are twice as likely as those from public schools to graduate from college within eight years of high-school graduation (62 percent vs. 31 percent). These statistics establish that in adopting the Common Core, Catholic schools were attempting to fix what was not broken.”

Myth #2: “Catholic schools need to adopt the Common Core standards because some states require Catholic-school students to take state tests aligned to them.”

Reality: “Roughly 90 percent of states either leave Catholic schools entirely alone on testing issues or only require them to take a nationally normed test (i.e., a test that ranks test-takers in comparison to each other) of their own choice. There are a number of non-Common Core options for schools to choose from, including the Iowa and Stanford Tests.”

And even in six states which do require Catholic school students to take Common Core-aligned tests, “wholescale adoption of the Common Core standards is not necessary or advisable, especially as the state tests themselves are in flux.”

Myth #3: “Catholic schools need to adopt the Common Core standards because they will influence college-entrance exams.”

Reality: The paper notes that, of the two major college entrance exams, the ACT “is not beholden to the Common Core” and that the SAT, despite its connections to Common Core architect David Coleman, has an incentive not to become too tied to the standards, lest it hamper “its perceived ability to evaluate all students across the nation…”

Furthermore, “[t]he limitations of the predictive ability of both [the ACT and SAT] had been well noted even pre-Common Core. As concerns about validity continue, more institutions of higher education are foregoing high-stakes test scores and looking at a more holistic college application process. About a thousand colleges and universities, including more than 125 featured in U.S. News and World Report rankings, no longer require SAT or ACT scores at all.”

Myth #4: “Catholic schools need to adopt the Common Core standards because most teachers will be trained under the new standards…”

Reality: “[F]or years, when states had different standards, it was never thought that a teacher trained in Michigan under its specific curricular standards would therefore be unqualified to teach in Florida under its different particular curricular standards. … Competent educators can move skillfully through any set of standards. To a professional educator, there is nothing sacrosanct, magical, or deeply mysterious about a particular set of standards.”

Myth #5: “Catholic schools need to adopt the Common Core standards because most textbooks and materials will reference them.”

Reality: “Most textbooks have always covered a broad set of standards. Teachers in individual states would adapt the use of those texts to ensure that they meet their own state standards. In fact, even though there is a related effort to nationalize science standards, there technically are no Common Core science standards today. Each state has its own history standards, yet that does not prevent states from using the same textbooks to teach to their individual standards. This dynamic has not changed. Catholic educators can still follow their own standards and not be lost in interacting with any textbooks, Common Core-based or not.”

Myth #6: “Catholic schools can adopt the Common Core standards because criticism of them is just ‘political,’ not educational.”

Reality: “To say that [Common Core critics’] legitimate concerns about academic rigor and Catholic identity are ‘political as opposed to educational’ is dismissive and ignores their legitimate educational concerns. … Even the many concerns of a political nature that plague the Common Core, specifically about the proper role of government in citizens’ lives, are legitimate and should not be simply dismissed. Catholics are citizens and have the responsibility to ensure the political order operates for the common good.”

Myth #7: “Catholic schools can adopt the Common Core standards since schools can simply ‘infuse’ Catholicism into the existing standards.”

Reality: “The Common Core standards are not enough to guide the complete intellectual formation in a Catholic school. The attempt to ‘work within’ the Common Core by infusing Catholic content (or, as the superintendent of schools in one archdiocese said, to use the Common Core but ‘sprinkle Catholicism on top’) is inadequate — ultimately much more is needed to retain a genuine Catholic education.”

Myth #8: “Catholic schools can adopt the Common Core standards since standards are not a curriculum and therefore do not really affect what, when, and how Catholic schools teach.”

Reality: “[S]tandards are supposed to drive the curriculum. That is their very purpose. If new standards do not change the curriculum, then they are not being implemented.

“In addition, standards, like everything in a school, must be driven by mission. … If mission drives standards, then to the degree the Catholic schools’ educational mission is similar to public schools’ (e.g., in teaching basic math skills to second-graders), there can be some sharing of standards (if there is proof of their effectiveness). However, to the degree that elements of the Catholic mission are broader than the public schools’, different or additional standards are required.”

For more on the Common Core standards and why they are incompatible with Catholic education, be sure to check out the full white paper, “After the Fall: Catholic Education Beyond the Common Core.”

Paul Dupont is the managing editor for

Paul Dupont

Paul Dupont is editor of

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