Catholics Join Common Core Protest

Back to December 2013 Ed Reporter

Catholics Join Common Core Protest

About 100 American Catholic dioceses, over half of the total, have adapted their school curricula to Common Core English and math standards. Parents, educators, and principals at some of these schools are voicing concern. As Common Core in public schools has increasingly attracted criticism, parochial schools are also calling the decision to switch to Common Core (CC) into question. Catholic parent groups are organizing to fight against CC implementation.

Cross and blackboardWhy would a system whose 8th-graders have led public-school 8th-graders by double-digit margins for 20 years on NAEP (the Nation’s Report Card) reading and math tests, and whose high school students graduate at a rate of 99%, with 84% going on to four-year colleges consider switching to Common Core? The National Catholic Education Association received a $100,000 grant from the Gates Foundation in September, proving that no one is immune from Gates’s influence. (CatholicEducationToday.org, 11-5-13)

Some Catholic schools receive some government funding; the Cincinnati Catholic school superintendent said, “We moved into [CC] willingly, but there was an implication that we could lose [financial backing from the state] if we didn’t.” (National Catholic Register, 9-12-13)

Like the public schools, parents were not involved in the decision to change their children’s Catholic schools to Common Core standards, or even informed before CC implementation was already in progress. A Pennsylvania parent stated, “Catholic parents are so angry . . . we are the primary educators of our children, and we are being told not to worry, that they know better.” (National Catholic Register, 9-12-13)

The Cardinal Newman Society suggests that parochial schools “take [their] time and demand results from the never-tested, never-assessed Common Core,” and instead rely on their “decades of real world data and test scores” and continue to provide the quality education for which they are known.

Worried Profs Complain to Bishops

Catholic professors from colleges across the nation signed a letter complaining about Common Core and sent it to every Catholic bishop in the nation. These 132 professors are “Catholic scholars who have taught for years in America’s colleges and universities” and are “personally and professionally devoted to Catholic education in America.”

The professors’ worries about Common Core and Catholic education include the following, excerpted from their letter:

  • We are convinced that Common Core is so deeply flawed that it should not be adopted by Catholic schools which have yet to approve it, and that those schools which have already endorsed it should seek an orderly withdrawal now.
  • Promoters of Common Core say that it is designed to make America’s children ‘college and career ready.’ We instead judge Common Core to be a recipe for standardized workforce preparation.
  • Proponents of Common Core do not disguise their intention to transform ‘literacy’ into a ‘critical’ skill set, at the expense of sustained and heartfelt encounters with great works of literature.
  • Every student deserves to be prepared for a life of the imagination, of the spirit, and of a deep appreciation for beauty, goodness, truth, and faith.
  • Rather than explore the creativity of man, the great lessons of life, tragedy, love, good and evil, the rich textures of history that underlie great works of fiction, and the tales of self-sacrifice and mercy in the works of the great writers that have shaped our cultural literacy over the centuries, Common Core reduces reading to a servile activity.
  • The Common Core standards lack an empirical evidentiary basis and have not been field-tested anywhere.

The letter is signed by professors with fields of study that include biology, political science, philosophy, nursing, theology, English, history, business, law, psychology, physics, economics, and neurosurgery. The signers are professors at state, private, and Catholic institutions from U.C Berkeley to Princeton University, from Notre Dame to Baylor, from Northeastern to NYU; the list includes professors from the universities of North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Missouri, Delaware, and Mississippi.

Catholic Principals Concerned about Common Core

The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) annually recognizes top Catholic secondary schools for their academic excellence and strong Catholic identity. CNS recently surveyed principals of the top 50 Catholic high schools and an additional 23 schools that received honorable mention to determine those principals’ support of Common Core. “72% of [surveyed] principals prefer that dioceses and Catholic schools either reject or at least delay consideration of the Common Core standards until more is known about the potential impact on Catholic education,” CNS found. Almost half of the principals believe CC would harm Catholic education and one-third of principals prefer an outright refusal to participate in Common Core. Eight percent of principals are satisfied with Common Core standards.

Why have Catholic schools failed to stand behind the curricula and practices that have made them superior to public schools? According to a blogger published at First Things, “SAT, ACT, and GED are all strutting around bragging that they’re all going to be super-duper ‘aligned’ to Common Core, even though nobody really knows what that means at this point because the federally-funded assessment consortia haven’t yet released their plans for what national Common Core testing will consist of.” (10-21-13)

As stated in the letter to Bishops, “Sadly, over one hundred Catholic dioceses have set aside [Catholic] teaching tradition in favor of these secular standards.” Many hope the decision will be reversed.