“Catholic schools must consider standards that support the mission and purpose of the school as a Catholic institution,” states the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Secretariat of Catholic Education in a recent document answering frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
In the FAQ, the bishops acknowledge the “growing concerns about the effect of these standards on Catholic schools in our country.”
While the bishops recognize the right of government to assist in education, they assert that the Common Core was developed for a “public school audience” and is “of its nature incomplete as it pertains to Catholic schools.”
“As our world becomes increasingly secularized,” the FAQ says, “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.”
The bishops strongly affirm the role of parents as the “first educators of their children as a God-given responsibility.” It follows that, “Parents possess the fundamental right to choose the formative tools that support their convictions and fulfill their duty as the first educators.”
The Church aids parents in forming their children by establishing Catholic schools—and local bishops “employ… the gifts and talents of parents and the professional educational community at all stages of establishing and operating Catholic schools at the local level.”
In response to concerns voiced by Catholic parents over the Common Core, The Cardinal Newman Society developed Catholic Is Our Core. The project provides Catholic parents, educators and Church leaders with guidance and resources in exploring the Common Core and concerns about its potential impact on Catholic schools and students. The Newman Society has encouraged all involved in the implementation of the Common Core to pause until the standards are thoroughly and rigorously evaluated.
The bishops, too, emphasize the importance of cautiously evaluating the Common Core. The FAQ states that the standards “should be neither adopted nor rejected without review, study, consultation, discussion and caution.”
The document dispels the misconception that Catholic schools are required to adopt the standards, while acknowledging that some schools have chosen to adopt or adapt all or part of the standards.
Following the principle of subsidiarity, the bishops place the responsibility to make decisions about the standards at the local diocesan level. Subsidiarity has also been a significant concern of teachers and especially parents, who note that as the primary educators of their children, they should be involved in decisions about the Common Core and the direction of Catholic schools.
Ultimately, the latest education trend should not be allowed to hinder schools from achieving the “aims of a true education,” according the FAQ.
“[T]he 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,” the bishops state.