Guest voice: Common Core – A Catholic Perspective

For many decades, the Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Syracuse have maintained a tradition of academic excellence, preparing and challenging students to be life-long learners, rooted in the Catholic faith and who bear witness to the Gospel values and ideals. Catholic identity and outstanding educational programs are hallmarks of our Catholic Schools. As our mission statement indicates, “Our schools are faith centered communities focused on promoting academic excellence while developing a strong moral conscience and embracing Catholic principles to enable students to meet life-long challenges and demands in our rapidly changing world.”

   Recently, there has been some confusion over the New York State Common Core Learning Standards. To address the concerns of our parents and to identify the focus of our system of schools, the Catholic Schools Office is presenting its position on the direction taken, relative to the Common Core Standards, to ensure that students will succeed in post-secondary education and the competitive workforce. After careful study and much consultation, the Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Syracuse have made the decision to adapt the New York State Common Core Learning Standards. In the past, we have adapted the New York State Standards, and we will continue to extract those standards that meet the needs of our students and challenge them to a higher level of academic excellence.

   The Common Core Standards are a set of high quality learning targets for all students at each grade level. They are relevant to the real world, rigorous, and focus on the knowledge and skills that all students need to succeed in college and careers. The standards help guide curriculum, but they are not curriculum. Curriculum focuses on the concepts to be taught, specific teaching strategies, assessment strategies, and materials necessary to help students master the concepts.

   For our Catholic Schools, curriculum development continues to be determined by the joint efforts of the Catholic Schools Office, school administrators and teachers who work with our students each day and understand their needs. Teachers carefully investigate suggested readings and make choices that are consistent with our Catholic teachings. Our professional educators constantly strive to incorporate the best instructional techniques for educating our students. To this end, our teachers have participated in many professional development opportunities offered on the local, state and national levels.

   Our system of schools in the diocese participates in the New York State assessments because the data received are used to help teachers direct instruction. However, our sophisticated teacher evaluation model does not include assessment data as a determinate in evaluating our teachers.

   For some, change is difficult; but change facilitates growth. As we move forward, we are committed to the long-standing tradition of academic excellence that has been characteristic of our Catholic school system. We will continue to provide opportunities for our students to encounter Christ each day. The adaptation of the New York State Standards will not compromise our traditions, the Catholic identity of our schools or our focus of living the mission of the Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Syracuse.

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