.With the full roll-out of the Common Core State Standards occuring in all public schools in Connecticut during the 2013-2014 academic year, many parents wonder what, exactly, it means for their children. Dr. Dale R. Hoyt, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Hartford, spells out the relationship between the Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Hartford and the Common Core initiative
Common Core is the short name for the Common Core State Standards initiative, a national effort to move educational standards in all schools toward uniformity. It is not a curriculum. Currently, the Common Core standards are written for the study of mathematics and English language arts.
The Office of Catholic Schools has worked to align the Common Core standards with the archdiocesan curriculum standards, even though the archdiocesan curriculum standards meet or exceed those of the Common Core. For example, persuasive writing is emphasized in the archdiocesan curriculum standards and is limited in Common Core. In the study of mathematics, fractions are taught in third through fifth grade using Common Core, and are introduced in the first grade in the archdiocesan curriculum standards.
At the same time, it should be noted that the Archdiocese of Hartford’s curriculum standards are used in various dioceses throughout the country, and have received accolades for being relevant and rigorous in their academic approach to teaching and learning.
We in the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Schools make certain that the archdiocesan curriculum standards infuse Catholic teaching and doctrine in order to support our vision for students to encounter the living God and to critically search for knowledge, meaning and truth.
For the school year of 2012-2013, the Iowa Assessment standardized test scores indicated that students in the Archdiocese of Hartford were above grade level equivalencies; and graduates are headed down a road for success that encourages lifelong learning, surpassing the College Board’s college and career benchmarks as supported by the Advanced Placement (AP) Tests and Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT).
The Common Core is designed to “provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn ...” It is a set of minimum, hence, core, academic standards. The archdiocesan standards, aligned to the Common Core, more broadly embrace a richly developed program of teaching and learning, strongly integrated with the Catholic intellectual tradition. The National Catholic Educational Association (www.ncea.org) has released a position paper on Common Core, and Dr. Mary Jane Krebbs, a professor of St. John’s University in Queens, N.Y., and a consultant to the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Schools, has provided clarity with regard to the Common Core movement and its relationship to Catholic schools.
Dr. Krebbs suggests that the Common Core represents a renewed commitment and an opportunity to reflect on exactly what makes good schools good, as well as on what makes good Catholic schools great. “In addition to the traditional purposes of schooling – teaching children, alleviating poverty, perpetuating our cultural heritage, producing intelligent and participatory citizens, encouraging innovation and creativity, etc. – Catholic schools encourage the development of a moral conscience, create a community of faith based on Gospel values and produce intelligent, participatory members of the future Catholic Church.” Catholic school educators and the archdiocesan curriculum standards aim to reach both sets of goals.
Under the direction of Valerie Mara, assistant superintendent of academics, and the Office of Catholic Schools’ Curriculum Commission, strategic efforts are made to write archdiocesan curriculum standards that align with and exceed the Common Core. Mrs. Mara and the Curriculum Commission ensure the Catholic identity and the integrity of the educational program of a Catholic school.
Dale R. Hoyt holds a doctorate in education from the American International College in Springfield, Mass.