A newly released set of national standards and benchmarks for Roman Catholic schools provides guidance on the characteristics that define U.S. elementary and secondary schools affiliated with that faith, as well as the operational, financial, and academic guidelines they should follow.
The document, crafted by a group of scholars and titled “National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools,” is divided into three parts. The first spells out the “defining characteristics” of Catholic schools, based on the church’s teachings and statements from Pope Benedict XVI and the U.S. bishops. The second part outlines the standards, describing policies, programs, and processes for managing and operating effective Catholic schools.
The third piece consists of benchmarks, with “observable, measurable” descriptions of each standard to serve as a basis for developing improved assessment, data collection, and reporting structures.
Standards for operating schools include having a three- to five-year financial plan and ensuring sound facilities and management. Academic standards include having schoolwide assessments that inform curriculum and teaching.
The 19-page standards and benchmarks document was developed by the Center for Catholic School Effectiveness, at Loyola University of Chicago’s school of education, in collaboration with the Roche Center for Catholic Education, at the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. The document grew out of a series of discussions among Catholic higher education institutions, which voiced an interest in helping Catholic schools develop standards, said Lorraine Ozar, an associate professor of curriculum and instruction at Loyola University, who directed the project.
The standards will help set consistent expectations for Catholic schools that have very different operational and management philosophies and serve very different populations of students. One of the overriding themes of the document is that “if you’re going to have a Catholic school, it has to be both excellent and Catholic,” Ms. Ozar said.
The standards apply to overall school effectiveness and are not meant as curriculum standards, she said. The document supports, however, the goal of developing standards and curricula consistent with the Common Core State Standards, a multistate effort to set shared academic expectations for students in public schools.
A version of this article appeared in the March 14, 2012 edition of Education Week as National Standards Issued for Catholic Education