By Patrick Haggarty

Catholic schools in Montana will be implementing the Common Core State Standards (Common Core) as they apply to our scholastic programs, enhancing the academic expectations we have for our students. Because there appears to be a tremendous amount of misinformation and misunderstanding regarding Catholic schools and the Common Core, I hope the following will assist our parents and friends to better understand the Common Core and how it applies to Montana’s Catholic schools.

Although the Common Core has been around for several years, and academic standards even longer, the planned implementation of the Common Core scheduled for next year has created a heightened sense of awareness among our parents and constituents. For those who are unaware, academic standards are not new to our schools. We currently subscribe to the Montana Content Standards, which we adopted and aligned to core academic areas many years ago. The standards described in the Common Core establish clear, measurable goals and outcomes for what students should know, understand, or accomplish at the end of a grade level or course of study. They are very similar to the Montana Content Standards and will not require significant modifications to instructional methods for educating children in our Catholic schools.

Because we are a private school system, we are neither required to use the Common Core nor the recommended textbooks and methodologies. However, as Catholic schools, we must take into consideration the horizon of the national education scene and the influence and application of the Common Core. For example, the SAT and ACT assessments, as well as other standardized tests, will be geared to the Common Core. In preparing our students for the future, we constantly emphasize creativity, critical and analytical thinking, and real-world application with a Catholic worldview, intent on guiding our students to academic success. By adapting the Common Core into our programs, it will require more of our teachers and students, but academic rigor is a commitment that we embrace. Moreover, to ignore this would place our students at a significant disadvantage for their post-secondary education, which is not an acceptable option for our families.

To ensure a correct and appropriate adaptation of the Common Core into the Catholic schools, we will also be using the Common Core Catholic Identity Initiative (CCCII) within the context of our existing curriculum, textbooks, and instructional resources. CCCII is a national working group that involves collaboration between Catholic universities, corporations, and sponsors invested in Catholic education. CCCII has two goals:

  1. to assist Catholic schools and dioceses with the design and implementation of the Common Core standards within the culture and context of a Catholic school curriculum; and
  2. to infuse the faith, principles, values, and social justice themes in the mission and Catholic identity of our schools with the Common Core standards (www.catholicschoolstandards.org).

In every sense, CCCII goes beyond the Common Core standards and supports the Catholicity of our schools’ environments.

With this infusion of Catholic identity into the Common Core, our schools will be in control of the learning process and the academic freedom that we enjoy as nonpublic schools. Certainly, we will determine where and how the Common Core fits our unique mission, and we will never allow the faith and the education of our children to be comprised. Our mission to ensure the students and employees in our schools have an authentic encounter with Jesus Christ is 140 years-old. In that time, we have successfully faced many challenges where the societal demands and academic expectations are molded into our school programs to support our vital ministry.

I encourage all of our constituents to trust that Catholic schools in Montana will remain true to our missions, to the magisterium of our Church, and to the formation of the children God has entrusted to our care. Providing our youth and young adults the tools of college preparation and career readiness has long been our tradition and commitment. With the Common Core Catholic Identity Initiative, our schools will continue to be centers of learning and communities of love, where the integrity of our faith will not be compromised.


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Published in The Montana Catholic Online, Volume 29, No. 9, September 20, 2013.