Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Rev. Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D.

1/30/2014 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (

There are some myths about the CC and Catholic schools that need to be dispelled.

What is my advice to Catholic parents, teachers, administrators and clergy?  Press the "pause" button.  There is no need for us to jump on-board an untested program.  Catholic educators have never been given to fads (which is, again, a reason for our on-going success).  Let's see where and how the dust settles.  My educated hunch is that we shall see that the project will die aborning; we shall be spared the expenditure of time and treasure, while we forged ahead with what we have known to be a winning product all along.  "Faith, Knowledge, Service."

Rev. Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D. is the Executive Director of the Catholic Education Foundation.

Rev. Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D. is the Executive Director of the Catholic Education Foundation.


By Rev. Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D.

Catholic Online (

1/30/2014 (1 year ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Common Core, Catholic Schools Week, Catholic Educators, parochial school, Rev. Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D.

PINE BEACH, N.J. (Catholic Online) - I pen these thoughts in the lead-up to Catholic Schools Week 2014, whose theme this year is: "Catholic Schools: Faith, Knowledge, Service."
As you might suspect, the Catholic Education Foundation has been very involved in the national conversation on the Common Core Initiative.  Kindly allow this editorial to bring you up to speed on the topic from both the purely secular point of view, as well as from the specifically Catholic angle.
I want to begin by making what should be a self-evident assertion: Catholic educators are not adverse to high standards and academic accountability.  Indeed, we have been the perennial bearers of both throughout this very dark period of American education, now spanning more than fifty years.  As a Mormon teacher in Idaho said to me more than three decades ago: "The story of Catholic schools in America can be summed up as, 'Never has so much been done with so little.'"

That assessment came back to me recently as I learned of a large city in New Jersey which expends nearly $43,000 per child in the government schools, while the Catholic schools in that district spend less than $10,000.  Will anyone be surprised when I go on to say that the students in the so-called public schools of that city emerge with negligible skills in math and language arts, even as the Catholic school students perform at and even beyond national levels.  Nor is such out-stripping limited to the inner-city phenomenon; evidence is continually mounting that shows similar results in suburbia as well.  "More bang for the buck," as some would crudely put it.
That said, let's situate the current Common Core debate in history.  Already in the early days of the Reagan presidency, concerns were raised about the embarrassing data surfacing which showed American youth lagging woefully behind young people in dozens of countries, including many "third-world" nations.   The "Back to Basics" movement, which began in the 1970s, picked up steam in the Reagan years.  "No Child Left Behind" and "Race to the Top" were other national efforts to improve student achievement.  Everyone, it would seem, for a long time has realized that there is a problem; remedies have varied, often according to political stances.  In that sense, the Common Core is no different from earlier attempts to fix the mess.  If that is so, why the outcry now, when such a response did not occur with past initiatives?
Anthony Cody offers a valuable "back story" with his "Common Core Standards: Ten Colossal Errors" from an objective pedagogical position.  Permit me to highlight a few of them.
Cody's first objection is that "the process by which the CC standards were developed and adopted was undemocratic."  Unlike its predecessors in educational reform, this project had no input from the very people most affected: parents (on behalf of their children) and teachers (key to its implementation).  Conversations on the process were labeled "confidential," ostensibly to keep dissenting voices at bay.
A few months ago, the Archbishop of a major diocese told me that until I had discussed the CC with him, he had never even heard of it.  I told him not to feel bad because, although 47 states had adopted it, 78% of the public had never heard of it, either!  In point of fact, state legislators were voting for a program about which they knew very little, often because the final product did not even exist at that point. 

In other words, they were being asked to take a "pig in a poke," reminiscent of the process leading to the adoption of Obamacare, as legislators who raised questions were told to accept it and then let it get worked out in time.  Of course, we have seen in all too many ways how that has worked out.  Interestingly, as of last count, at least seventeen states have backed out of the CC, or are in the process of doing so.
Cody and other critics maintain that the CC "violates what we know about how children grow and develop."  Amazingly, no experts on early childhood education were involved in the drafting or review of the CC. 
A serious flaw in the program is its "market-driven" approach as it unabashedly places college- and career-readiness above all other educational goals.  Surely, anyone imbued with a classical instinct - let alone a Catholic one - will be repulsed by such a thrust.  True education is not about getting onto the next rung of the educational ladder, nor about making lots of money; it's concerned with bringing about human flourishing or fulfillment.  Thus, whether or not there is tangible "pay-back" to studying Vergil's Aeneid, it is still a very good and worthwhile thing to do.  Why?  Because to know is always better than not to have known.
Other critiques of the CC point to: its rigid expectations, failing to take into account local and personal differences; the fact that it will add to the current testing mania (and, therefore, teaching to the test); ironically, a lowering of standards in many instances (especially for the majority of Catholic schools); the collection of yet more data on students, thus heightening the potential for violations of privacy and confidentiality; the lack of evidence to support the need for the program and, most especially, for its effectiveness (which has never been seriously tested).
Now, there are some myths about the CC and Catholic schools that need to be dispelled.  Contrary to some over-reactions:  there is no mandate for Catholic participation; even if participating, there is no requirement to use the curriculum materials offered; college entrance exams (ACT or SAT) are not (yet) tied to the CC; for us, it is not a take-it-or-leave-it affair, which explains the divergent  policies of dioceses: adopt, adapt, ignore - although it should be noted that many dioceses have given a strong "no" to the project (e.g., five of the six dioceses of Wisconsin).  An issue to consider, however, is whether states with non-public school voucher programs can or will seek to mandate acceptance of the CC as a condition for voucher eligibility (if that happens, there would certainly be constitutional/religious freedom issues).
At a philosophical level, we should also reflect on the following: first, it is legitimate, from a political and social viewpoint, to question the involvement of the federal government in education; which leads to the second point, namely, that Catholic social teaching has always stressed the principle of subsidiarity, that is, engaging in activity at the lowest level possible (which helps explain why our schools have been successful); third, to ask why the Gates Foundation (no friend of Catholic values) so eagerly gave a $100,000 grant to the National Catholic Education Association to promote the CC - and why the NCEA so eagerly accepted it. 

One need not be a Catholic "Tea Partier" to call for discussion of such matters.  Indeed, in a unique coalescence of people, both liberals and conservatives have expressed grave reservations about the CC, while no less an educational leader than Diane Ravitch of NYU has done the same and as the two major figures in the drafting of the CC (Sandra Stotsky/language arts; James Milgram/math) both dropped off the project because of their intense disappointment with its direction and outcome.
The Catholic Education Foundation weighed in on all this very early in the game.  In my official capacity as CEF's executive director, I was proud to be among the 130 Catholic signatories to the October 16 letter that went to every Catholic bishop in the country, bringing the issue forward in a very public way for the first time.  In October, CEF co-sponsored (with the Catholic High School Honor Roll and the National Association of Private Catholic and Independent Schools, among others) a workshop for Catholic school administrators on this topic.  In November, we likewise co-sponsored an informational breakfast for the bishops of our nation during their annual meeting in Baltimore (more than a quarter of the dioceses were represented).
What is my advice to Catholic parents, teachers, administrators and clergy?  Press the "pause" button.  There is no need for us to jump on-board an untested program.  Catholic educators have never been given to fads (which is, again, a reason for our on-going success).  Let's see where and how the dust settles.  My educated hunch is that we shall see that the project will die aborning; we shall be spared the expenditure of time and treasure, while we forged ahead with what we have known to be a winning product all along.  "Faith, Knowledge, Service."


Rev. Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D. is the Executive Director of the Catholic Education Foundation. This article first appeared in the Catholic Educator and is republished with permission. The mission of  The Catholic Educator is to serve as a forum through which teachers, administrators and all others interested in Catholic education can share ideas and practices, as well as to highlight successful programs and initiatives to bring about a recovery of Catholic education in our times.The Catholic Education Foundation, Inc. is a 501(c)3 national non-profit organization formed to ensure a brighter future for Catholic education in the United States


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'

Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2015
That human trafficking, the modern form of slavery, may be eradicated.
Evangelization: That with a missionary spirit the Christian communities of Asia may announce the Gospel to those who are still awaiting it.


More U.S.

Who Needs Advent? I do! Watch

Image of The candle is a symbol of Advent because it is a symbol of Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, who is always coming to those with the eyes of living faith.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Jesus Christ is not just a memory to the Christian with living faith. He is alive in our midst and living His Life in and through His Body, the Church, of which we are members. The redemptive mission of the Lord Jesus continues until He returns. As Christians, we ... continue reading

BIGGER THAN ISIS - There's a hidden power behind ISIS and it's so big and so powerful, you won't believe this MASSIVE SHOCKING fact about it! Watch

Image of Obama is the titular head of the world's most nefarious terrorist organization, a title he may have inherited from his predecessor, and that will be passed to his successor.


If you were asked, what is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated in human history, how would you answer? Global warming? Vaccines? The Moon Landing? Entire religions?  (Not that we agree with these). But what would you say? In a moment, we're going to offer an answer ... continue reading

'Black Friday' leaving bruises as shoppers trample each other for best deals Watch

Image of Sales for pricey items such as electronic devices erupt into violence on


Everyone has had their turkey leftovers from the previous day's Thanksgiving Feast - and now it's out the door to the nearest "big box" store in a mad scavenger hunt called "Black Friday," where shoppers trample each other for the best deals then can get just before ... continue reading

President likens Syrian refugees to pilgrims on Mayflower in Thanksgiving address Watch

Image of The president then went on to say that, all Americans must open their neighborhoods, their homes, and hearts to Syrian refugees.


United States President Barack Obama called on Americans to welcome Syrian refugees this Thanksgiving season, who - like the pilgrims that set sail on the Mayflower, were likewise fleeing persecution in their native land. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - ... continue reading

Happy Thanksgiving Day: Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart Watch

Image of Around tables throughout America, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren gather with mothers and fathers, Grandpas and Grandmas, extended family, neighbors and friends to thank God and one another. And then, we feast; not only on the food, but even more importantly, on the gift of the love which informs all family relationships and true friendships, the real source of lasting joy, the love of the God who gave us life and liberty.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Happy Thanksgiving Day. May it be a day for love and gratitude. No matter how difficult the challenges we face as a Nation, we have much to be grateful for. As we give thanks, we will find the strength we need to love even more fully. As we practice regularly ... continue reading

New ISIS video taunts United States to 'bring it on' Watch

Image of While the video is pumping up Islamist State, the fact of the matter is is the group is suffering heavy losses on the ground form allied bombardment, especially since Russia began bombing the group


A new video from the Islamic State is highlighting the high number of U.S. soldiers who commit suicide, in effect to tell the world's last remaining superpower to "bring it on." U.S. President Barack Obama has since dismissed ISIS as "a bunch of killers with ... continue reading

Horrific outrage erupts over proposed mosque in Virginia after Paris attacks Watch

Image of The Muslim community in Fredericksburg, Virginia has received support from the local Christian and Jewish clergy.


"Nobody wants your evil cult," declared a man at a zoning meeting in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He was lobbing his invective at several American Muslims there over a proposed mosque to be built there. "Every one of you are terrorists. I don't care what you say. ... continue reading

The revealing truth behind the traditional presidential Thanksgiving turkey pardon Watch

Image of President Ronald Reagan was the first U.S. president to use the word


President Obama will pardon two turkeys - named Tom One and Tom Two - from a turkey farm in Modesto California on Thanksgiving Eve as part of an annual presidential tradition. Obama will make a few jokes with his family and then pardon the turkeys to live out ... continue reading

'Domestic terrorism': 5 People shot during Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis Watch

Image of Despite a shooting at a Minneapolis Black Lives Matter protest, the group plans to return to the precinct to continue their protests.


Protesters were standing outside the 4th Precinct in Minneapolis for Black Lives Matter in the case of 24-year-old Jamar Clark when gunshots rang out. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) -Five protesters were shot outside the police station Tuesday afternoon as one ... continue reading

Planned Parenthood sues the State of Texas: Find out why NOW Watch

Image of The complainants maintain that planned intervention of the government is a violation of the federal statute and the 14th Amendment, which ensures equal protection.


Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit this week against the State of Texas for blocking its Medicaid funding. Planned Parenthood says that the decision was motivated by politics - and not because of health care concerns. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The ... continue reading

All U.S. News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • BIGGER THAN ISIS - There's a hidden power behind ISIS and it's so big ...
  • Prayer For Courage HD Video
  • The Miracle Prayer HD Video
  • Daily Readings for Monday, November 30, 2015
  • Who Needs Advent? I do!
  • St. Andrew: Saint of the Day for Monday, November 30, 2015
  • President likens Syrian refugees to pilgrims on Mayflower in ...

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Jeremiah 33:14-16
14 "Look, the days are coming, Yahweh declares, when I shall fulfil the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
4 DIRECT me in your ways, Yahweh, and teach me your paths.5 ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
25 'There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations ... Read More

Reading 2, First Thessalonians 3:12--4:2
12 May the Lord increase and enrich your love for each other and for all, ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 29th, 2015 Image

St. Saturninus
November 29: St. Saturninus Bishop of Toulouse and Martyr ... Read More