Education
Pope Francis looks on during his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter Pope Francis looks on during his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican November 6, 2013. REUTERS/Tony Gentile  

Where do Catholics stand on Common Core?

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Robby Soave
Reporter

Common Core backers are eager to keep the Catholic Church — a dominating presence in American K-12 education — on their side. But many Catholic scholars and organizations have voiced skepticism about the national curriculum standards, and they are increasingly speaking out.

Last week, Gerard Bradley, a professor of law at the University of Notre Dame, sent a letter to every Catholic bishop in the United States about his opposition to Common Core. The letter, which was signed by 130 Catholic professors and educators, urged the bishops to reject the standards.

“We believe that implementing Common Core would be a grave disservice to Catholic education in America,” they wrote.

The letter called for bishops to instruct Catholic schools to cease implementation of the standards wherever possible.

We are convinced that Common Core is so deeply flawed that it should not be adopted by Catholic schools which have yet to approve it, and that those schools which have already endorsed it should seek an orderly withdrawal now,” wrote the letter’s authors.

Bradley’s group of Catholics is not the first to speak out. The Cardinal Newman Society, a Catholic advocacy organization, has been advising Catholic institutions to fight Common Core for months.

The organization recently polled 60 of the top-ranked Catholic school principals in the country, and found that almost all of them believed the new standards would hurt their schools. Just 13 percent were confident that Common Core would constitute an improvement.

Recruiting and retaining Catholic support for Common Core is a logical goal for the forces behind the national standards. There are more than 7,000 Catholic schools in the country, making the Catholic Church a major player in the U.S. education sector.

To that end, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — one of the major underwriters of the campaign to implement the standards nationwide — recently donated $100,000 to the National Catholic Education Association in order to “support trainings and provision of follow-up materials for teachers on implementing the Common Core State Standards.”

The NCEA is a trade association that represents Catholic educators. It has avoided taking an official stance on Common Core, but is willing to provide logistic support for Core implementation.

The Gates Foundation also gave $250,000 to DePaul University earlier this year in order to promote Common Core in Chicago schools.

But many Catholic parents say they feared the influence of Common Core on Catholic education.

For one thing, the standards obligate schools to submit to a national standardized testing regimen, and the curriculum is geared toward passing that test.

“I trust my principal and teachers to properly assess my child’s academic ability and whether or not she has any struggles or needs extra help in certain areas,” Sarah Dalske, a Catholic mother and coordinator for Ministry of Mothers Sharing at Sacred Heart Parish, told The Daily Caller. “If I had any doubts about their expertise, I would have chosen a different school.”

Common Core’s increasingly hostile reception from leaders of the Catholic faith is indicative of its popularity across the board. Even Randi Weingarten–president of the American Federation of Teachers and a fervent backer of Common Core — recently said the implementation of the standards has been “far worse” than the implementation of Obamacare, according to The Washington Post. (RELATED: Hemingway too easy for fourth graders!? Common Core’s backward reading list)

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