catholic curriculum standards

Understanding and Implementing Catholic Curriculum Standards

By Anna Murphy, Rubicon International | Spark Webinar led by Denise Donohue Ed.D, Deputy Director of the Cardinal Newman Society K-12, and Therese A. Edwards, Director of Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction for the Diocese of Lansing

This Spark Webinar centered around three topics: the foundational principles underpinning the design of the Catholic Curriculum Standards, the structure, organization, and content of the standards, as well as the process of implementing the standards into curriculum and lesson planning.

History of the Catholic Curriculum Standards

The Catholic Curriculum Standards came about after the release of the Common Core standards, when Catholic dioceses, schools, and the overall Catholic community reflected on the adoption of these national standards.

In response, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2014 released a statement explaining: “Catholic schools must consider standards that support the mission and purpose of the schools as a Catholic institution.” This quote became the impetus for the development of Catholic Curriculum Standards at the Cardinal Newman Society.

Principles Underpinning the Catholic Curriculum Standards

The Cardinal Newman Society dedicated almost a year to reflecting on church documents in order to glean information as to what these standards would reflect. What arose was a framework for the standards ground in 5 Principles of Catholic Identity:

  1. Inspired by Divine Mission;
  2. Models Christian Communion and Identity;
  3. Encounters Christ in Prayer, Scripture and Sacrament;
  4. Integrally forms the Human Person;
  5. Imparts a Christian Understanding of the World.

The Cardinal Newman Society identified numbers 1, 4, and 5 as being integral to the development of Catholic Curriculum Standards and further broke these down into 5 Key Components to Catholic Curriculum. Notably, the Cardinal Newman Society provides an annotated bibliography identifying the documents that inspired each component.

  1. Focuses on the body, mind, and spirit;
  2. Promotes human virtues and the dignity of the human person as created in the image and likeness of God;
  3. Focuses on seeking, knowing, and understanding objective reality;
  4. Presents a Catholic worldview and enables a deeper incorporation of the student into the heart of the Catholic Church;
  5. Encourages a synthesis of faith, life, and culture.

The Structure, Organization, and Content of the Standards

The Catholic Curriculum Standards are in place for English, History, Mathematics, and Scientific Topics, and address content knowledge, student performance, and dispositions. The intent of these standards is to be complementary to a set of standards already in use within a school and serve as a foundation for a holistic Catholic education.

There are 3 types of standards within the set:

  1. Content Standards (General)—Knowledge in the Content Area.  Example: Recognize Christian and Western symbols and symbolism.
  2. Performance Standards (Intellectual)—What students do to demonstrate competence. Example: Use imagination to create dialogue between characters in a story.
  3. Affective Standards (Dispositional)—Dispositions students possess. Example: Demonstrate respect and solicitude to individual differences in the classroom.

The amalgamation of the General, Intellectual, and Dispositional standards seeks to achieve the 5 Key Components detailed above. The Cardinal Newman Society used these 5 Key Components to inform the content of the standards that ground education in the Catholic paradigm. The impetus on dispositional standards seeks to build values and beliefs integral to Catholic identity.

In discussing this, Denise mentioned Krathwohl’s Taxonomy (1964) for the affective domain:

In a similar manner, the dispositional aspect of the Catholic Curriculum Standards follows a similar progression with students. And, while many of the Catholic dispositions are already taught in Catholic schools, the standards encourage them to have more depth and more intentional connections in curriculum.

“Not everything that counts can be counted, nor everything that can be counted counts.” Though dispositions are included in the standards, both Denise and Therese affirm that this does not mean they need to be assessed. Rather, such ‘soft skills’ can be gauged through observation.

Implementing the Standards into Curriculum

With Therese Edwards at the helm, [inlinetweet prefix=”null” tweeter=”null” suffix=”null”]the Diocese of Lansing undertook the task of incorporating Cardinal Newman’s standards into curriculum[/inlinetweet] within their 31 Diocesan schools.

To implement the standards, The Diocese and Therese used Atlas and reformatted their template to fit the evolving approach to curriculum.

The Catholic standards are at the top of Lansing’s curriculum planner and act as the umbrella to the subsequent curricular information that follows. The intent of this is to ensure faith integration is woven into all units.

The “Faith Integration” box is an opportunity for teachers to identify “how” the themes from the standards will be integrated into a unit.

The Diocese of Lansing’s process embraces Cardinal Newman’s standards as a foundation and guide for their curriculum process, using them to inform unit writing and classroom instruction. As Denise mentions, these standards are malleable into curriculum and aim to make Catholic identity an integral part of Catholic education.

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