July 19, 2013

Be Our Guest / Gina Fleming

Curriculum, standards and best practices in our archdiocesan schools

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis is committed to supporting every Catholic school in central and southern Indiana as we elevate the capacity of all within our midst.

In this column, we share with you the direction of the archdiocese as it relates to curriculum, and we ask each member of our Catholic community to continue to pray for the ongoing success of our students and our schools.

What is the archdiocese’s official position on curriculum?

Academic standards are not the curriculum. The curriculum is the total learning experience offered by a school, and standards are the proficiency targets or guidelines to which educators align when developing the school’s curriculum, both horizontally and vertically.

Most important to us, now and always, is the teaching of our Catholic faith.

Without question, our schools are known for the high achievement and progress of our students, which spans across all content areas as we focus on the spiritual, academic, social, emotional and physical growth of all students.

Schools and their teachers embed Catholic identity and teaching into their planning and instruction across all content areas. By intentionally seeking to appropriate interdisciplinary links between religious instruction and all other course materials, we help ensure—with the help of God’s grace—that there is an engaging coordination between human learning and religious awareness.

Our educational professionals recognize the rigor that the Common Core standards encompass, but see these and the Indiana Academic Standards as a basic roadmap.

Our students have historically performed well above state averages on standardized assessments, and our institutions are among the top-rated school systems in Indiana. Our graduation rates are among the highest in the state, and the preparations for college and career are evident in the number of Catholic school students who graduate from college and are gainfully employed.

Archdiocesan schools will follow the guidelines set forth by the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) with continued professional development in research-based best practice and technology integration. The Office of Catholic Education will provide support in professional development for administrators and teachers, including helpful resources for parents.

The archdiocese compiled much research that supports movement to a standards-based reporting system in an effort to effectively communicate a student’s growth and progress. Just as assessment aligns with curriculum, a reporting system should communicate the total growth of a student.

All kindergarten through second-grade classrooms will utilize the new report card this year, and several schools will pilot the grades 3-5 report card. A series of videos that explain the research behind, and decisions about, the report cards are being created for parents. Discussion between parents and school staff is encouraged.

The report card is one component of a more comprehensive reporting system that is currently being developed through our online student management system. Our hope is to provide parents and students with layers of data and resources that further enhance our partnership in helping students be successful at all levels.

In short, archdiocesan schools will implement standards to align with state expectations, but just as importantly, will continue to focus on best practice in our classrooms and continued growth and achievement of our students.

Moving forward

In the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Catholic schools will continue to implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in kindergarten and first grade fully with implementation of both CCSS and the Indiana Academic Standards (IAS) in other grade levels as identified in the IDOE’s transition documents.

Since its further adoption as state standards is yet to be determined, we have developed a professional training model for our Catholic school administrators and teachers that aligns with both the IAS and the CCSS, ensuring that that there are no gaps in curriculum. This approach will continue to ensure the outstanding success of our students on standardized assessments based on these or any other standards the state chooses to adopt.

We also believe this approach will ensure the continued success of our students on national assessments, since both the SAT and the ACT, the two most common standardized measures of college readiness, are aligning their assessments to the CCSS.

Our Catholic schools are all about best practice. The Archdiocese of Indianapolis will remain progressive in our approach to comprehensive professional development, rigorous curricula, technology integration, and data analysis to ensure optimal student achievement, no matter what standards are adopted in Indiana or anywhere else.

(Gina Fleming is superintendent of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.)

What is the Indiana Department of Education's Official Position on Common Core Implementation?

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