January 25, 2013

Catholic Schools Week Supplement

Christ sets the standard—and the message—for Catholic schools

By Harry Plummer

This year’s Catholic Schools Week theme, “Catholic Schools Raise the Standards,” and the fact that we just celebrated Christmas last month have combined to remind me of the day in mid-July when we moved into our new home.

The moving van had just left, and we were in the thick of carrying boxes to their designated locations.

In the midst of this rather chaotic activity—I have eight children—I noticed that several large boxes slated for the garage were missing.

Being pressed to attend to other matters, I quickly forgot about them. Hours later, one of my little ones, after many attempts to get me to go with him to see something special, finally seized my hand and pulled me to his new room.

Once there, he slowly opened the door and I looked inside. From floor to ceiling, it was completely decorated for Christmas.

“Merry Christmas, Dad!” he said with a smile brighter than all the lights in the room. And even though it was July, in a very real way it seemed like Christmas.

I will never forget that precious moment, especially when I think about the great blessing of our Catholic schools, where Christ is born anew each day.

He is born anew in the hearts, minds and souls of our students in so many ways—through daily prayer, through the celebration of the love of God in word and sacrament, through the exercise of their God-given intellects and through acts of service to the community.

You see, Christ is our standard, urging us to raise all our standards—including academic ones.

And in that regard, our Catholic schools have been doing extremely well as evidenced by the results of Indiana’s new A-F School Accountability Report Card assessment data.

Take passing rates, for example. Our schools significantly outperformed the combined scores of the public, charter and accredited private schools on ISTEP+ and End-of-Course Assessments (ECAs) as well as the percentage of schools earning “A” grades on this new statewide report card.

Of course, the outstanding performance of our schools on standardized assessments don’t tell the whole story of our success, but they do clearly demonstrate that our Catholic schools are effective agents in the game of raising Indiana’s educational standards.

In fact, I think it is safe to say we’re writing the playbook. But our playbook doesn’t only concentrate on academic success.

It focuses on the formation of the whole student—spirit, mind and body—in such a way that it leaves a powerful impression on the youth who experience it.

This is an indispensable feature of our schools, enabling students to develop the tools, temperaments and tenacity to lead successful lives as contributing members of society and, with Christ as their standard, to bring into this world of change a living and active faith.

Like Christmas, we may celebrate Catholic Schools Week only once a year, but our schools seek to live its message each and every day.

(Harry Plummer is the executive director of the archdiocese’s Secretariat for Catholic Education and Faith Formation.)

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