Buying Catholic Support for the Common Core

A day after the New York Times reported that a group of more than 100 Catholic scholars had asked the nation’s Catholic bishops to repudiate the Common Core guidelines, the Cardinal Newman Society reported that the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA)—a Washington, DC lobbying group for Catholic education—had accepted more than $100,000 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to promote the Common Core in Catholic schools throughout the country.

The Cardinal Newman Society’s Vice-President for News and Communication, Joe Giganti, posted an article on the Society’s website suggesting that the $100,007 grant from the Gates Foundation “will only fuel division over the NCEA’s public encouragement for Catholic schools to adopt the Common Core standards, despite serious concerns about the standards’ academic quality and impact on schools’ Catholic identity.”

The National Catholic Educational Association has indeed been a strong proponent of adopting the federal takeover of Catholic K-12 education—despite the fact that Catholic school parents and principals oppose the implementation without careful analysis.   Just this week, the Newman Society released a survey of principals from the top-ranked Catholic high schools in the Society’s Catholic High School Honor Roll which revealed strong opposition to the Common Core.   Of the 73 schools surveyed, 60 responded—and only 13 percent of the principals think the Common Core standards would improve the education at their schools.  Nearly half (48 percent) indicated that they think the Common Core would harm their curriculum. Thirty-two percent of the principals polled would decline to participate in the Common Core, and another 40 percent said that they would pause and study the Common Core Standards before committing to the implementation.

More than 100 dioceses have already implemented the Common Core this fall.  It is likely that few of them had time to “pause and study the Standards” before implementing them.  And, since the National Catholic Educational Association had already committed itself to taking the money from the Gates Foundation to support teacher training and materials on implementing the Common Core, the NCEA has a strong interest in encouraging Catholic dioceses to do so also.

The NCEA recently launched a revised website for its Common Core Catholic Identity Initiative (CCCII) which offers resources and advice to Catholic schools planning to adopt the Common Core Standards. There is a powerful financial incentive for the NCEA to promote the Common Core—far beyond the Gates Foundation.  As the Cardinal Newman Society has reported, in addition to the Gates Foundation grant, sponsors of the NCEA’s Common Core Catholic Identity Initiative include William H. Sadlier Inc., a leading Catholic textbook publisher, and Riverside Publishing, a national testing company.  These companies—like the NCEA—will benefit from encouraging Catholic schools to adopt the Common Core.

The Catholic scholars who signed the open letter to the bishops documenting their concerns about the Common Core are hopeful that the bishops will become involved in the discussion on whether the federal government has a role to play in establishing standards for Catholic schools.  The NCEA had taken a strong position in favor of the Common Core—even before receiving the generous grant from the Gates Foundation.  On May 31, 2013 the NCEA posted a statement on their website reassuring parents that “The Common Core standards in no way compromises the Catholic identity or educational program of a Catholic school.”  Concluding that “the Common Core standards are not a curriculum,” NCEA reassured parents that “A curriculum includes what is taught, when it is taught, how it is taught and what materials to use…. None of these items are included in the Common Core standards. For Catholic schools, all of these elements will continue to be determined by diocesan superintendents, principals, and teachers working to meet the needs of their students.”

Echoing these sentiments on their website today,  readers learn that the NCEA believes that “The Common Core Standards are becoming increasingly important in the Catholic school industry and the NCEA is taking it seriously.”  Visitors to the website are asked to click on the video to hear NCEA’s Director of Public Policy, Sister Dale McDonald, discuss “why it’s important for Catholic schools to get on board and how they can do so.”

In the video, Sr. McDonald tries to reassure listeners that the federal government would not be mandating curriculum—only standards.  In this “reassurance” she joins most of those promoting the Common Core who continue to say that they are only standards for assessment and not curriculum.  The truth is that standards drive the curriculum.  Assessments always drive curriculum.  When the federal government is developing the assessments, the curriculum will be created to prepare students to perform well on these assessments—and no matter what the NCEA’s Sr. McDonald says, Catholic schools may lose control of the curriculum in their own schools.

Anne Hendershott


Anne Hendershott is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Veritas Center at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. She is the author of Status Envy: The Politics of Catholic Higher Education; The Politics of Abortion; and The Politics of Deviance (Encounter Books). She is also the co-author of Renewal: How a New Generation of Priests and Bishops are Revitalizing the Catholic Church (2013).

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  • Steven Jonathan

    Thank you professor Hendershott for a sober shot across the bow. It surprises me to no end that the NCEA, Loyola, and all the other lackeys peddling this pack of lies have been able to get over on so many good people. Dr. Birzer wrote of ideology:

    “ideologies are political and secularized religions. They take with them the symbols and energy of religions, but they focus almost exclusively on the material and on man rather than on the spiritual and on the Judeo-Christian God.”

    If you take a close look at the PDF with the defining characteristics of a Catholic identity and look at all the symbols, it stands out that there are no symbols of Christ crucified. As St. Paul tells us, is it not the mission of the Catholics to preach Christ crucified? These ideologues are using Catholic symbols and language to smuggle secular ideology into Catholic schools. It is not the Catholic Faith that will infuse the Common Core, but the Common Core that will poison the Catholic Faith. They are mutually excusive.

    • slainte

      Common Core is indeed a trojan horse.

      • A. Sharpton

        The entire Obama Administration was a trojan horse….

    • Deacon Ed Peitler

      The single most important criterion for a Catholic school’s raison d’etre is how well it prepares students to evangelize the culture. There needs to be hard, concrete outcome evidence that this criterion is being met. Otherwise, these “Catholic” schools are no more than secular institutions masquerading as agents of the Christ’s Church.

    • Anne Hendershott

      I had not noticed that – thank you for pointing that out.

  • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

    The NCEA has always been about everything except education and Catholicism. Their stamp of approval on anything is a guarantee of its corrupted nature. These people are to Catholic education what “Catholics for Choice” are to the Pro-Life movement.

  • John Albertson

    The Archdiocese of New York’s school system has been shrinking rapidly. On top of losses in the last decade, 24 schools were closed in just this past year. A new school tax will severely endanger the existence of many parishes already on the financial brink. Nevertheless, the Archdiocese has imposed Common Core as a fait accompli. It will only speed up the demise of a system which now is on life support. For many devout Catholic families, home schooling is the only alternative, but that is impractical for many low income families and those with two working parents.

    • Adam__Baum

      Wait until the new mayor takes office.

      • RedlegM110

        Blasio is perhaps more left wing than Obama!

  • MJ

    Thank you, Anne, you are doing tremendous work on this subject,

  • Bryan

    “hear NCEA’s Director of Public Policy, Sister Dale McDonald, discuss ‘why it’s important for Catholic schools to get on board and how they
    can do so.'” Catholic schools shouldn’t be getting on board, they should be leading the way. The “leadership” seems to have lost sight of what their mission is.

  • PSU72lec

    Look to Canada to see where governmental involvement in Catholic education will lead. The US government has no place in Catholic education.

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    Far too many Catholic institutions have been bedded by those with whom danger lurks. Be careful that you don’t sleep with Satan; the consequences are dire.

  • nanagigi

    Does anyone have a list of dioceses that have implemented Common Core?

  • Gail Finke

    I am no fan of the Common Core but I am also sympathetic to dioceses faced with the dilemma of whether or not to adopt it. There are many practical reasons for doing so, not just financial reasons, and I’ve seen little or no discussion of them. The majority of parents do not know anything about Common Core and will (let’s face it) assume that if their state has adopted it, it must be good. All Catholic schools are fighting for students. Catholic school is seen by many as a luxury they can’t afford — fears that their kids won’t be on par with the neighbor kids will be especially high among families who can best afford Catholic schools and who have the best public schools as their alternatives. If the Common Core becomes the norm (right now it’s not, but five years from now???) only the most financially secure or the most “countercultural” folks will even want to not use it. People don’t seem to understand that CC is based on testing — a whole lot of standardized testing — and that it won’t be possible to say “we do a better job than the Common Core” if one doesn’t have the test scores to prove it. It’s a big mess and there are a lot of things to consider and discuss, not just funding. If Catholic and other schools want to successfully opt out of Common Core, then I think it has to be done in a very public, large, provable, and coordinated way.

    • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

      Education is not about standardized testing, and once you accept that high test scores necessarily indicate a quality education, you have already lost the battle. Based on what I have seen (and I have examined a lot of it) scoring brilliantly on the Common Core would indicate less than nothing about the quality of education a student has received, or their preparation for college studies, or their preparation for life.

      • Blah Blaah

        So true, Dr Williams! I’ve worked for 21 years in a college that trains teachers, and I can’t say that I’ve seen a correlation between test grades and intelligence or test grades and talent or test grades and ability to think clearly and analytically, etc. Some of my best students – the ones who get the best grades – are simply hard-working and well-organized; or are very competitive and ambitious (prideful, in a word) and want to have the top scores all the time. On the other hand, some of the students who are most intelligent, who can ask challenging questions – and really wrestle with them when you throw the question back at them – get C’s and B-minuses in the course work and exams. I think this is a rule no matter what system of education you are using. I observed this way back in high school: the ‘swots’ who got the best grades often just knew how to follow the rules and give the teacher what the teacher wanted, and had the self-discipline or parental backing to get the work done. But in real life, they were dull, unimaginative sponges.

        There are simply too many variables to rely on test scores as an indication of what people know or whether they are good students or will be able to put their knowledge to good, practical use in later life. Any teacher who believes that test scores measure anything is either inexperienced or deluded.

        Test scores don’t really tell us what we need to know about a student. Unfortunately, they are the easiest type of assessment: any other method requires lots of time and work from teachers, personal one-on-one work. And so it’s unlikely that they will go away any time soon, especially in ‘big education’ (i.e., public, standardized factory-education).

    • Adam__Baum

      “There are many practical reasons for doing so, not just financial reasons,”

      If a man persuades a woman to relinquish her favors for a price, it is what it is, and no other consideration, such as the fact that the relationship provides her with security or status matters.

      “at it won’t be possible to say “we do a better job than the Common Core” if one doesn’t have the test scores to prove it.”

      In other words, show me your papers.

      • Gail Finke

        I am not disagreeing with you. However, this does not negate what I said. Catholic schools have to operate in states that have adopted the Common Core (at this point, almost all of them). The publishing companies are all adopting it. There are no Catholic math book publishers — there are not going to BE any math texts that don’t follow the Common Core. These are real considerations and they aren’t going to vanish by being high-minded about them. And the same is true of the parents putting their children in school, often at a great financial cost. If Catholic schools don’t follow the Common Core, they will have to spend all their time and efforts explaining why. An expensive and exclusive Catholic school with a long waiting list might be able to afford to do so, but many Catholic schools have the opposite problem of getting enough people in the door to stay open. If too many people start asking, “Why aren’t you following the Common Core? I want my children to get into a good college!” how long do you think they will be around? I think there are ways to counter this, if a school or diocese is really committed to not following the Common Core, but to simply say that schools shouldn’t do it is to underestimate how difficult that will really be in practice, IF the Common Core becomes the national norm.

        • Adam__Baum

          I understand what you are saying, but even if this becomes the inevitable “only way”, selling out for money NOW still makes them worse than “cheap dates”.

        • justamom

          I am sorry, Gail, but there are many Catholic book publishers out there – we homeschoolers use them all the time. Why are the Catholic schools so afraid of being different? They need to wake up and realize that they have always had the best methods of teaching (who started the University system after all?) I admit it will be difficult to cut those purse-strings. But if it means being able to educate our children in TRUTH, it is worth it. The Math/English Common Core standards are just the foot in the door. The real insidious stuff comes when the Science & History standards get out there. That is where the Religious Freedom will go down the tubes. You want to learn your Catechism in a Catholic school? Sorry!! Does not coincide with our standards!

          If all Catholics supported truly Catholic education, the revolution would begin and we would leave the other schools behind. But my realistic side says we need to see most “Catholic” schools just close and start all over. Kind of like the Catholic hospitals will need to close because they will be forced to perform abortions and other immoral procedures by the government that wants to control every part of our lives.

  • WRBaker

    Somehow, this doesn’t surprise me. The National Catholic Educational
    Association (NCEA) and Loyola Chicago have been tied together for a couple of
    years – supposedly to look at Common Core (CC) and its potential application to
    Catholic schools, but in reality to ensure its implementation.

    Despite their unconvincing protestations otherwise, parents (as “the prime
    educators of their children” – a common refrain) were rarely consulted about CC
    by schools and diocesan educational offices. Likewise (in their usual form)
    principals and education offices told teachers they were going to this new way
    of teaching – not consulted. One reason is that many teachers recognize it for
    what it is, if anyone remembers the “New Math” nonsense decades ago, this is the
    same thing but across all subjects and worse.

    NCEA is primarily populated by principals and education office
    superintendents, so it’s obvious how Common Core was imposed. As for the Gates
    Foundation, they have been giving money to certain areas of Catholic education
    for many years.

    Catholic schools around the country probably all have something akin to
    “The Common Core and California Catholic Schools Statement by the
    Superintendents of Catholic Schools in California” which reads like a booster club
    statement for CC and is signed by 13 superintendents. This statement mentions testing,
    but doesn’t mention that Riverside Publishing is already used by all the
    California dioceses and that Sadlier is a major provider to textbooks in the
    state’s Catholic schools.

    The bishops need to put the stops on Common Core.

  • tamsin

    “If you like your curriculum, you can keep your curriculum. Period. There is nothing in Common Core that will force you to change.”

    • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

      Ah! So then, just like my health insurance! Thank you for clarifying this…

    • homeschoolrules

      thanks for cleverly pointing out the pack of lies again!

    • Anne Hendershott

      This is my favorite comment of all time!! I love this – I may “steal” for an article in the future – I will give you credit (promise). Thank you – it made my day

    • Obama

      You can keep your current health insurance if you choose…nothing will change. Rates won’t go up, they’ll go down. If you don’t want it, you don’t have to take it….no problem. I think we’ve heard it all before. Sheep….

  • Sad but True

    Who is the primary funding source of NCEA?

  • Blah Blaah

    Sounds like parents who are paying for Catholic education need to vote with their feet: Just say ‘No!’ we won’t be sending our kids to a ‘Catholic’ school that uses the core curriculum. Start a petition and send it right over your parish priest’s head to the diocesan bishop. Parents are the primary educators of their children and have a responsibility to make sure that what their children are being taught is forming them in the faith.

    Where’s the petition from Catholic parents?

  • jagnote

    This is just another example of how big money can buy subservience from any part of the Catholic Church in America. The contradiction that Catholic organizations can claim to support the social goals of the Church by selling their souls to secularism for a few dollars is just amazing. A religious sister, a good friend of mine at a Catholic hospital, told me a few years ago that the hospital board couldn’t wait to accept government money being offered to help with taking care of the “poor”. As soon as the deal was committed to, the Government ordered the religious sisters running the hospital to move out of the convent they maintained in a section of the hospital. There had to be separation of Church and State of course!! Eventually the hospital was sold to another buyer and one active ministry bit the dust. The crowning example, of course, are “Catholic” colleges.

  • bud

    I hope every Catholic School refuses to implement the “Core” crap. Worse yet, where have the bishops been doing as usual, nothing? Granted, money is money and Catholic Education doesn’t need O’Bama’s Czars and supposed Catholic Scholars from sticking their nose in something paid in hard earned cash by parents to keep them out of public schools and thus it is doubtful that the Core comes anywhere close to our private schools standards and grades etc. It’s just another ploy of the liberals and liberal Catholic’s also to force their failing ideas on what doesn’t need fixing.

    • Gail Finke

      The bishops didn’t know about it, any more than anyone else did. The Common Core appeared as a fait accomplit.

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  • Lisag

    Many parents in Catholic schools are not Catholic and many of the Catholic parents do not actively practice their faith. The Common Core curriculum will be a mute point for most parents, especially those who are pro gay marriage, pro contraception, and pro woman priest. I must say that I live in California. Do not expect a petition from Catholic parents. The Catholic school teaching, administration and support staff have been filled by people who reflect the parents.

    • WRBaker

      As a Catholic school teacher, what you say is unfortunately true. There are some areas, however, where not being Catholic enough closed one school – this, despite the WCEA accreditation (which tends to be a joke, honestly).

  • MyKCMom

    This is why we are Catholic homeschoolers

  • Mom2aMob

    I’m a home schooling mom who wants to prepare her children for college. I’m trying to integrate the common core standards into my children’s math learning this year. The new standards are not vastly different from the old, but they are definitely more rigorous and require a deeper understanding of the material. Sr. McDonald is correct that the federal government will not be mandating curriculum. Whether schools of choice need to conform to state accountability policy is determined by the state, not by the federal government. I found this “Myth vs Fact” article, put together by a group called Conservatives for Higher Education to be very informative:

    • Deacon Ed Peitler

      I assume you’re Catholic. Where are you hoping to send your home-schooled children for higher education?

      • Adam__Baum

        I know a devout home schooler whose son is at Steubenville, and I know he made that decision carefully.

    • J

      Good link. Nice to see some sanity amidst the paranoia:-P

    • WRBaker

      Most of these “Conservatives” are the governors got together to start all this nonsense.

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  • JC

    By accepting money, they have given up control. Catholic schools historically fought against the idea of government sponsored education for all of it’s potential of indoctrinating Godlessness and mediocrisizing education. It all has come true. Public education is self defeating by it’s nature. Catholics, more than ever, need to stay away from the tentacles of goverment and atheists bearing gifts.

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  • Lyn

    Why are Catholic School Associations taking money from the Gates Foundation? They are pro abortion and pro contraception. I don’t get it.

    • Adam__Baum

      Associations are bureaucracies and bureaucracies have an insatiable appetite for money.

    • justamom

      I asked the same question! It is appalling that any Catholic institution would take money from the same people whose goal is to promote contraception and abortion around the world.

    • Randall Ward

      The bible tells us “the love of money is the root of evil”.

  • John Hinshaw

    Dry eyes always for the fading Catholic schools shepherded by the NCEA.

  • respectlife

    Thank you for bringing this to light. Catholic schools are known for the quality education they provide. Why would you want to change a working system? When federal government gets involved always proceed with caution. Too many these days are drinking the kool aide. The truth is that standards drive the curriculum and we know that federal standards have declined in recent years. 3 R’s are no longer basic education. Politics have gotten in the way of quality education and there is an agenda to put all schools under federal government control and do it one step at a time. It does not happen overnight but this will open the door. Keep the feds out of Catholic schools! Period.

  • Randall Ward

    Anything from the national government under Obama is bad news for the Catholic Church and Catholics. I don’t need to see the CC program, I know what it is. We homeschooled our children and they are all grown, married, colleged, and successful enough in the world, but most important they are all Christians. My wife and I and the Lord, built that.

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  • Just one Catholic Man

    It becomes clear that at times those who want to destroy will join and destroy from within. It is clearer today than ever before that our Federal Government wants religion destroyed. The best way to achieve this goal is to reeducate the children. Tradition of excellence has always been the standard. This may not be a curriculum yet but it is an agenda with the goal of destroying the Church. Obedient silence has ushered in many a new era no of them positive. Continued support of HHS and CCSS has gotten us to this place in History. It all started with 12 men who believed with strength from the Holy Spirit to spread the message with no other agenda but to save our souls. No other personal gain.

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