While many schools across the nation reported that students fell behind due to distance learning during the COVID pandemic that was not the case with local Catholic schools.
Students enrolled in the parish and regional Catholic elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia advanced in grade-level learning during the COVID19 pandemic.
A recent NPR story indicated that “students learned less when they were remote.” The preceding statement comes as no surprise. NPR also noted that many public-school systems were caught unprepared. Teachers were not trained to manage remote learning and school districts did not have adequate technology to support online learning.
“Even students who spent the least amount of time learning remotely during the 2020-2021 year–just a month or less-missed–the equivalent of seven to ten weeks of learning,’ says Thomas Kane of the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University.”
Conversely, students enrolled in Catholic elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia demonstrated at least a full year’s growth. “At every grade level and in every content area, there was at least a full year’s growth. In mathematics there was more than a year’s growth.” That assertion and supporting data come from a report commissioned by the Office for Catholic Education (OCE) working with the Data Recognition Corporation, which analyzed Terra Nova scores demonstrating the growth and advancement achieved by Catholic school students.
Here’s the bottom line: Catholic schools stayed open, and children enrolled there kept learning! Today, Catholic school students are ahead of their public-school peers thanks to the incredible work done by teachers and administrators during the height of the pandemic.
How They Did It
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to close in March 2020, Catholic grade schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia were well prepared to pivot to distance learning models. Prior to that time, senior administrators from the Office of Catholic Education, teachers, and principals had taken advantage of state-funded training programs regarding the implementation of distance learning for short periods of time (i.e. weather events). With this foundation already in place, Catholic elementary schools in our region were better prepared than others. As a result, there was no learning lag. While students in many other places received little or no instruction, Catholic schools were able to finish out the 2019-2020 school year.
During the summer of 2020, Catholic school teachers were meeting and planning how to open for the 2020-2021 school year. The Catholic Schools Onward (CSO) taskforce coalesced educational experts, healthcare professionals, teachers, and administrators to develop a plan for the safe opening of school on time with in person instruction.
The Data Recognition Corporation’s analysis showed how Catholic school students in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia were able to advance with grade level learning during the pandemic while so many public-school students fell behind.
In addition to the incredible leadership demonstrated by the Office for Catholic Education, parents showed courage and commitment throughout the pandemic. Catholic schools believe that education is a partnership between parents and teachers. This relationship was deepened and strengthened during 2020 and 2021 as parents worked with schools to ensure in person learning was successful. We cannot thank our parents enough.
The Word is Out
Parents are making the choice to enroll their students in their local Catholic grade elementary schools. Clearly, the commitment to learning and the foundation in the Catholic faith are attracting new families. Catholic school enrollment has increased for the 2nd year in a row and it is the first time that has happened in decades.
There are more than 100 Catholic elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. We offer a dynamic curriculum for students in Pre-K through 8th grade. During the pandemic, we kept our students on track, in school, and safe. We are dedicated to offering a world-class education for our students, partnering with their parents on this journey, and forming young people to lead by serving the world around them.
Andrew McLaughlin, Ed.D. is the Secretary for Elementary Education in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia
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