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Why Catholic Schools?

  Why

Catholic schools are good for children, families, communities, the nation, and the Church.  And today more than ever, they need our support.  Why should we champion Catholic schools?  Here are four reasons—and there are certainly more!

  1. Catholic schools provide religious and moral formation in a world badly in need of Gospel values.
  2. Catholic schools excel in offering high quality education, particularly to those most in need.
  3. Catholic schools are the responsibility of the entire Catholic community.
  4. Catholic schools are essential to the health of the Church and our democracy—they nurture the soul of our nation.

You can also follow our Catholic Schools Week daily reflections on why Catholic schools are good for America.

Finally, check here for some of the research done on Catholic schools and 10 Reasons Why Catholic Schools Still Matter.

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Religious and Moral Formation

Catholic schools exist to introduce students to Jesus Christ, and to assist them as they grow in their love of Him. Through catechesis, celebration of the Sacraments, and diligent study of the world, students gain an appreciation for the Creator and creation.

As the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has written,

"Catholic schools afford the fullest and best opportunity to realize the fourfold purpose of Christian education, namely, to provide an atmosphere in which the Gospel message is proclaimed, community in Christ is experienced, service to our sisters and brothers is the norm, and thanksgiving and worship of God is cultivated."

In the face of increasing secularization, Catholic schools provide an atmosphere that privileges Gospel values and the role of parents as the primary educators of their children.

Catholic schools are good for the community.

Catholic schools are good for the community.

  • Catholic schools tend to operate as communities rather than bureaucracies, which links to higher levels of teacher commitment, student engagement, and student achievement (Marks, 2009).
  • The Catholic school climate, mission, and purpose positively impact student achievement and attendance (Bryk, Lee, & Holland, 1993).
  • A faith-based orientation builds coherence and integration of schools and school community (Bryk, Lee, & Holland, 1993).

Catholic Schools help students achieve academically.

Catholic Schools help students achieve academically.

  • In Catholic schools, the student achievement gap is smaller than in public schools(Jeynes, 2007; Marks & Lee, 1989)
  • In Catholic schools, overall academic achievement is higher (Coleman, Hoffer, & Kilgore, 1982; Sander, 1996).
  • In Catholic schools, student math scores improve between sophomore and senior years (Carbonaro, & Covay, 2010).
  • Latino and African American students in Catholic schools are more likely to graduate from high school and college (Grogger & Neal, 2000).
  • Students with multiple disadvantages benefit most from Catholic schools (Greeley, 1982; Evans & Schwab, 1995; Neal, 1997).
  • The poorer and more at-risk a student is, the greater the relative achievement gains in Catholic schools (York, 1996).
  • More research on student achievement from Catholic Education: a Journal of Inquiry and Practice

Catholic schools help build a better society.

Catholic schools help build a better society.

  • Graduates of Catholic high schools are more likely to vote (Dee, 2005).
  • Graduates of Catholic high schools are more likely to earn higher wages (Neal, 1997).
  • Catholic schools tend to produce graduates who are more civically engaged, more tolerant of diverse views, and more committed to service as adults (Campbell, 2001; Wolf, Greene, Kleitz, & Thalhammer, 2001).
  • When a Catholic school closes, neighborhood disorder increases (Brinig, Garnett, 2009).

A High Quality Education

A high quality education

Catholic schools have shown unparalleled success in educating children, promoting a lifelong commitment to faith and virtue, and encouraging civic engagement. While government leaders look frantically for programs and initiatives to improve education in America, Catholic schools maintain their track record of serving children and families admirably well, closing the achievement gap for poor and minority students, and doing so at a fraction of the cost of public schools.

Research shows:

  • In Catholic schools, the student achievement gap is smaller than in public schools (Jeynes, 2007; Marks & Lee, 1989) and overall academic achievement is higher (Coleman, Hoffer, & Kilgore, 1982; Sander, 1996).
  • Latino and African American Students in Catholic schools are more likely to graduate from high school and college(Grogger & Neal, 2000).
  • Over and over again, research indicates that Catholic school students are academically successful and positive contributors to society.

 

Catholic schools are good for the community.

Catholic schools are good for the community.

  • Catholic schools tend to operate as communities rather than bureaucracies, which links to higher levels of teacher commitment, student engagement, and student achievement (Marks, 2009).
  • The Catholic school climate, mission, and purpose positively impact student achievement and attendance (Bryk, Lee, & Holland, 1993).
  • A faith-based orientation builds coherence and integration of schools and school community (Bryk, Lee, & Holland, 1993).

Catholic Schools help students achieve academically.

Catholic Schools help students achieve academically.

  • In Catholic schools, the student achievement gap is smaller than in public schools(Jeynes, 2007; Marks & Lee, 1989)
  • In Catholic schools, overall academic achievement is higher (Coleman, Hoffer, & Kilgore, 1982; Sander, 1996).
  • In Catholic schools, student math scores improve between sophomore and senior years (Carbonaro, & Covay, 2010).
  • Latino and African American students in Catholic schools are more likely to graduate from high school and college (Grogger & Neal, 2000).
  • Students with multiple disadvantages benefit most from Catholic schools (Greeley, 1982; Evans & Schwab, 1995; Neal, 1997).
  • The poorer and more at-risk a student is, the greater the relative achievement gains in Catholic schools (York, 1996).
  • More research on student achievement from Catholic Education: a Journal of Inquiry and Practice

Catholic schools help build a better society.

Catholic schools help build a better society.

  • Graduates of Catholic high schools are more likely to vote (Dee, 2005).
  • Graduates of Catholic high schools are more likely to earn higher wages (Neal, 1997).
  • Catholic schools tend to produce graduates who are more civically engaged, more tolerant of diverse views, and more committed to service as adults (Campbell, 2001; Wolf, Greene, Kleitz, & Thalhammer, 2001).
  • When a Catholic school closes, neighborhood disorder increases (Brinig, Garnett, 2009).

The Responsibility of the Entire Catholic Community

Responsiblity

Faced with a dominant culture that was hostile to their values, the Catholic community in America built schools that would allow their children to grow in knowledge and faith – as good Catholics and good Americans. And with sweat, resolve, and prayer, these immigrants built the largest system of private schools the world has ever seen. For over 300 years, the Catholic community in the United States – not just pastors or parents – has championed our schools.

Catholic schools save lives, create a more just world, breath life into parishes, and most importantly, draw children into deeper communion with Christ and the Church. It is precisely because of these benefits that the Catholic community in the United States must continue to invest in the future of our children and their school system. It is also for those reasons that the current challenges facing Catholic schools should be alarming to us all:

Despite waiting lists at nearly 25% of our Catholic schools, 500,000 fewer children are benefiting daily from a Catholic education, and our communities have lost over 1,000 schools over the last decade.

The Health of the Church and Our Democracy

Perhaps the best way to appreciate the power of Catholic schools is to imagine the Church in the United States without them. What would it look like? Would it be as robust and vital? How would it produce generous leaders? How would it serve immigrants? How would it provide avenues of educational opportunity to the poor, especially those in our cities? The rise of evangelical Christian schools shows that other Christian communities have learned what many Catholics have forgotten or are willing to ignore – that there is no substitute for spending 35 hours each week in an educational environment permeated by faith and Gospel values.

To those who wonder how we can afford to make the investment necessary to sustain, strengthen, and expand Catholic schools, we respond by turning the question on its head. How can we afford not to make this investment?

Our future depends on it more than we may expect. Will it be said of our generation that we presided over the demise of the most effective and important resource for evangelization in the history of the Church in the United States? Will it be said of our generation that we lacked the resolve to preserve national treasures built upon the sacrifice of untold millions? Will it be said of our generation that we abandoned the most powerful instruments of justice that provide educational opportunity and hope for families otherwise trapped in poverty?

Surely not.

Instead, when the story of Catholic schools is written, historians will look back on our age and marvel that against great odds, we changed the ending. By then, of course, we will know one thing better than those who write this history. We will know – we will see – the promise that Christ Himself made: that He will come, that He will inspire us through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit as history unfolds to make all things new, and that He will never leave us orphans but reveal to us that we are all beloved children of our Father.”


Making God Known, Loved, and Served:
The Future of Catholic Primary and Secondary Schools in the United States
Final Report, Notre Dame Task Force on Catholic Education

What Can I Do?

What can you do to support Catholic schools?  Take action with ACE Advocates!

1. Pray for Catholic Schools
  • To truly strengthen and sustain our Catholic schools, ACE Advocates know we must rely on the advocacy and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
  • Join ACE Advocates across the country in praying for our Catholic schools, the children they serve, and the dedicated educators and other advocates who work tirelessly on their behalf.
  • Visit our collection of spiritual resources for individuals, families, schools, and groups.
2. Get Informed
  • ACE Advocates helps you stay knowledgeable about current trends and issues in Catholic schools, and about their proven track record for success.
  • Read our latest e-newsletter or visit our news blog.  Learn the latest news about Catholic schools across the country, regional volunteer efforts, best practices for Catholic educators, updates on ACE's work in Catholic education, spiritual resources, inspiring stories of Catholic school champions, and more!
  • Connect with ACE Advocates on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
  • Learn the facts about the Case for Catholic Schools, Parental Choice policy initiatives, and the Catholic School Advantage.
  • Take advantage of ACE's degree, certificate, and professional development programs.
3. Get Involved
  • Join an ACE Advocates Region to support Catholic schools in your hometown.
  • Support Parental Choice initiatives locally and nationally - because a quality Catholic education should be available and accessible to all who desire it for their children.
  • Promote the Catholic School Advantage:  Support the efforts to enroll 1,000,000 Latino children in Catholic schools by 2020.
  • Bring ACE's professional services to your school. Email  to request more info.
4. Join the Movement!
  • ACE Advocates believe that Catholic schools must be sustained and strengthened for the good of children, families, communities, the nation, and the Church.  We pledge to advocate for Catholic schools through ongoing participation in prayer, community, and service.

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