Setting the standard

By Pamela Lyons

On Oct. 24, the National Assessment of Educational Progress released its test results for 2022. Often called the “Nation’s Report Card,” the NAEP assessment is taken by a random sampling of fourth and eighth grade students across the United States in public, charter, private and Catholic schools. In all, 224,000 students and 5,700 schools in Grade 4 and 222,000 students and 5,100 schools in Grade 8 participated in the assessment. The overall results saw a significant drop in scores for both fourth and eighth grade students. Fourth grade students dropped 5 points in math and 3 points in reading, while eighth grade students dropped 8 points in math and 3 points in reading. Ten points are considered one year of growth or loss, so as a country our students experienced significant learning loss.

However, the news for our Catholic schools across the nation was significantly better. Fourth grade Catholic school students’ average scores in math remained 11 points higher than the average scores of their fourth grade public school peers and 19 points higher in reading. Eighth grade Catholic school students scored 15 points higher in math and 19 points in reading. For fourth graders in Catholic school, math scores remained the same, while eighth graders saw a 1-point increase. Scores in reading were even more impressive, with fourth and eighth graders in Catholic schools experiencing a 1-point gain.

For me, these results were not surprising. In the Archdiocese of San Francisco, we have seen no significant learning loss in math or reading in our Renaissance STAR data throughout the pandemic. These results reflect the hard work that Catholic school teachers and leaders have demonstrated throughout the pandemic by showing up for students and families and opening our schools months before our public-school counterparts. They also reflect what is at the heart of Catholic education. By educating the whole child, with Jesus at the center of all we do, the students and families we serve are part of our own family of faith, where students are and will always remain our top priority.

In this issue of the Catholic San Francisco magazine, we have prepared articles for you that reflect the four pillars of the National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools. The standards and benchmarks were published in 2012 as a guide and assessment tool for PK-12 Catholic school effectiveness and sustainability. They include research-based school effectiveness criteria, as well as criteria unique to Catholic school mission and identity. The schools of the Archdiocese of San Francisco are fully implementing the standards and benchmarks to align with our new accreditation protocol that will be released by the Western Catholic Educational Association next school year. In this magazine, you will find articles on mission & Catholic identity, governance & leadership, academic excellence and operational vitality. For those reading this magazine who are already part of our Catholic school community, I hope you can join us in celebrating the great achievements of our schools and students during this Catholic Schools Week.

For those of you who are not yet a part of our Catholic school family, I invite you to visit a Catholic school and experience for yourself all they have to offer. We are dedicated in our mission to grow our students’ understanding that they are God’s beloved so they may fully realize God’s plan for themselves. Come partner with us in bestowing on your children a gift that will be invaluable throughout their lives, the gift of faith.

Pamela Lyons is the superintendent of the Department of Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.