CEF centered Contributors

Catholic school students succeeding despite pandemic

Vince Anch is the executive director of the Catholic Education Foundation.

by Vince Anch

Our Catholic schools in the archdiocese are in full swing with the new school year.

There won’t be as much excitement or as  many challenges as a year ago, of course, as a result of the pandemic. Our schools opened as usual last year, and stayed open for the whole school year.

Meanwhile, most public schools were closed through most of the school year, only offering virtual or hybrid learning until the middle of the spring semester.

Plenty of data has come out about the damages that virtual learning caused this past school year in the education of our youth. The Kansas City Star recently cited research addressing this issue from the global management group McKinsey & Co. McKinsey’s research found that, on average, children that were educated virtually for most of the last year finished five months behind in math and four months behind in reading compared to students who had in-person learning.

McKinsey also reported that “students who move on to the next grade unprepared are missing key building blocks of knowledge that are necessary for success. Left unchecked, unfinished learning could have severe consequences for students’ opportunities and prospects.”

Similar results were published by NWEA, which is an organization that sponsors national test assessments across the globe. NWEA reported that student achievement in testing dropped by 8 to 12 percentage points in math and 3 to 6 points in reading scores. They stressed that Black, Latino and students who attended schools with high poverty rates suffered the most.

It was a much better story for students attending Catholic schools in the archdiocese. For instance, Catholic Education Foundation-funded grade schools offered in-person learning all year long.

Our students did not fall backwards by several months in their learning. In fact, they jumped forward and did not miss a beat. CEF-funded high school students achieved a 100% graduation rate. Our students truly benefited from a full year of in-person learning that will have lifelong benefits.

Our teachers, administrators and school staff were courageous in their efforts to provide high quality in-person education all year long and are continuing their efforts this year.

I remind people that our schools opened and stayed open even before any vaccines were available. That took courage and commitment. Our teachers were beacons of light to our youth during a dark time. Their courage and dedication to the education and faith formation of our youth did not waiver.

Our Catholic schools did have one advantage over their public school peers. They invoked the Holy Spirit daily to guide them in teaching and inspiring our children.

Because of their faith, our children are not only better prepared for life but also better prepared for heaven. This is the real differentiating factor that Catholic schools have. Faith was the best medicine of all last year and will be this school year.

Thank goodness our schools know this and now so do thousands of children in our Catholic schools.

About the author

Vincent Anch

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