Column: Academic success built on the bedrock of spiritual formation

by Kathy O’Hara

Dear friends of Catholic schools,

One of my favorite Scripture passages is the parable of the talents. It beautifully illustrates the reason why we strive for academic excellence in Catholic schools.

All of us have been given talents by God, and we are called to develop those to the fullest to serve him. Academic excellence is based on our call to develop our talents for eternal salvation.

This is the time in a school year when parents and school staffs await the results of various measures designed to tell us if, indeed, we have helped our students develop their talents. Student scores in Kansas assessments, Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS), Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), Assessment of Catechesis Religious Education (ACRE), and other local tests help us determine student progress and in what areas we need to improve.

I am very pleased to report that our schools are doing quite well academically. All of our schools are accredited by both the Kansas State Department of Education and AdvancEd/NCA, and our teachers are licensed by the state of Kansas. While there are some challenges, our schools are consistently performing well by all measures. In fact, we have schools that are recognized in the top five percent of schools in Kansas. Given that Kansas has been ranked as the 7th highest academic performing state in the nation, we could say that our schools are some of the best in the nation!

However, academic achievement is not the end of our story. If Catholic schools cannot produce academic results in the context of our faith, then we have failed. In our schools, we attempt to develop students’ relationships with Jesus throughout the academic curriculum. Lessons that use Scripture and church teachings are infused in every subject area. If students leave our schools without knowing and loving our Lord, then our academic success will be empty.

I often become discouraged when parents tell me they let their 14-year-olds choose whether or not they will attend a public or Catholic high school. It discourages me because it says to me that parents think the choices are equal. Otherwise, why would they trust someone so young with that decision? If we do our jobs correctly in Catholic schools, the choices should not be equal!

In fact, the Center for Applied Research on the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University confirms this. CARA found that those children who at- tend Catholic elementary and secondary schools continue to practice the faith as adults in far greater numbers than children who attend other schools.

Catholic schools are about our children’s futures — now and eternally!

¡Vaya con Dios!

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