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Column: Catholic schools measure ‘outcomes’ differently

Kathy O'Hara is the superintendent of archdiocesan schools.

Kathy O’Hara is the superintendent of archdiocesan schools.

by Kathy O’ Hara

Dear friends of Catholic schools,

Chances are that if you spend time in any of our Catholic school classrooms today, you will observe a different type of teaching and learning happening from what you might remember when you were students. While the language (“Differentiated Instruction, Multi-Tiered System of Supports, and Positive Behavior System”) may be new, the underlying principles are still rooted in the Gospels. Today’s teachers simply use a variety of approaches to ensure that each student is able to multiply his or her talents to give glory to God.

Recently, there have been articles published in a variety of publications, including The Wall Street Journal, that point to the academic success of Catholic schools as a model for all schools. While we enjoy and appreciate the positive recognition, these articles usually fail to mention the deeper reason for our success: i.e., the connection to faith in God and belief in the Scriptures.

Likewise, when others speak of “discipline” and the safe atmosphere of Catholic schools, they often miss the relationship to Jesus Christ that is the foundation of our behavioral expectations. What better “anti-bullying” program could there be than Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount or the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi? The belief that there is an eternal reward for goodness is a great motivator in Catholic schools!

In addition, when Catholic schools are praised for truly developing the “whole person,” rarely is credit given to the fact that, for us, the “whole person” includes the soul that God has given each of us. Father Richard Jacobs, OSA, stated it eloquently when he proposed that one of the foundational principles guiding Catholic schools is the belief that “teaching is an intimate communication between souls.” Thus “differentiated instruction” in Catholic schools encompasses more than just the minds of our students.

We believe this faithfulness to the true mission — learning to live and love as Jesus did — is why there are so many graduates of Catholic schools excelling in colleges and careers. This is why there are so many Catholic school graduates serving in their communities, as noted in The Wall Street Journal.

When students are taught in Catholic schools that choosing a career and/ or helping others is more about how God is asking them to use the gifts and talents he gave them and not so much about what they want to do to make themselves happy, the result should be an intentional and sustained effort of self-giving on their parts.

Although the outcomes of Catholic schools, both nationally and in this archdiocese, are indeed noteworthy, so, too, are the real reasons behind those outcomes. Thanks be to God!

¡Vaya con Dios!

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Kathy O'Hara

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