Local Schools

Nation’s Report Card shows Catholic Schools performing at a high level

Archdiocesan schools continued with in-person learning for the 2020-21 “pandemic” school year, while taking health precautions like these students at St. Rose Philippine School in Garnett. Vince Cascone, superintendent of archdiocesan schools, thinks the decision to remain open is what made the high performance of Catholic schools achieved on the National Assessment of Education Progress Report Card possible. The results of the assessment were only recently published. LEAVEN FILE PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

by Moira Cullings

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — “As the years go by, we’re going to look back and it’s going to be shown more and more that we made the right decision to be in school,” said Vince Cascone, superintendent of archdiocesan schools.

He was referring to the benefits of the in-person learning offered by archdiocesan schools during the 2020-21 school year as compared to school systems that continued with distance learning.

His prediction is already bearing out.

On Oct. 24, the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card, released a report on the state of schools in the United States for the first time since 2019.

The report assesses math and reading proficiency for fourth and eighth grade students.

According to the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), the report showed that Catholic schools are outperforming public schools in nearly every category.

“The data also shows that Catholic schools are near the top in learning outcomes for students receiving free and reduced-price lunch, demonstrating the system’s commitment to underprivileged students,” according to an NCEA press release.

“Although Catholic school students experienced a statistically significant five-point drop in grade [eight] math,” it continued, “Catholic school students’ average scores remained 15 points higher than the average scores of their grade [eight] public school peers.”

Vince Cascone, superintendent of archdiocesan schools, visits Sts. Peter and Paul School in Seneca before the pandemic. Cascone believes that the archdiocese’s decision to remain open during the pandemic resulted in higher test scores. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Cascone believes there are multiple reasons for the success.

A major one was the willingness of educators to open their schools in the fall of 2020 to in-person learning despite the unknowns surrounding COVID.

“They did it willingly,” he said, “and they did it because deep down they knew that was what was best for the students.”

Cascone said when he visited schools in the midst of COVID, many teachers were overwhelmed, particularly with the idea of teaching in- person as well as offering a virtual option for students who stayed home.

“But they did it,” he said, “and they did it graciously.”

According to the NCEA press release, more than 90% of Catholic schools opened in-person five days a week with hybrid options, compared to approximately 56% of public schools.

“At the end of the day, the students are the ones who benefited from it,” said Cascone. “It’s nice to look back and say we know we did it right.”

Despite the unknowns surrounding COVID in 2020, teachers in the archdiocese showed up for their students by teaching in person and often offering virtual options, too. LEAVEN FILE PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Beyond COVID, Cascone believes Catholic schools give students a deeper meaning in their learning, which has helped them not only academically but also with their mental health.

“I hope that more people see not just that we did it right during COVID,” he said, “but we have a great thing that we offer in Catholic education.”

Allison Carney, associate superintendent of archdiocesan schools, said the relationships archdiocesan schools had already developed with parents before COVID has also played a role in Catholic school success.

Catholic schools approach education knowing that parents are the primary educators of their children, she said, and schools are there to support them.

“We’re not at odds with the parents,” she said. “We work with them. That, to me, makes for a beautiful partnership.”

Parents and faculty cheer on a graduate of Corpus Christi School in Lawrence in June 2020. Working with parents to educate their children is a key focus of archdiocesan schools. LEAVEN FILE PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Like Cascone, Carney said teachers were instrumental in keeping students up to speed despite the many challenges COVID presented.

“It’s instilled in them to do the best they can for children,” she said. “Our teachers put a lot to the side to really focus on the children during the pandemic.

“I think that made a real difference.”

Carney emphasized that public school educators also made sacrifices, but the mission and vision of Catholic schools is what ultimately sets them apart — even beyond COVID.

“I think people are really seeing that Catholic education has so much to offer,” she said. “I never want to put down our public school counterparts, because there’s lots of kids in public schools and there’s a need for those.

“But we do offer something different. Our mission is not just to get our students into a career. Our mission is to make saints and to help our students get to heaven.”

To read the full NAEP report, go online to: nationsreportcard.gov.

About the author

Moira Cullings

Moira attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park and Benedictine College in Atchison. She majored in marketing, minored in psychology and played center midfield for the women’s soccer team. Moira joined The Leaven staff as a feature writer and social media editor in 2015. After a move to Denver, Moira resumed her full-time position at The Leaven and continues to write and manage its website, social media channels. Her favorite assignment was traveling to the Holy Land to take photos for a group pilgrimage in 2019.

Leave a Comment

1 Comment

  • So nice to see Allison Carney’s comments. I know she is an incredible woman and I am so happy to be able to have met her!