by Vince Anch
I have participated in many discussions about why Catholic schools get such impressive academic results despite much smaller budgets and fewer resources than peer public schools.
Most recently, I testified at Kansas Senate and House committees on education at the Capitol in Topeka. Supporters of private schools shared data about better assessment test scores, higher graduation rates and higher college attendance rates than neighboring public schools.
The private school representatives included parents and students testifying on the positive impact private schools have had on their lives.
Less bullying, fewer disciplinary issues, better learning environments and spiritual growth were common themes.
The public school representatives included a teachers’ union, an organization representing superintendents and a professor from an out-of-state public university. Their comments were more about funding and budgets than success in learning.
So what is the secret to Catholic schools’ success? Of course, there are many answers to this question, including having Jesus in our classrooms. One aspect that doesn’t get mentioned very often is parent engagement. Parents’ engagement with their children’s education is extremely impactful in helping students learn and succeed.
Numerous studies have proved that when parents engage in their children’s education, student success is better than it is for children with little to no parent engagement. Strong, stable and engaged families create an invaluable atmosphere for learning at all age levels, but especially for younger students. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children” (2223).
The National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) states that“Catholic schools have continued the legacy that has characterized Catholic education: academic excellence, a strong partnership with parents, a sense of community and a faith-filled education for students.”
A strong partnership with parents should be highlighted. What does that look like? Setting high expectations for children helps create a pathway for continued student success. Visiting museums, historical sites and going on field trips with children also enhances learning and makes it fun.
Setting up daily routines for students for homework, family dinners, play time and bedtime are important. Creating a dedicated learning space in the home that is quiet and organized with good lighting improves concentration and learning. Helping with homework creates strong bonds and shows children that parents are their partners in learning. Offering praise not just for good grades but also for completing challenging assignments provides valuable encouragement.
Showing our youth that we appreciate their hard work is a powerful learning tool in itself.
Jesus received amazing parental support in his education. Our school families emulate the Holy Family and that is a key reason for success in our Catholic schools.