Dear friends in faith,
At the beginning of his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis writes, “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of those who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew!”
We have a unique opportunity through Catholic school education to focus on creating a daily encounter with Jesus. As a result, the joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who enter our schools – and joy is constantly born anew!
By the grace of God and with great effort from our students, parents, teachers and leaders, we are exceeding the enrollment goals identified five years ago at the onset of our strategic plan, “Catholic Schools: Bridging Faith and Future.” Our Catholic schools have grown as an alliance, expanding outstanding educational ministry to 2.6% more students this year, following last year’s increase of 4.3%, for a nearly 7% growth in the past two years.
This means more children encounter the Lord and actively engage with him in their learning on a daily basis through our Catholic schools. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the largest nationally representative assessment of what our nation’s students know and can do in specific subjects and grade levels. The assessment, commonly known as the Nation’s Report Card, has released its 2022 results showing the impact of the pandemic across the country. The data continues to identify Catholic schools as top performing, with test results that stayed the same or improved in math and reading. All other school types saw significant learning loss in math and reading in 2022 results.
According to the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), “Setting an industry standard, more than 90% of Catholic schools opened safely, in person, five days a week with hybrid options during the pandemic. This is compared to approximately 56% of public schools.” Our strong test results can be attributed to schools’ quick return to in-person learning. The NAEP assessment showed that fourth graders in public schools experienced a scaled score loss of 3 points in reading and 5 points in math compared to 2019 data. In comparison, using NWEA MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) scaled scores, in which all Catholic schools in the diocese participate, our fourth graders did not show any loss and have held steady since 2019.
In addition, our fall MAP scaled scores were higher than the national average in all grade levels and content areas. This is due to our teachers’ determination to meet the needs of students and the role our parents play to support learning at home.
To continue this momentum and growth, we will present a draft of a completely refreshed “Bridging Faith and Future” strategic plan in May. This plan will provide a roadmap to ensure transparency, accountability and measurement over the next five years as we continue to grow our alliance of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Grand Rapids. Our schools honor the God-given intellect of the children we serve by pushing them to achieve their fullest academic potential, while instilling in them a faith base that is uniquely and wholly Catholic. Please pray for guidance that we may be most effective in this precious ministry to faithfully present the joy of the Gospel to more and more young people and their families and that our mission may continually renew the Church.
Dave Faber & Sarah Grey
To learn more about the Nation’s Report Card, click here.
To read the full Jan/Feb edition of FAITH Grand Rapids, click here.