Curriculum Standards

We invite you to explore the curriculum standards used within Catholic schools in the Diocese of Grand Rapids. Parents are the primary educators of their children, and our Catholic schools support parents in the process of fully forming each child in mind, body and soul. These curriculum standards reflect how our Catholic faith informs instruction across all content areas and grade levels. These curriculum standards were adopted in 2018, and the theology curriculum framework was updated in 2020.

The curriculum framework is structured to be comprehensive in scope. There are three parts: encounter, grow, and witness. Throughout students’ experiences in our Catholic schools, they are provided with intentional moments to encounter Jesus Christ through activities such as participating in Mass, receiving the sacraments, and acts of service. Students grow in their understanding of Church teaching in all subject areas, including a renewed rigor in their understanding of Catholic theology. They are also empowered to witness God’s love to the world. The three parts of the paradigm are not intended to be steps in a sequence, but an integrated framework throughout a student’s experience, rooted in the pillars of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This paradigm leads the faithful into a life of discipleship.


It is the intention that this framework for cultivating opportunities to encounter Jesus Christ will assist schools and parish faith formation in renewing their zeal and commitment for encouraging all to know, love, and serve Jesus and the Church. Read more here.


Click the icons below to read curriculum standards according to each subject area.


This framework for missionary and apostolic witness to the unfailing love of God the Father, the salvation of Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit assists school and parish faith formation in bringing about a renewed zeal and commitment to know and love Jesus and the Church. Read more here.

Encounter, Grow, Witness by Grade Level


Frequently Asked Questions

What are the foundational principles of Catholic education?

All instruction, regardless of the discipline, is illuminated by the teachings of Jesus Christ as taught by the Catholic Church in the Catechism. Catholic education addresses the whole person -- body, mind, and soul. As such, our culture nurtures these foundational principles:

  • All people are created in the image and likeness of God
  • God has a plan for each of us
  • God has gifted each of us for a purpose greater than ourselves
  • God wants us to develop and use our talents as good stewards of his gifts
  • We value and partner with parents as the primary educators of their children
  • We reverence goodness, truth, and beauty in one another and in all of creation
  • We teach right and wrong, good and bad, and learn to discern the difference
  • We strive to cultivate a personal encounter with Christ
  • We nurture relationship with Christ through prayer, sacred scripture, the sacraments, and service
  • We strive to become disciples who go and make disciples

What are curriculum standards?

Curriculum standards express the skills and content students are expected to demonstrate within courses and across grade levels. These standards provide normative targets for student performance. When a student has successfully completed a course or grade level, he or she will have demonstrated competence in the knowledge, skills, or attitudes required of that course or grade level.

How do our Catholic schools use curriculum standards?

Curriculum standards are the base from which schools and teachers identify specific learning objectives for students’ coursework. Shortened versions of the curriculum standards are used on diocesan report cards, which show individual student growth toward proficiency of course content. School leaders also use curriculum standards as they determine the textbooks and resources necessary for courses; this process of purchasing curriculum resources is determined at the school level.

Do all the diocesan schools use the same textbooks and online resources?

No. The diocesan curriculum standards guide schools toward the expectation of course work and content. The diocese does not determine the textbooks or resources used in each school. Those decisions are made at the individual school level; however, when possible, schools cooperate to take advantage of consortium or volume pricing.

How do you monitor student learning and growth?

Standardized assessments are one tool used in our Catholic schools to monitor academic progress. These are one data point among many. We recognize that students learn at unique rates. We strive to find the just-right learning pace and path for each student, and meet that student where s/he is academically. We know that a standardized assessment is simply a snapshot of that student’s understanding on that date.
Our schools use the following standardized assessments in order to monitor student learning. Standardized assessments are:

  • Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA): Measure of Academic Progress (MAP)
  • College Board: Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT), Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT), Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT)
  • National Catholic Education Association: Information for Growth: Assessment of Children/Youth Religious Education (IFG:ACRE)

The NCEA ACRE assessment is administered in fifth, eighth, and eleventh grade to provide parents and educators standardized data on students’ knowledge of the Catholic faith. The NWEA MAP assessments is administered in elementary and middle school grades to provide qualitative achievement and growth data for parents and teachers. The SAT suite of assessments is administered in preparation of students’ postsecondary school success. Other assessments are selected and offered by individual schools for specific purposes and specific students (e.g. DIBELS, College Board AP assessments, ACT). Educators in our schools use these various data points to drive instruction based on a student’s specific needs.

Do our schools administer the MDE M-STEP?

No. As Catholic schools we are not required to give M-STEP, and we choose not to for several reasons. Firstly, preparation and administration of an additional assessment would cause a loss of instructional time. Secondly, results would be returned months later, by which time the students have left that teacher’s classroom, and there would be no opportunity to make instructional adjustments in a timely fashion for that student. 

Instead of using the M-STEP, our schools use assessments that are intended to help teachers make decisions regarding their students’ learning. Results help teachers group students, identify areas of strength and weakness, and set learning goals. Assessment data is examined at the classroom, school, diocesan, and national levels to determine and ensure that our students excel academically.

Does the diocese publish individual Catholic schools’ assessment results?

No, we do not publish each school’s results. We do publish aggregated diocesan-level assessment data. School principals welcome you to visit the school and inquire about student assessment data.

Do you teach Common Core?

No. The Common Core State Standards have not been adopted or adapted for use in our schools. Our diocesan curriculum standards pull from best practices from a variety of sources, none of which are Common Core. Hundreds of diocesan teachers and administrators worked tirelessly to produce the content and wording of the curriculum standards. They were then reviewed by local experts in theology, including diocesan priests and Aquinas College professors. This combination of experts ensures that the curriculum is rooted in our Catholic faith, is interculturally appropriate for our diocese, and provides educational best practices to inspire excellence in Catholic education.