Schools across the nation reported that students fell behind due to distance learning during the COVID pandemic.
Not so with Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Students enrolled in the Catholic grade schools operated by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia advanced in grade-level learning during the COVID19 pandemic.
A recent NPR story noted that “students learned less when they were remote.” This, of course, comes as no surprise. NPR notes that many public-school systems were caught unprepared. Teachers were not trained to manage remote learning. School districts did not have available technology to support online learning.
“‘Even students who spent the least amount of time learning remotely during the 2020-2021 year-just a month or less-missed the equivalent of seven to ten weeks of learning,’ says Thomas Kane of the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University.”
Conversely, students enrolled in a Catholic grade school operated by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia demonstrated “at least a full year’s growth. At one level, in mathematics, there was more than a year’s growth.” This data comes from a report commissioned by the Office for Catholic Education (OCE) working with the Data Recognition Corporation who analyzed Terra Nova scores which demonstrated the growth and advancement achieved by Catholic school students.
Bottom line: Catholic schools stayed open, and kids kept learning! Today, Catholic school students are ahead of their public-school peers thanks to the incredible job done by schoolteachers and administrators.
How They Did It
When the COVID19 pandemic forced schools to close on 15 March, 2020, the Catholic grade schools of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia immediately pivoted to distance learning. OCE teachers and administrators had taken advantage of state-funded programs aimed at training teachers to implement distance learning for short periods of time (ie weather events). With this foundation, Catholic schoolteachers were better prepared than their public-school colleagues. Many districts did not take advantage of the state training programs. But Catholic school teachers had been developing plans for remote learning and were able to immediately shift to a longer-term distance learning model to finish out the 2019-2020 school year.
During the summer of 2020, while public school districts doubled down on keeping their doors closed, Catholic school teachers were meeting and planning how to open for the 2020-2021 school year. The Catholic Schools Onward (CSO) taskforce coalesced educational experts, healthcare professionals, teachers, and administrators to develop a plan to safely open schools for in person instruction.
The Data Recognition Corporation’s analysis showed how Catholic school students in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia were able to advance with grade level learning during the pandemic while so many public-school students fell behind.
Moreover, the health and safety procedures developed by the CSO taskforce kept the spread of COVID to a minimum. In most cases Catholic schools had fewer cases compared to the community at large. This was achieved through a robust and innovative set of initiatives including cohorting, social distancing and health screenings.
In addition to the incredible leadership demonstrated by the Office for Catholic Education, parents showed courage and commitment throughout the pandemic. Catholic schools believe that education is a partnership between parents and teachers. This was never more apparent in 2020 and 2021 when parents worked with schools to ensure in person learning was successful. We cannot thank our parents enough.
The Word is Out
Parents are making the choice to enroll their students in their local Catholic grade school. Clearly, the commitment to learning and the foundation in the Catholic faith are attracting parents. Catholic school enrollment has increased for the 2nd year in a row. This is the first time in decades where school enrollment has increased.
The Blessed Virgin Mary School at Darby is one of over 100 Catholic grade schools operated by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. We offer a dynamic curriculum for students in Pre-K through 8th grade. During the pandemic, we kept our students on track, in school and safe. We are dedicated to protecting the wholesomeness of childhood while we offer a world-class education to our students.