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Amid the Pandemic, Progress in Catholic Schools

The news this fall about U.S. student achievement on the national NAEP assessment is “dismal,” as numerous news outlets have covered. But as Kathleen Porter-Magee shares in a recent piece featured by the Wall Street Journal, Catholic schools stand out as a rare bright spot amidst some very dark clouds. Specifically, she explains:

“The divergence between Catholic schools and public ones is so great, that if all U.S. Catholic schools were a state, their 1.6 million students would rank first in the nation across the NAEP reading and math tests for fourth and eighth graders…Catholic schools lead the nation for Hispanic achievement on each of the four tests and lead the nation in Black student achievement for three of the four tests. They also rank first in eighth-grade reading and third in both fourth-grade reading and fourth-grade math for students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch.

Kathleen also shares that an increasing number of parents are gravitating to the nimble responsiveness that caused Catholic schools to reopen for in-person learning far earlier than other sectors:

As public-school enrollment plummeted, Catholic-school enrollment rose by about 4% between 2020-21 and 2021-22, increasing in every region of the country, even where the overall population of school-age children declined.

And she tackles naysayers:

Those trying to undercut the Catholic-school success story dismiss the results as merely the high performance of elite private schools. But K-8 Catholic schools are the only private elementary schools in America that serve the urban poor at scale. The average annual tuition
for a K-8 Catholic school is $5,300—about one-third what states spend per child on public

These findings are shaping the discussion about the impact of Covid-related school shutdowns on student learning and the important role Catholic schools have played. Highlights from the national media coverage include a Fox appearance, and they all trace back to a single tweet that Kathleen posted. That tweet has now been shared thousands of times with more than 1.5 million people, and its data has been highlighted on blogs and newsletters, including those whose reach goes well beyond the typical education space, like MarginalRevolution, the Washington Policy Center, the Center for Education Reform, the St. John Paul II Renewal Center, and the American Federation for Children.

You can view the entire article here.