Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Lessons From Catholic Schools for Public Educators

 I hope you're sitting down, but Ravitch and I actually agree on something: that many inner-city Catholic schools are doing great things for students.  Where we differ (you can stand up again) is that she opposes vouchers that would save these schools and charter schools that are doing many of the things Catholic schools are doing.  Go figure…

Within the 242 pages of Diane Ravitch's lightning rod of a book, "The Death and Life of the Great American School System," there appear exactly three references to Catholic education. Which makes sense, given that Ms. Ravitch is addressing and deploring recent efforts to reform public schools with extensive testing and increasing privatization.

Yet what subtly informs both her critique and her recommendations for improving public schools is, in significant measure, her long study of and admiration for Roman Catholic education, especially in serving low-income black and Hispanic students.

In that respect, Ms. Ravitch and her book offer evidence of how some public-education scholars and reformers have been learning from what Catholic education is doing right. What one might call the Catholic-school model is perhaps the most unappreciated influence on the nation's public-education debate.

"If you're serious about education reform, you have to pay attention to what Catholic schools are doing," said Joseph P. Viteritti, a professor of public policy at Hunter College who has edited four books with Ms. Ravitch. "The fact of the matter is that they've been educating urban kids better than they're being educated elsewhere."

When Ms. Ravitch assails the emphasis on standardized testing, particularly under the No Child Left Behind law, and when she exhorts schools to use a content-rich core curriculum and emphasize character and build ties to parents and neighborhoods, she is, without overtly saying so, extolling the essential traits of Catholic education.


April 30, 2010

Lessons From Catholic Schools for Public Educators


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