High Standards – During the coming school year, students will work on assignments designed in keeping with the “National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools” released in March. CNS photo /Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review

High Standards – During the coming school year, students will work on assignments designed in keeping with the “National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools” released in March. CNS photo /Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review

By Mary Morrell | Managing Editor

With beach bags quickly giving way to backpacks, families are gearing up for the new school year. For some children, there is joyful anticipation, for others it’s a time of anxiety, and, for parents, there is an expectation that the year will be fruitful for their children.

According to the last reported national data on Catholic elementary and secondary schools, there were 2,031,455 students enrolled in Catholic schools during the 2011-2012 school year.

In the Diocese of Trenton, enrollment for that same year was 19,947.

For the 2012-2013 school year, accomplishment is the principal component of the National Catholic Educational Association theme, “Catholic Schools Raise the Standards.”

Slated as the theme for Catholic Schools’ Week in January, the attention to high standards in Catholic schools will be reflected throughout the year as schools incorporate the new “National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools.”

The landmark document is the result of a collaborative effort by the Center for Catholic School Effectiveness at Loyola University Chicago’s School of Education, the Roche Center for Catholic Education at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and the NCEA, and was vetted by a national task force of Catholic school educators and supporters, including Dr. Margaret F. Boland, diocesan senior associate superintendent of Catholic schools.

In a presentation to diocesan high school educators held in Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville, in the spring, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., spoke of the passion needed to achieve excellence in Catholic education, reminding educators that “Catholic schools are places ‘where faith and knowledge meet’ but unless that meeting inspires, unless that meeting engages, unless that meeting lights a fire, unless that meeting changes lives, our schools are simply that, ‘schools.’ 

“To inspire, to engage, to light a fire, to change lives – these are our mission as Catholic school teachers and the results of a Gospel vision and passion that occur within a committed partnership, a convinced and courageous partnership that educates in a way that is unambiguously and, therefore, distinctively Catholic,” stressed Bishop O’Connell, adding, “Because of that identity, we have in the Catholic school an unambiguous and distinct mission to evangelize.  That is where the vision and the passion come in.  Evangelization, Catholic education, is a vision and passion for excellence and a fire in living our Catholic faith and life.”

During the coming school year, within the context of their own culture and community, schools will work toward implementing the principles and practices outlined in the new “National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools,” which, according to the document, are intended to “describe how the most mission-driven, program-effective, well-managed and responsibly governed Catholic schools operate.”