Hoping to better determine knowledge of the Catholic faith among students, the Diocese of Trenton will return to using the ACRE religious education assessment in diocesan Catholic schools for the upcoming academic year.

The decision comes after a pre-pandemic review of the Assessment of Religious Knowledge (ARK) test, as well as ACRE – Assessment of Child/Youth Religious Education – which had been used in the Diocese previously. After a pause during the remote learning of spring 2020, discussions resumed between Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., superintendent of Catholic Schools Dr. Vincent de Paul Schmidt, and Daniel O’Connell, associate director for curriculum and instruction.

“The decision was made to have [school] groups pilot both ARK and ACRE assessments to select the one best suited for the Diocese,” O’Connell explained. “In the spring of 2021, three elementary schools and one high school piloted the ARK from the Sophia Institute, and one high school piloted the ACRE from the National Catholic Educators Association.” Grades five, seven and 11 were assessed.

Principals and technology specialists from the pilot schools met in July with O’Connell and director of catechesis Denise Contino to discuss the results. ACRE was ultimately chosen for a number of reasons, O’Connell noted.

“[It has] an easy to access digital platform, immediate results, clear and direct questions and results that were easy to maneuver and interpret,” he said.

Starting with the 2021-2022 school year, grades five, eight and 11 will take the assessments. The idea is for all Catholic elementary and high schools to base their curriculum on he Religion Curriculum Guidelines put forth by both the Departments of Catechesis and Catholic Schools, O’Connell stressed, noting that the updated guidelines are scheduled to be released to schools in 2024.

The tests will “provide rich data to assist in sealing any gaps in instruction in the Religion Curriculum Guidelines,” O’Connell said, “and to indicate areas which must be strengthened in the faith formation of our students.”