Cardinal Newman Society on Betty DeVos’ “Conversion” Away From Common Core

The National Catholic Register recently quoted Dan Guernsey, director of K-12 programs at the Cardinal Newman Society, about President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education – Betsy Devos.

“Her position seems to be that Common Core seemed like a good idea at the time, but that, according to her statement, ‘along the way, it got turned into a federalized boondoggle.’ This is the default position of virtually all former and even current Common Core supporters, including Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush!” said Guernsey. “Her position should have been from the start: ‘Do not let the national government, businessmen, bureaucrats and billionaires (she now represents all four of these) design a national education program, and let the states decide on their own.”

Well put. Cardinal Newman Society also added in their recent report card. “As Catholics, we welcome all converts. Let’s hope DeVos’ conversion away from Common Core is genuine. And, to be clear, Common Core didn’t get boondoggled along the way. It was a federally supported bureaucratic know-it-all one size fits all boondoggle from the beginning,” they wrote.

Agreed. Common Core didn’t become a boondoggle, it was always a boondoggle. Top-down reforms never work.

As far as her conversion I also hope that it was genuine. I sincerely hope she is asked more about this during the confirmation process.

Cardinal Newman Society Releases K-12 Catholic Curriculum Standards

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The Cardinal Newman Society released new Catholic School Curriculum Standards. Dan Guernsey and Denise Dohohue, the developers of the standards, explain that the standards are supplementary and are meant to be a resource to Catholic schools. “The Cardinal Newman Society offers these Catholic Curriculum Standards as a resource for educators to help keep focus on what is unique about Catholic elementary and secondary education: its evangelizing mission to integrally form students in Christ and transmit a Christian worldview,” they wrote.

They further describe the standards:

The standards cover English language arts, math, scientific topics, and history, focusing on unique Catholic insights into these curricular areas and complementing the Church’s standards for religious instruction. They are broadly grouped into two grade levels, K-6 and 7-12. They express student outcomes of learning, inviting educators to assign or develop materials and choose subject matter that serve the unique mission of Catholic education.

We built the standards on the solid foundation of Church documents, the educational philosophies of faithful Newman Guide colleges, and many writings on Catholic, liberal arts, and classical education. We consulted with many leading Catholic scholars, school leaders, and standards experts to ensure the highest quality resource.

Consultants that helped with the development of the standards are:

  • Joseph Almeida, Ph.D. (Franciscan University of Steubenville)
  • Dominic Aquila, D.Litt et Phil. (University of St. Thomas, TX)
  • Christopher Baglow, Ph.D. (Notre Dame Seminary)
  • Anthony Esolen, Ph.D. (Providence College)
  • Joseph Pearce (Aquinas College, TN)
  • Chad Pecknold, Ph.D. (Catholic University of America)
  • Andrew Seeley, Ph.D. (Thomas Aquinas College)
  • Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J. (The Magis Center)
  • Ryan Topping, D.Phil. (Thomas More College of Liberal Arts)
  • Gregory Townsend, Ph.D. (Christendom College)
  • Michael VanHecke (The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education)
  • Susan Waldstein, S.T.D. (Ave Maria University)
  • Christopher Zehnder (Catholic Textbook Project)

Unlike the Common Core State Standards, teachers and schools are allowed to adapt the standards how they see fit.

The release of the standards follow a white paper published by American Principles Project and the Pioneer Institute that found Common Core is incompatible with Catholic education.

Gates-Funded Group Targets Catholic Organization Over Common Core

Gates foundationThe Cardinal Newman Society reports that they are being targeted by a Gates-funded lobbying group over their “Catholic is our Core” initiative.

They write:

Sara Pruzin, a state operations associate for the Council for a Strong America (CSA) and former communications intern for U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, unwittingly contacted a Cardinal Newman Society leader to rally Catholic support for the Common Core.  She sent an email on August 28 to Dr. Daniel Guernsey, director of the Newman Society’s K-12 Education Programs, at his office at Ave Maria University in Florida, asking him to consider writing op-eds and letters to the editor in support of the Common Core.

“We are concerned about the strident attacks coming from parts of the Catholic community, which we believe are inaccurate and meant more to divide than to inform,” Pruzin wrote.  “We feel that it is important to respond to the negative statements about the Common Core, rather than let them go unanswered.”

Pruzin later confirmed that her criticisms were aimed at The Cardinal Newman Society, and her email was part of a major effort to build support among Catholic educators.  She said the Gates Foundation grantee has reached out to about 50 Catholic educators and leaders, including superintendents in a dozen states and officials at the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA)—which is also a recipient of Gates funding to promote the Common Core.

CSA received $1.7 million from the Gates Foundation in July 2013 “to educate and engage stakeholders about the Common Core and teacher development through a range of communications activities”.  These have included rallying retired military officers, police officers, business leaders and others to advocate Common Core in many states.

But the Council’s new initiative moves from the realm of public policy to the Catholic Church, which has sponsored or inspired education that significantly outperforms public schools.  Catholic schools have none of the pressures for reform and are ineligible for the federal funding that motivated many state superintendents to embrace the Common Core.

Read the rest.

Engaging in public policy debates is one thing, but to target a group because they started a “Catholic Is Our Core” Initiative for Catholic schools is absolutely over the top.  This isn’t the only time Gates has meddled with Catholic education.  Gates has provided funding for the National Catholic Education Association.  Catholic schools which have promoted classical education for years and years have a solid track record for producing high-performing students.  It just seems like Gates wants to wipe out competition that would make Common Core look even worse than it already does.