Diocese Schools begin new, more rigorous, Curriculum Standards Print this post

By Bob Reddy (Florida Catholic)


The Catholic Diocese of Venice in Florida has implemented new, more rigorous Academic Standards for English Language Arts and Math as the foundation of education. Effective with the start of the 2017-2018 Academic Year, these standards are being implemented at each of the 11 Diocesan Catholic Schools that offer kindergarten through eighth grade classes.

Diocese Superintendent of Education Dr. Kristy Swol said “the creation of these standards is important to our schools in that they work to provide a strong foundation academically to the students entrusted in our care.”

Dr. Kristy Swol, the new Diocese of Venice Superintendent of Schools.

Importantly, Dr. Swol added, these academic standards are interwoven with the Cardinal Newman Society’s Catholic Curriculum Standards and the evangelical mission of Catholic Education.

Academic standards are the tool that teachers use to drive education. Standards ensure that students learn topics and skills at the appropriate age level, ensure subjects are learned sequentially to eliminate gaps in learning, and are the springboard for which courses delve in to subject matter. Standards are the foundation of learning, not the sole achievement of a class.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on June 21 joining the Circle for Protection Christian leadership coalition is opposition to oppressive federal budget issues.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane said the most important aspect of the new Academic Standards is that they “are infused with our Catholic identity, thereby providing the foundation of evangelization throughout the academic program.”

The Diocese of Venice believes in the educational partnership it shares with parents, the first educators of their children, Bishop Dewane added. “Through this partnership, the Catholic School of the Diocese extend the education learned in the home and works to build a community that values an education based on the teaching of Christ. This partnership is valued and is at the heart of our educational offerings.”

Periodically, academic standards are evaluated for their relevancy in a world in which knowledge is growing exponentially. As such, the Diocesan Education Department undertook the revision of standards by reaching out to subject area experts from the schools and community while eliciting feedback from parent representatives.

Diocese of Venice crest

The Diocesan of Venice Academic Standards and learning benchmarks have been designed to exceed both state and national performance norms. All resources and curriculum materials used in the schools are aligned with the National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools.

Dr. Denise Donahue, project lead for the Cardinal Newman Society Catholic Curriculum Standards and who reviewed the Diocese of Venice Academic Standards noted that, “The dispositional standards so essential to Catholic formation, are primarily situated within the English Language Arts Literature strands allowing the use of rich examples from carefully chosen selections to form students’ reasoning and aesthetic faculties as well as to provide opportunities for creativity, delight and wonder.”

Each of the Diocesan Academic Standards have been organized around a “big idea” and “essential questions.” Big ideas represent an overarching principle or concept and serve as the “anchor” for a lesson or unit.

Essential questions differ from “who, what, when, where and how” questions. They challenge students to apply what they already know with deeper exploration of ideas and beliefs about the big idea.

They have no right or wrong answers, promote inquiry, reflection, and deeper thinking. Essential questions are designed around a problem, concern or interest. Asking students “How many legs does a spider have?” would be answered with a “simple recall” level answer. However, an essential question may be posed as “What traits and characteristics determine a classification.” Essential questions encourage students to think more deeply and to draw upon and apply previous learning.

Through a lens of the Catholic worldview, the Academic Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics for grades kindergarten through grade eight were designed to guide teachers in the development of their classroom curriculum. The Catholic Curriculum Standards served as a resource for our Diocesan Academic Standards writing team and are noted with the same designations assigned in the Cardinal Newman Society’s Catholic Curriculum document.

Each academic discipline’s standards are broadly grouped into two sets focusing on grades K-6 and 7-8, with general, intellectual, and dispositional standards for each academic discipline.

The general standards are tied to the five critical elements. Intellectual standards are cognitive standards and are primarily content and performance based. The dispositional standards involve the formation of character, beliefs, attitudes, values, interpersonal skills.

“The Diocese of Venice Catholic Academic Standards will provide excellence and rigor for our students, which our students will be expected to meet or exceed, and will provide a strong foundation in the Catholic Faith,” Dr. Swol said. Additional subjects will be reviewed in the coming school years.

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