» Catholic School Education – A Want or a Need?

One of the pioneers of the Effective Schools movement, Dr. Larry Lezotte, has spent his career identifying the correlates common to all high performing schools and school systems. While the results of his research are in no way shocking – high performing schools almost always have a very clear and focused mission, a safe and orderly learning environment where students are expected to learn, to behave and to succeed, and a very strong home connection demonstrated by families who believe in the mission and share the same high expectations for their children - it is surprising that our society seems to look past these proven fundamentals in designing initiatives to “fix” our nation’s schools. For decades, Catholic schools have thrived by following virtually the same formula for effectiveness described by Dr. Lezotte.

I am proud of my service in public education, and I have the greatest admiration for the colleagues I served with during my 22 year career in public schools, but by definition, public schools are not allowed to teach students how they can have unconditional access to God’s peace and security. Children clearly need great preparation and formation as learners and critical thinkers. They need to be college ready and career ready. They need an understanding and perspective about how they relate to humanity over time, as well as in the context of their current world, nation and community.

Without an education, however, that has a single reference point in truth, a truth that cuts through time and trends and politics, a truth that goes beyond human knowledge and understanding, and that offers hope in good times and bad, children cannot be totally prepared. Without developing an understanding of the Truth that Jesus is Lord and God, no amount of learning and planning will assure peace for our children. That is the reason we choose Catholic schools for our sons and daughters, and that is precisely the reason I would suggest that in the times we live in, Catholic schools are rapidly becoming a need, not a want or nice advantage to provide when possible.

The fact that nationally, graduates of Catholic high schools complete high school, attend college, require less remediation, complete college degrees in less time, and earn higher incomes than the average high school graduate, demonstrates what alignment with Dr. Lezotte’s research can produce. More importantly, research also points to Catholic graduates having greater fidelity to Sunday Mass and prayer, sustaining pro-life attitudes, and offering greater and more sustained support to their parish and community than their peers who did not graduate from a Catholic high school.

The graduates of Powers Catholic, the high school for the GCCS, demonstrate much of the same. In addition to the formation that comes from constant access to Fr. Kogut, weekly mass, annual retreats, numerous service opportunities and an opportunity daily to connect all learning to the Truth, Powers Catholic graduates do have the highest ACT scores in the county, show an average growth of between 5 and 6 points from their Explore Test to the ACT, and go on to attend college, persist in their education and complete college “on time” at higher rates than the state and national averages.

When I pray for my own children, I try to keep it simple - I pray that my children will have wisdom. I want them to be undeterred by “messages” crafted by communication experts, tested through polls, and most often deeply rooted in false values. I want my children to have a clear and consistent reference point for the Truth. I want them to have the wisdom to look past any confusion and chaos and to understand that when in doubt, look for clarity from the person who told us, ”I am the Truth.” I want them to be forever amazed that the son of a skilled tradesman, without the benefit advisors to craft His speeches, created a message that has resonated with hundreds of millions of people over 2,000 years, a message that was not negotiated or refined in focus groups, but proclaimed in the light of day. How could we not take Him at His word, and rely on Him for Truth and Hope at all times and in all circumstances?

I am convinced more every day that all of our children need the access to wisdom and grace that Catholic schools can provide. We need Catholic schools. We need Catholic schools to be outstanding in serving their educational mission and formative ministry, and we need to Catholic schools to be much more accessible sources of Truth to any and all families who see the urgent need for the complete educational experience a Catholic school can provide.

Please continue to pray for our Genesee County Catholic Schools. Please let us know how we can better serve and deliver on our mission, aligning our efforts with the eternal needs of our children.

Bill Haley
Executive Director, GCCS bhaley@powerscatholic.org