January 30, 2011
ARLINGTON, VA – Catholic schools have an excellent track record in helping students achieve high marks in academic subjects including reading, writing and math and score above average on national tests.
A widely used survey also confirms that Catholic school students also have above average results in gaining religious knowledge and attitudes towards their faith.
The National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) publishes a standardized assessment – the Assessment of Catechesis, Religious Education (ACRE) developed more than 30 years ago and used by many schools and parishes to measure the outcomes of instruction in the Catholic faith. During a recent study of the data collected over the years, the association found some inspiring results.
“The accumulated data results provide many encouraging trends,” said Karen Ristau, NCEA president. “The most important is this: Students in Catholic schools are learning their religion and there’s a reliable way to prove that this is so.”
The NCEA president pointed to several survey highlights:
Ninety-one percent of the fifth graders who took NCEA ACRE in 2009 scored 80 percent or higher on questions about Jesus, the Church and sacraments.
Ninety percent of fifth graders and 90 percent of high school students scored 80 percent or higher on the section about the Church’s origin, mission, structure, community and membership. Eighty-four percent of eighth graders scored 80 percent or higher.
Eighty-eight percent of eighth graders scored 80 percent or higher on the section about prayer and religious practices.
The assessment is empirically designed and includes questions under broad topics or domains, such as relationships, prayer and religious practice. Within each domain, specific questions touch on topics such as Catholic identity, morality and relationships with others.
In 2009, 133,290 students in 2,339 Catholic schools in 127 dioceses used NCEA ACRE. An additional 16,888 students in parish-based programs used the survey in 515 parishes. The (arch) dioceses of Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Newark, Orlando, St. Louis, St. Petersburg, Springfield (Illinois), Toledo and Washington D.C. are the largest users of the assessment.
ACRE is designed to be used in any Catholic school or in parish programs and is aligned with the curriculum provided by major publishers who work in cooperation with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) protocol. The tool is flexible, providing a way for schools and dioceses to add up to 20 additional faith knowledge questions for a more tailored approach to assessing religious education in the school.
NCEA is the largest private professional education association in the world. Founded in 1904, the association’s membership represents more than 200,000 educators serving more than 7 million students at all levels of Catholic education.