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Today’s education system can learn from the one-room schoolhouse, speaker says

Catholic families, including those without school-age children, must get involved in improving the American education system or it will continue to decline, warned a Catholic educator.

“In spite of all of the testing we do, in spite of the obsession we have with ACT and SAT, what has happened to the scores? They’re not just stagnant, they have gone down,” Kevin Roberts, president of Wyoming Catholic College, said during a speech Nov. 14 at the Augustine Institute in Greenwood Village.

Roberts’ talk titled, “What went wrong and how to fix it: The troubling story of America’s decaying education system” attracted more than 100 Institute graduate students, educators from the Archdiocese of Denver and community members.

Since the 1920s, America has moved toward a “conveyor belt” education system where larger schools teach cookie-cutter curriculum and what is lost is a sense of community and an environment that helps students learn, he said.

Instead of increased federal spending and federal control, communities need to be more involved in the fundamentals dating back to the one-room schoolhouse where children were educated as whole people, Roberts said.

“We do have to fight the fight in public schools but I also think we need to redouble our efforts to assist those Christian schools in which this promise of teaching and cultivating among students a love for family life can actually happen,” Roberts said. “We also ought to hold out hope that if we do that well maybe one day, maybe in our lifetimes, we can see that return to the public school system.”

Greg Caudle, principal of St. Mary Elementary School in Littleton and an Institute graduate, found the speech thought-provoking.

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“What most resonated with me was when he spoke about the nurturing of the family and that is really at the heart of education,” Caudle said.

Others came to hear Roberts’ thoughts on Common Core Standards, a set of kindergarten through 12th grade educational standards issued in 2010 by the National Association of Governors, National Business Roundtable and Council of Chief State School Officers. According to those officials, the standards are not a prescriptive pattern for what teachers must teach but a list of what students need to know and be able to do at the end of each grade.

While the standards have been adopted by 48 states, including Colorado, and a number of Catholic dioceses, the Archdiocese of Denver found its schools exceeded the standards and therefore did not adopt CCS, Richard Thompson, superintendent of the archdiocese schools, said in a previous interview with the Denver Catholic Register.

According to Roberts, CCS is just another in a long line of unsuccessful attempts to “reform” education dating back decades. He challenges that the “standards” are actually curriculum and a way for the federal government to further diminish local control of schools.

“So let’s call a spade a spade,” Roberts said. “The aims of Common Core are to control not educate; to increase federal influence and not to improve student achievement; and to advance a nefarious socio-cultural agenda and not to preserve what has worked for millennia in education.”


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