Academic Excellence

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) affirms the message of the Congregation on Catholic Education that intellectual development of the person and growth as a Christian go forward hand in hand. Rooted in the mission of the Church, the Catholic school brings faith, culture, and life together in harmony. In 2005, the bishops noted that “young people of the third millennium must be a source of energy and leadership in our Church and our nation. And, therefore, we must provide young people with an academically rigorous and doctrinally sound program of education” (Renewing Our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary School is in the Third Millennium, 2005).

Essential elements of “an academically rigorous and doctrinally sound program” mandate curricular experiences—including co-curricular and extra-curricular activities—which are rigorous, relevant, research-based, inclusive, global, and rooted in Catholic faith and traditions (Fratelli Tutti, 2020).

In the words of the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education, “It is an education – at the same time – that is sound and open, that pulls down the walls of exclusivity, promoting the richness and diversity of individual talents and extending the classroom to embrace every corner of social experience in which education can generate solidarity, sharing and communion” (“Educating to fraternal humanism: Building a ‘civilization of love’ 50 years after Populorum Progressio” 2017).

The following essential elements provide a framework for the design, implementation, and assessment of academic excellence in Catholic school education from prekindergarten through secondary school.

Standard 7

An excellent Catholic school has a clearly articulated, rigorous curriculum aligned with professionally accepted, research-based curriculum standards and gospel values implemented through effective instruction.


7.1 The curriculum adheres to appropriate, delineated curriculum standards in every subject area, and is vertically and horizontally aligned to ensure that each student successfully completes a rigorous and coherent sequence of academic courses based on the curriculum standards.

7.2 The curriculum integrates Catholic worldview, spiritual, moral, and ethical dimensions of learning in all subjects.

7.3 Classroom instruction actively engages and motivates each student to learn.

7.4 Curriculum and instruction provide students with the knowledge, experience, understanding, and skills to communicate, collaborate, and think critically and creatively for the common good.

7.5 Curriculum and instruction empower students to responsibly use and evaluate technology for research, computation, innovation, communication, and collaboration.

7.6 Classroom instruction is designed to intentionally address the affective dimensions of learning, such as Catholic virtue, intellectual and social-emotional dispositions, relationship and community building, and skills of executive function.

7.7 To ensure the inclusion of and to meet the needs of diverse learners, classroom instruction utilizes current research in interventions, student accommodation, and curriculum modification.

7.8 Faculty collaborate in professional learning communities to develop, implement, and continuously improve the effectiveness of the curriculum and instruction to result in high levels of student achievement, engagement, and well-being.

7.9 The faculty and professional support staff meet (arch)diocesan, state, and/or national requirements for academic preparation and licensing to ensure their capacity to provide effective curriculum and instruction for each student.

7.10 For effective instruction, faculty and professional support staff demonstrate and continuously improve knowledge of culturally responsive pedagogy that aligns to Catholic social teaching that supports the full dignity of each student.

7.11 Faculty and staff engage in high-quality and research-based professional development, including religious formation, and are accountable for implementation that supports student learning and well-being.

Standard 8

An excellent Catholic school uses school-wide assessment methods and practices to document student learning and program effectiveness, to make student performances transparent, and to inform the continuous review of curriculum and the improvement of instructional practices.


8.1 School-wide student data are used to inform, review, and evaluate the curriculum, co-curricular programs, ancillary services, sustained student growth, and faculty performance.

8.2 School-wide and aggregated student data are normed to appropriate populations and are shared with all stakeholders.

8.3 Teachers use a variety of curriculum-based assessments aligned with learning outcomes and instructional practices to assess student learning and to plan for continued and sustained student growth.

8.4 Criteria used to evaluate student work and the reporting mechanisms are valid, consistent, transparent, equitable, and justly administered.

8.5 Faculty use student data to inform the work of their professional learning communities; such data are collected and used to monitor individual and class-wide student learning and to set goals for the professional learning community.

Standard 9

An excellent Catholic school provides programs and services aligned with the mission to enrich the academic program and support the development of student and family life.


9.1 School-wide programs for parents/guardians provide opportunities for parents/guardians to partner with school leaders, faculty, and other parents/guardians to enhance the educational experiences for the school community.

9.2 Guidance services, wellness programs, behavior management programs, and other services offer appropriate, mission-aligned support focused on the spiritual, social, emotional, academic, and physical well-being of students and their families.

9.3 Co-curricular and extra-curricular activities provide opportunities outside the classroom for each student to further identify and develop gifts and talents and to enhance creative, aesthetic, social/emotional, physical, and spiritual capabilities.