A teaching strategy used from kindergarten through grade 12 to help students understand comparison-contrast is a T-chart. This simple device allows them to note what is similar and what is different when looking at two different concepts, events, places, or people. If we apply the T-chart to Catholic Schools Week (CSW) last year and this year, we shall find that CSW is both ever the same but somewhat different in 2021.
What’s the same? What’s different? Every three years the National Catholic Education Association offers a theme for Catholic schools. The new theme for 2021-2023 is Catholic Schools – Faith. Excellence. Service. This theme encapsulates the mission of Catholic school education. It distinguishes Catholic schools from any other schools. This mission of Catholic schools remains the same – last year, this year, every year.
Celebrating Faith during CSW 2021 takes on a broader perspective than in prior years. Usually, each school marks the beginning of this weeklong celebration with Mass attended by students and their immediate families. This year CSW liturgies – both Masses and prayer services throughout the week – will be celebrated with some students or classes in person while others join virtually from their classrooms or homes. The opportunity for live-stream participation opens these celebrations to parents, grandparents, and the wider community who might normally not be able to be present in person because of schedules or geography.
Recognizing Excellence has always been an important aspect of CSW. This year will be no different. The good news about the quality of Catholic schools, evidenced through a variety of means during the year and highlighted by contests and competitions during CSW, continues. College Board assessments in high schools and Renaissance Star assessments in elementary schools speak to excellence. For example, on the SAT high school seniors in Catholic schools scored 132 points above the Delaware state average, 81 points above the Maryland state average, and 59 points above the national average in 2020. Elementary school students consistently score 10 points above the national average in Math and Reading, while individual classes and students score even higher. Demonstrated excellence in formal ways complements college acceptance rates, high school and college scholarships earned, and individual and group student awards for achievements across a variety of disciplines.
CSW 2021 schoolwide events that recognize excellence in academics will be available for broader view through the expanded use of technology. More than ever before, Catholic school educators have become tremendously versatile in the creativity and use of technology in the classroom. CSW 2021 will demonstrate greater tech savvy in every Catholic school.
Acknowledging Service in Catholic schools has been ongoing through this school year. Despite pandemic limitations, schools have adjusted their opportunities to offer service to the local, national, and worldwide communities. Again, technology has been extremely instrumental in this regard and schools have been able to engage more people to join them in service. The diocesan schoolwide theme for 2020-2021 is Called to Serve and schools have found intriguing ways to fulfill the Corporal Works of Mercy this year in person and virtually.
Faith – Excellence – Service: Catholic schools in and out of a pandemic live true to these three qualities. CSW 2021 will, as always, be ever the same, but in this particular year just a bit somewhat different.