Thursday, February 2, 2012

Catholic Schools Week: A Changing Face

In addition to the stats in yesterday’s blog one cannot ignore the demographic changes of our Church in the US.  While the percent of the total population who claim to be Catholic actually has remained basically unchanged from 50 years ago (+/-22%), the ethnic face of the Church is dramatically different. A Church that was once predominantly white, Anglo-Saxon has shifted greatly.  Over 71% of our growth in the past two decades has come from our Hispanic brothers and sisters.  That community now accounts for 39% of all US Catholics, and by 2020 that number will be 50%. 

So for the past fifty years the Church has seen a decline in vocations, changes in family structure, changes in financial stability, changes in demographics and has faced some serious scandals. We are a Church ever changing…and thank the Lord for that. The question that remains is how well we, the church (without the capital ‘c’), which is you and me – respond to those changes.  How do we work in changing the model for Catholic schools?

Some may be asking themselves at this point, do we even need Catholic schools anymore?  Should we even be in the educational business?

The answer is born in numerous studies performed over the past two decades.  Research shows Catholic schools have somehow been able to simultaneously achieve relatively high levels of student learning and distribute this learning more equitably with regard to race and class than in the public sector. In most recent years, researchers have continued to find many benefits of Catholic schools (especially for at-risk students), including higher test scores, improved high-school graduation rates, and higher rates of college attendance. Catholic schools, in other words, somehow manage to narrow the "achievement gap" in a faith-based environment.

So what options are available if we are going to survive the next fifty years?

More tomorrow.

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