by Mr. Vaughn Bernardez., M. Ed
Principal, Saint Louis of France Parish School
(former Charter School Executive)
In a 2003 study that compared the teacher perception of empowerment between Catholic and charter school teachers, it was stated that Charter Schools were started due to the perceived ineffectiveness of public schools.
Why were charter school started?
These schools were first designed to combat the problems of low student achievement on standardized tests, curriculum that is not meaningful to the students, and large student body populations, and inadequate communication among faculty.
We find in 2016 that some Charter schools succeed, but the vast majority of schools fail in their quest to deliver a high quality program that is aligned to their mission and vision.
What factors have led to charter school success or failure?
There are too many charter schools that are operated by business-minded people who lack the background in Education. Before signing up for a charter school, it is important to ask simple questions, “Who sits on the advisory/governing board?” “What are their professional backgrounds?”
Districts, even colleges and universities provide administrative oversight for charter schools but there are still far too many state regulations for these schools to abide by.
For example, charter schools may academically perform well in English Language Arts and Math each year and on their School Accountability Report Card (SARC) report.
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What are charter schools actually teaching?
This report, which disseminates the school’s performance record to the public, often determines and overshadows what is being offered in these schools. Some schools only focus on these core subjects to meet their school-wide goals.
Traditional public schools are under extreme scrutiny because if a school does not academic perform well for multiple years, it risks gaining Program Improvement (PI) status, which then the California Department of Education (CDE) can convert it into a charter school.
Are regulations limiting the effectiveness of charter schools?
There are many regulations traditional and charter schools have to abide by that making decision for the academic well-being of the students presents challenges.
Education does not and should not imply preparing for English Language Arts and Math tests. It is crucial, no doubt, but education is about the “whole-child.”
Since the 1950s, Catholic schools have excelled
Catholic schools have been educating the whole child since 1950’s, some longer. It’s even clearly stated in mission statements, as evidenced by one Catholic School, St. Louis of France in La Puente.
Saint Louis of France School is a child-centered Catholic community founded on the teachings of Jesus Christ. We collaborate with the parents and guardians in developing the whole child: spiritually, academically, physically, and socially. In a safe and diverse environment, we strive to nurture life-long learners as stewards of their Catholic faith who will grow into responsible and moral citizens.”
Administrators and faculties have the freedom to make decisions that impact each student. The faculties are generally small so communication between them is not an issue. It is easier for our faculty to collaborate.
The schools are smaller so students receive more attention and students cannot fall through the cracks. Administrators with their faculties make decisions on what and how curriculum is utilized.
Catholic schools have many advantages
It does not have to go through a bureaucratic process. Even budgets are handled in-house, mostly guided by each Parish and their Finance councils. Because student body populations are generally smaller in Catholic schools, more instruction occur which results in higher test scores, when compared to public schools.
Graduation rates are higher in Catholic schools. With all these advantages, there is still a main benefit that can never be overlooked and that is the fact that daily Religion is provided. Religion is a “lifestyle” in Catholic schools.
These students may or may not know what the logos/mascots on their uniform mean, but what is important is that these institutions have been quenching the spiritual appetite for many decades.
All students go through adversity in their childhood. There is no universal utopia for growing up. However, Catholic school students are generally calm. This may be due to physically being in a Catholic environment which focuses on prayer, reflection, and constant 1-on-1 communication with Jesus.
Why is the faith message an important part of Catholic Schooling?
Why is this important? When “life” happens, you hope you have faith to fall back on which will always lift you up. This is a lifelong journey and at that same time, priceless.
Each grade level at St. Louis of France participates in a weekly Mass. Students stand on the altar in front of the congregation to read the scriptures, alter serve, and even sing in the choir.
These duties help to develop our student’s self-confidence, discipline, and reverence. Character development is a huge focal point; explaining how to walk in the light in Christ, Catholic schools tackles societal themes including bullying and violence.
At St. Louis of France, the parents, teachers, and students, feel that they are operating in a family environment.
Education technology are keys to success
St. Louis of France and other Catholic schools do not lose fact that educating the whole child is what is important. Technology is a huge focal point, ensuring that as students matriculate yearly, their skills in typing will increase.
Our students understand how to use Internet responsibility and efficiently, demonstrate how to operate the various programs of Microsoft suite in classroom and homework assignments. Our technology program is offered as early as Transitional Kindergarten.
They utilize the computer lab twice a week. Beyond Technology Education Inc. has been instrumental in helping design and implement our technology plan. Computer course is offered for all students in Kindergarten through eighth grade.
The arts are part of the Catholic School Experience
St. Louis of France also offers Art for all students. These students are also enrolled in P.E., which is also crucial to our program because all students need the opportunity to learn how to play team sports, games, develop communication and character through exploring physical education concepts.
In the near future St. Louis of France intends to add Music and Theatre to its comprehensive program. There is plenty to be excited about in Catholic Schools. It is worth the investment in educating the whole child.