National Catholic Schools Week is upon us! Since 1974, the last Sunday of January has been designated to kick off an important and special week for Catholic schools in the United States – National Catholic Schools Week. During this week, every diocese across the country unites to celebrate the value of Catholic education through a variety of activities and events. Our OC Catholic Schools are excited to join our nation in celebrating Catholic schools. Our local school system includes 41 accredited elementary and secondary schools that educate and form 17,500 students to exemplify the values in this year’s theme: “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.”
Teachers in OC Catholic Schools are highly qualified and are committed to educating students in a faith-filled environment. Our students have consistently earned scores above the national average in standardized testing. In 2019, over 70 percent of OC Catholic School students scored above benchmark on the STAR Test in Math & Reading combined. Of these students, over 60 percent scored above the 75th percentile.
Our schools are committed to inclusive education and accessibility for all students. As such, all of our schools have a 1-to-1 technology program that equips each student with an iPad or Chromebook. Additional tools such as makerspaces, 3-D printers and STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math) activities are also a part of the curriculum. In the past decade, eight Catholic schools in the Diocese of Orange have received the highest U.S. Department of Education distinction through the No Child Left Behind Act-Blue Ribbon School Program.
Saint Pope John Paul II stated, “The mission of the Catholic school is the integral formation of students, so that they may be true to their condition as Christ’s disciples and as such work effectively for the evangelization of culture and for the common good of society.” This statement is echoed in the local mission of OC Catholic Schools so that in partnership with our parents and parish families, our schools are committed to making disciples of Christ. Through Catholic faith formation, academic excellence, and service to others, our students transform the world.
In our Catholic schools, teachers help reinforce Catholic virtues and values while at the same time maintaining the highest standards of academic excellence. Our Catholic schools are a place where teachers and parents are reminded that “the Holy Spirit is an artisan of the interior life, not a mass producer,” as shared by Fr. Tim Donovan at the start of this school year. It is an environment where the community of learners can talk about peace, purpose, and Jesus.
Our Catholic school students make a profound impact on our local community. In 2019, OC Catholic school students completed 158,023 Christian service hours. This year, student volunteers from Catholic high schools are being honored by Catholic Charities of Orange County for the kind, courteous and compassionate ways they have helped families in need. This commitment to service is true faith in action.
From 2015-2019, OC Catholic Schools are proud to have 227 commended students for the National Merit Scholarship in addition to 46 finalists. Our schools grow leaders and offer students opportunities to showcase their talents in art, technology, and athletics. In the area of athletics, OC Catholic Schools boast 22 state championships and 117 CIF championships in the past four years.
Since July 2018, we have reorganized and expanded the Department of Catholic Schools to better support and serve our 34 elementary schools and 7 high schools. We have focused on leadership formation for our principals and aspiring principals to ensure that school leaders are nurtured and supported at every stage of their journey. Through our development efforts, we have raised more than $400,000 for schools so far this fiscal year through new development and fundraising programs. Our focus on development will help ensure continuous growth in the areas of school leadership and governance, operational vitality, academic excellence, and Catholic identity and faith formation.
As stated in our mission, our students transform the world! Our high school graduation rate for OC Catholic high schools is 99.8 percent. Ninety-nine percent of OC Catholic school graduates enroll in college, with a 93.2 percent acceptance into a four-year college or university. The median score for the 2019 SAT is 1218, and the composite ACT median score is 26, both higher than the state and national average. Finally, over $175 million in scholarships was awarded to OC Catholic high school students Class of 2019. These are remarkable statistics and speak volumes of our high quality academic and service programs.
This Catholic Schools Week, I invite you to visit and learn more about a Catholic school near you. You can find the list on our website www.occatholicschools.org. Learn how you can be a part of our Catholic school community – as a family member, a prospective student, a generous donor, teacher, or friends of OC Catholic Schools. As always, please continue to pray for all those involved in the ministry of Catholic education. May we all strive to recognize the blessings that surround us and see along the light of God’s grace.