WHEELING, W.Va. – As West Virginia Catholic school students continue to outperform their public school counterparts on the state and national levels, Catholic school administrators are aiming to do even better, according to the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.
This fall the U.S. Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)
reported public schools’ standardized assessments are “appalling and unacceptable.”
While education experts attribute increasing rates in decline as a snowball effect to the COVID-19 pandemic, Catholic school administrators are able to tout steady increases in student
achievement. During and since the pandemic Catholic schools in West Virginia have been able
to continue to move forward instead of catching up.
NCES and The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a congressionally
authorized project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, reported that math and
reading results for the nation are down, and like many of the states, West Virginia’s public
school scores are lower than the national average. Meanwhile Catholic school scores remain
higher than the state and national averages according to the Nation’s Report Card reported by
“Private and Catholic schools are expected to outperform public schools, so that is not the
grabbing headline, but what is important to highlight is that when we faced a crisis situation, we
were ready from the top down to quickly work together to problem solve – turn a challenge into
an opportunity, because we did that and continue to do so – our students have not fallen through the cracks,” said Superintendent of Catholic Schools in West Virginia Mary Ann Deschaine, Ed.S.
“Our principals and teachers turned on a dime to provide lessons remotely, while reaching
out to our students and families to monitor progress and their well-being. We responded without hesitation and then put our heads together on how to safely get back into the classroom as soon as possible,” said Deschaine.
It was that swift and decisive faith filled decision making to prioritize our students’ academic
progress, as well as mental and physical health that set them apart, she said.
“We are not perfect, nor do we pretend to be, but with a steadfast focus on our faith we trust God will continue to guide us to help our children reach their full potential,” Deschaine said.
Backed by assessments that are given three times a year, the Catholic Schools of West Virginia
can provide educators, families, and the students the opportunity to identify any learning gaps, as well as identify areas where the student can be challenged at a higher level.
The diocesan schools partner with the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) for their state-aligned, online Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) assessments.
“Our MAP assessments truly serve as a roadmap for us for grade level aptitude, and college and
career readiness,” Associate Superintendent Jennifer Hornyak said. “The NWEA tests are adaptive, meaning students are measured where they are across grade levels instead of just at their grade level,” Hornyak said. “The online test adjusts during the assessment based on the student’s right or wrong answers. A right answer challenges the student to a harder question. A wrong answer bumps down a level to identify where the student’s ability is in the subject area, resulting in an identification marker of what the child’s needs may be to grow in this subject area. The teacher than can adapt their lesson plan to help the student attain individual goals, grade level goals, and cross grade level goals.”
Deschaine added assessing the focus of the Catholic school system is also key to the overall
success of the students.
“Just as we expect our students to be better than yesterday in every way, we look at ourselves as
a whole system to do the same,” she said, noting the system’s Intentional Growth Plan (IGP) – a
four-year roadmap of accountability for stronger Catholic grade and high schools in the state.
“In collaboration with our principals, pastors, parishes, parents, alumni, and diocesan staff work
to continually improve and grow in our Catholic identity, leadership, academic excellence, and
operational vitality. Hand-in-hand with our Cognia accreditation process we continue to evaluate
our performance not only in the classroom, but also across the board and then aim higher.”
Enrollment retention is part of the IGP.
Prior to the pandemic Catholic schools across the nation were reporting a steady decline in
enrollment. However, in the last year those numbers are changing. Catholic grade schools have
seen a 5.8% increase, and the preschool level experienced a 33.5% enrollment increase from the
Fall of 2020 to the Fall of 2021.
“In the 18 months, we have seen more enrollment retention and increases than we have seen in
decades in our Catholic schools, as parents prioritized in-person learning, values, mental health,
and social interaction in addition to academics,” Deschaine said. “We know the critical value of
being together. Our schools provide an environment that is an extension of family. We are
committed to providing a quality education and are unapologetically Catholic. Lessons in
Catholic faith are integrated into all subject areas and activities.”
Reports following 2020 show that transfer students are doing well in the Catholic school setting.
According to the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA), 95% of parents said their
child had positive academic experiences and 90% said the communication received from the
school was excellent.
“What is also an elite finding of the NCEA report is that new families – Catholic and non-Catholic – said the best attribute of Catholic school ‘is the caring and effective faculty and
staff’,” Deschaine said. “Parents may be choosing to enroll in our school because of a desire to
have reliable in-person learning or higher test scores, but the bottom line is those things happen, because our teachers and staff truly care about the children sitting in our classrooms.”
More than 4,400 students are enrolled in one of 24 Catholic schools in 13 counties of the state
and approximately 1,750 of those students are non-Catholic.
The Catholic school system will be accepting applications for enrollment for the 2023-2024
school year in February. To learn more about Catholic education in West Virginia go to:
Families who have applied for the state’s Hope Scholarship Program – an education savings
account (ESA) – are welcome to apply. It is important to note that the Hope Scholarship
program is run by the state of West Virginia not the diocese or the WV Catholic school system.
For more information about the Hope Scholarship go to: https://www.hopescholarshipwv.com