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Guidance for Implementing the Catholic Curriculum Standards

This guide is designed to assist curriculum leaders with the incorporation of some or all the Catholic Curriculum Standards (CCS) into a school’s existing set of academic standards.

Standards (Definition)

Standards are statements indicating what students should know (content), do (skill)[1], and/or be like (disposition).[2] They are broad statements that do not prescribe instructional methodology, but do guide curriculum decision-making, as well as the creation of classroom and standardized assessments.

Catholic Curriculum Standards – Underlying Framework

The CCS are a set of standards designed to complement standards already in use in a school’s English language arts, history, science, and mathematics programs. They are exit level standards for grades 6 and 12.

The CCS are built upon the framework of five key components that animate Catholic education.
These key components:

  1. Involve the integral formation of the whole person, body, mind, and spirit, in light of his or her ultimate end and the good of society.[3]
  2. Help students to know and understand objective reality, including transcendent Truth, which is knowable by reason and faith and finds its origin, unity, and end in God.[4]
  3. Promote human virtues and the dignity of the human person, as created in the image and likeness of God and modeled on the person of Jesus Christ.[5]
  4. Encourage a synthesis of faith, life, and culture.[6]
  5. Develop a Catholic worldview and enable a deeper incorporation of the student into the heart of the Catholic Church.[7]

Implementation Plan Guidance

Administrators desiring to enhance their school’s Catholic identity through curricular changes should take some time to develop an explicit plan which will guide the implementation process. The following is a list of steps to help administrators design and then implement a curriculum renewal process followed by some practical suggestions.

  1. Identify the project leader. The leader may or may not be the head of school. The leader’s duties include the creation of an implementation plan which includes its scope, timeline, budget, rollout, and evaluation.
  2. Develop a team. A teacher representative from each grade level in the school or diocese should be selected by the project leader, in consultation with school leadership. Teacher representatives, or volunteers, should be told an approximate length of time for their commitment and whether they will receive compensation. This team will evaluate the implementation of new standards in light of the school’s mission, philosophy and particular program goals and objectives. The team will integrate the standards into courses of study, revisiting and editing as necessary course of study goals and objectives, learning outcomes and authentic tasks, developing criterion-referenced tests as needed and revisiting textbooks and material selection to accommodate the new standards.
  3. Teacher Training. At the end of an academic year, and before the summer break, the curriculum leader will present an overview of the new standards and their impact on curriculum. The leader will also present a practice profile which highlights in detail the expected changes teachers will be making. The leader will show the teachers how to create a unit and then lesson plans with the new standards and materials. Teachers can also work together to create additional cross-curricular activities. Sharing of successful units and lessons should be encouraged. Curricular support is essential throughout the first full year of implementation. Do not make changes to standards or requirements until after the program evaluation (one year). Staff development throughout the first year can include discussions on concepts contained in the Standards using resources provided for educators on the Cardinal Newman Society website.
  4. Communication. Administrative leaders should communicate any significant curriculum changes effected by the standards to parents and the school community at large. This might include a curriculum or standards night, or a summary document sent home to parents.

Practical Suggestions

It may be most manageable to focus on only one or two academic courses per year instead of incorporating all the Standards at once. Some schools have found success with only incorporating the General Standards for each academic discipline first before including all the standards in each discipline.

Whichever way the school decides, the curriculum team should first compare the existing diocesan or school standards with the Catholic Curriculum Standards looking to avoid any overlaps and to ensure the framework for a merged set of standards sufficiently addresses the mission of Catholic education.[8]

K-6 and 7-12 standards are exit standards and designed with the idea that most students should be able to attain each standard by either 6th or 12th grade. Curriculum designers are free to move the standard to a grade level where, in their experience, most students can attain the standard. Schools that graduate students at 8th grade might not be able to incorporate all the 7-12 CCSs. Similarly, K-12 schools might prefer to move some of the CCSs from K-6 to the 7th or 8th grade.

One key to the placement of a standard is looking at the verb used in the standard and its cognitive complexity.

Vertical alignment of the standards is important, so teachers should work in groups that facilitate discussion among proceeding and succeeding grade levels (K-2; 3-5; 6-8, etc.) based on the academic discipline under review.

Curriculum team members can:

  1. Read the quote in the header of the particular set of standards under review to orient conversation toward Catholic insight of the discipline.
  2. Read the general, intellectual, and dispositional standards to get an overall sense of standards, highlighting those standards with which they are unfamiliar or need more background knowledge.
  3. Look at the reference tables in the CCS and explore the citations from Church teachings on Catholic education especially those pertaining to any unfamiliar standards.[9]
  4. Read through additional resources in the CCS appendices which include a discussion on Educating to Truth, Beauty, and Goodness; Assessing Non-Cognitive Standards; a Recommended Reading list for English language arts; and Science, History, and Mathematics Best Practices and Resources.
  5. View the online Resources for Implementing the Standards[10] on the Cardinal Newman Society website which provide additional insights into the Catholic Curriculum Standards and their underlying philosophical concepts; examples of how other dioceses have integrated the Standards; policy resources; sample unit and lesson plans; and teacher formation readings.

Teachers should transition the standards to educational objectives or learning targets. Some of the standards might require the creation of developmental learning progressions in order to more fully attain their demands. Learning progressions are pre-requisite knowledge or skills that a student needs before being introduced to the demands of a standard. Most teachers recognize these instinctively, such as students need to know one digit multiplication before learning two-digit multiplication. Not all standards require learning progressions.

The CCSs can be assessed just like any other set of academic standards, such as through teacher created criterion-based assessments, performance assessments, or other methods.

Project Implementation Evaluation

After the course of study has been completely implemented (generally after 1 year), the implementation of the project can be evaluated to identify causes where success or failure (based on student outcomes) might lie, using the following criteria:[11]

  1. Vertical curriculum continuity: Does the course of study reflect a K-12 format that enables teachers to have quick and constant access to what is being taught in the grade levels below and above them?
  2. Horizontal curriculum continuity: Does the course of study provide content and objectives that are common to all classrooms of the same grade level?
  3. Instruction based on curriculum: Are lesson plans derived from the course of study and are curriculum materials correlated with the content, objectives, and authentic tasks?
  4. Curriculum priority: Are philosophical and financial commitments evident? Is professional and clerical assistance adequate to adapt the curriculum?
  5. Broad involvement: Are teachers, administrators, and advisory or board members involved in the process at the school, and if applicable, diocesan levels?
  6. Long-range planning: Is each course of study or program included in a scheduled review cycle?
  7. Positive human relations: Are all participants willing to risk disagreement and still maintain open lines of communication?
  8. Theory-into-practice approach: Are the school’s philosophy, vision, mission, graduation outcomes, program philosophy, rationale statements, program goals, program objectives, learning outcomes, and authentic tasks consistent and recognizable?

Student Outcomes Evaluation

Teachers should assess their criterion-based assessments to determine how well they are aligned with the learning targets and Standards as a whole and whether students grasp the larger concepts presented in the Catholic Curriculum Standards, such as how well students can explain the unity of faith and reason, whether they can share how the beauty and goodness of God is reflected in nature or demonstrate an understanding about great figures of history examining their lives for examples of virtue or vice.


Implementation Guidance for the Catholic Curriculum Standards


Backgrounder on Truth

Backgrounder on Goodness

Backgrounder on Beauty


[1] McMillan, J. (2014). Classroom assessment: Principles and practice for effective standards-based instruction. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

[2] Marzano, R. (1996). Eight questions about implementing standards-based education. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 5(6). Retrieved on October 5, 2016 from

[3] The Catholic School, 36, 47, 49; Gravissimum Educationis, 1, par. 1; USCCB. Seven themes of Catholic social teaching.

[4] The Catholic school, #41.

[5] The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 52, 56; The Catholic School, 55.

[6] The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 52; The Catholic School, #37.

[7] The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 71, 74-77; The Catholic School, 50.

[8] See Principle I of the Principles of Catholic Identity in Education (2017)

[9] See also Church Documents for Catholic School Teachers – Annotated Bibliography at

[10] See

[11] These criteria are excerpted (with a few wording changes) from Bradley, L. H. (1985). Curriculum leadership and development handbook. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.