Top Reasons to Choose a Catholic School in Baltimore
At the start of the 2019-2020 school year, Education Week, an independent news organization that covers K–12 schools, ranked Maryland 4th in national school rankings. It is no secret that Maryland offers some of the best schools in the nation. The combination of high achieving K-12 academics, equity, school funding, and great teachers are just some of the factors that keep Maryland at the top of the national ranking list. Maryland public schools offer a wide range of services for students of various socio-economic backgrounds while maintaining academic rigor.
However, for many families, a public school may not be a viable option. Whether due to the individual needs of a child, geographical reasons, or preference for a faith-based school, many families choose to send their children to an Archdiocese of Baltimore Catholic School. Below I share some common factors among families who attend The School of the Cathedral, where I have been privileged to lead as Principal for the past five years.
Baltimore has a long and storied history of Catholic schools. Although classrooms no longer have nuns in habits, rulers in hand, maintaining classrooms with forty or fifty students, there remains a strong attraction for families to send their children to Catholic schools. For Catholics who send their children to Catholic school, there is a natural alignment of the family's faith and those of the school their children attend. Often these schools are aligned with a parish church of which the family is a member. For non-Catholic families, Catholic schools offer a disciplined, academically-rigorous environment, whose fundamental mission and vision align with their own. The attraction of a Christ-centered learning environment that focuses on the message of love, hope, and forgiveness appeals to families of all faiths.
Catholic schools in Baltimore are in the wonderful position to align with the State-mandated curriculum while retaining independence in instruction. Contrary to public schools, which have to complete regular state testing multiple times a year, Catholic schools have the ability to focus on the whole child. This child-centered focus means students are more than a test score, and each individual's gifts and talents are acknowledged and celebrated! Archdiocesan Catholic schools still require annual testing, but the testing is not the focus of the academic year. Data is used to inform instruction throughout the year. It is not used as a measure of teacher effectiveness or student intelligence. The focus on a growth mindset, resilience, communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity frame the educational environment of every school within the Archdiocese.
Because class sizes are often smaller than public schools, peer relationships are fostered, and lifetime friendships are formed. Faculty and staff in Catholic schools make an active choice to teach in a Catholic school, earning less money than public schools, because we feel we make a real impact on students' lives. Strong bonds are also formed between families who attend and those who work in Catholic schools. I have seen this evidenced in the recent transition to online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting quarantine. Many public school districts struggled to make the transition to online education due to the fact of the broad continuum of families with access to Wi-Fi and technology resources. While public school districts struggled to make the transition to online learning, the community of learners within Catholic schools were able to transition to online learning over a weekend after Governor Hogan made the announcement that schools would close. The collaboration between school administrators, teachers, students, and families allowed Catholic schools to leverage Google's G-Suite, Zoom, and other resources to continue with instruction as normally as possible. Online classes, the continuation of assignments, assessments, and addressing the social and emotional needs of the students began on Monday, the first day of school closures.
Similarly to faculty and staff who sacrifice compensation to work in Catholic schools, families who attend a Catholic school make a sacrifice to pay tuition. Recognizing this, Catholic schools work towards making school affordable through financial aid to help low-income and middle-class families. Additionally, the BOOST program (Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today) makes Catholic schools accessible for many families by awarding scholarships based on household income, with the lowest-income families served first. Catholic schools also work with families who are experiencing economic hardships to develop tuition payment plans that honor and respect the dignity of the family. Now, more than ever, this is simply the right thing to do.
I truly believe there is a school for every child and a child for every school. If you find the public school system does not seem to be working for your family, or the economic strain of sending your child or children to a private independent school is too burdensome, do yourself a favor and take a look at some of the great Catholic schools Baltimore has to offer. I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised!
-Michael Wright, Principal, The School of the Cathedral