8/8/12 | 434 views
Sustained Effort Yields Improved Scores on Religion Exam
The Archdiocesan Religion Exam tests every Catholic school student in grades 3 to 8 on their understanding of the faith. For the past five years, test scores have steadily increased throughout the archdiocese.
Results from the 2012 exam, administered in June, showed that 95 percent of schools in the upper counties received a passing grade, as did 94 percent in the Bronx and Westchester/Putnam, 90 percent on Staten Island, and 89 percent in Manhattan. A total of 28,634 students took the exam this year.
The percentage of schools that passed was much higher than in 2008 when the schools in each region tallied following passing percentages: Bronx, 70 percent; Manhattan, 71 percent; Staten Island and Westchester/Putnam, 86 percent; and the upper counties, 89 percent.
The Educate to Elevate program, offered to schools whose students have fared poorly on the exam over a five-year span, was launched in 2010 by the associate superintendent for mission effectiveness. Regional grade-level workshops were held to assist teachers in their understanding of the religion curriculum guidelines and adult faith formation.
An exam review committee was formed, with teachers from various grade levels and regions of the archdiocese participating. The committee ensures the exam’s compliance with archdiocesan guidelines for catechesis and age-appropriate questions and wording. (A panel of priests also reviews the exam.)
During the 2011-2012 school year, staff members of the archdiocesan Department of Education visited schools to meet with teachers about religion exam results and teaching methods and to observe classroom instruction. A total of 14 schools in the Bronx and four in Manhattan took part.
“The most important thing we do in the schools of the archdiocese, and in any Catholic school, would be to transmit the faith to the children entrusted to us,” said Phil Gorrasi, associate superintendent for mission effectiveness and Westchester/Putnam district superintendent.
“Because of that concerted effort, everyone is putting more stress on religious education in the schools,” he told CNY.
Curriculum and tests for each grade level focus on a specific theme. For instance, sixth-graders concentrate on the Old Testament, while eighth-grade lessons stress Church history and morality.
Certain topics bring the faith close to home, said Lisette Robustelli, director of religious education for schools in the archdiocese. “It’s important for them not only to be Catholic, but proud Catholic New Yorkers,” she said.
Areas covered by the test include the sacraments, the Ten Commandments, the Gospel and prayer.
“We want them to be proud of their faith, to talk intelligently about it, to internalize it, to be able to say, ‘This is what I believe,’ ” Gorrasi said.
Incarnation School in Washington Heights was one of the Manhattan schools that participated in Educate to Elevate. Principal Briana Pechin told CNY that her school found the program effective, particularly in coaching teachers and through classroom observations that helped identify strengths as well as weaknesses.
Ms. Pechin noted that Incarnation is an inner-city school in which the majority of students come from families with incomes at or below the federal poverty level. She said her school’s improvement on the exam showcases the hard work of students and faculty.
“The students are here learning and they are learning what their faith is,” Ms. Pechin said. “I am just so proud of how we all worked together.”
Gorrasi said students in the archdiocese are learning “how to apply what the Church teaches to everyday life.” He said the main goal is for Catholic school students to be “kids who are good, prayerful, compassionate and willing to make a difference for the good of the world.”
“I think the increased scores are a sign of hope” for the renewal and rebirth of the faith, he said.
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