Catholic school achievement fares better than public school counterparts

Much ink has been spilled recently on the release of 2022 national reading and math scores, which add to data on the devastating learning loss that has occurred over the past couple of years.

But a bright spot can be found. Student performance in Catholic schools on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests either didn’t decline compared to pre-COVID test results from 2019 or took less of a hit compared to public schools.

For example, Catholic schools did not decline in fourth-grade math (public schools dropped five points) and had less significant declines in fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math. Additionally, Catholic school achievement in eighth-grade reading increased a point, compared to 2019 scores, whereas public school scores declined.

NAEP data also show that “Catholic schools are near the top in learning outcomes for students receiving free and reduced-price lunch, demonstrating the system’s commitment to underprivileged students,” wrote the National Catholic Educational Association.

When disaggregated by race, Catholic schools also showed progress since 2019, writes Manhattan Institute’s Kathleen Porter-Magee in The Wall Street Journal.

In particular, achievement among black students enrolled in Catholic schools increased by 10 points (about an extra year’s worth of learning), while black students in public schools lost 5 points and black students in charter schools lost 8 points. Similarly, on the eighth-grade reading test, Hispanic students in Catholic schools gained 7 points while Hispanic students in public schools lost 1 point and Hispanic students in charter schools lost 2 points.

Nationwide, more than 92 percent of Catholic schools reopened for in-person learning in the fall of 2020, compared with 43 percent of traditional public schools and 34 percent of charters. In Minnesota, Catholic schools were also among the first to reopen and return students to their classrooms during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Catholic Average Scale Score / Public Average Scale Score

4th Grade Math4th Grade Reading8th Grade Math8th Grade Reading
2022246 / 235233 / 216288 / 273279 / 259
2019246 / 240235 / 219293 / 281278 / 262

Source: National Assessment of Educational Progress
Source: National Assessment of Educational Progress