Catholic UniversityTo develop a policy-oriented synthesis of data describing trends affecting Catholic schools in the U.S.

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Wed, 11/01/1995
End Date: 
Tue, 06/30/1998

Catholic schools have been experiencing dramatic changes since Vatican II, changes that promise to challenge this critical network of institutions well into the next century. In many dioceses enrollment has declined by at least 50% since 1970, reflecting the altered status and geographical concentration of Catholics in the U.S. During the same period the proportion of teachers belonging to religious orders has declined precipitously. And Catholic schools like schools generally and like other institutions that once structured American society have declined in status and authority since the 1970s. Catholic schools are serving new constituencies unenvisioned by the founders of the brick-and-mortar era. In the past these schools educated and socialized the children of working-class immigrants who possessed robust Catholic identities. By the end of the twentieth century the neighborhoods where these schools are located have been transformed, and the schools' roles have been similarly altered. Sometimes they serve predominantly non-Catholic families who have moved into once-Catholic neighborhoods; often they provide affordable alternatives to the public school system for families concerned about their children's educations. While Catholic schools throughout the nation are facing similar challenges with clientele, financing, and role, they do not comprise a national system, but are organized by diocese and are locally controlled. There is clearly a need for reliable information that can be of use to local decision makers. This project will synthesize information culled from various sources and present it to Catholic educators in a usable form. It will also describe different strategies of addressing these challenges already in use and assess their strengths and weaknesses. The primary purpose of this project is to synthesize the extensive empirical data available about Catholic schools so that well-reasoned future policy regarding them can be formed. To that end, the Catholic University of America will commission researchers, scholars and policy analysts to assess the data and produce analytical essays addressing the central issues relevant to the future of Catholic schools in America. Policy analysts will be commissioned to critique these papers, and authors and critics will participate in a conference to discuss the status and future prospects of Catholic schools in our society. Two documents are planned: a monograph based on the papers presented at the conference, and a policy-oriented document that will be distributed to schools, churches, and diocesan officials. Finally, a series of national conversations on strategic policy issues affecting Catholic schools in the U.S. are planned.