Office of Catholic Schools rolls out ‘reinvented’ religious curriculum

Principals, teachers and directors of religious education gathered at Sacred Heart Major Seminary on March 24 to discuss the new religious education curriculum released by the Office of Catholic Schools and the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.

Detroit – The Office of Catholic Schools and Office of Evangelization and Catechesis in the Archdiocese of Detroit are rewriting the book on religion class.

Specifically, they’re moving away from the book.

In an effort that’s being called a “complete reinvention or religion class curriculum” for schools in the archdiocese, the Office of Catholic Schools and the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis released an outline of a reinvented religious curriculum to school principals, pastors and directors of religious education March 24 at Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

The new curriculum intends to be a complete reinvention, developed for more than a year after borrowing some guiding principles from the Archdiocese of Denver and then responding to input from teachers, principals and religious education directors.

The biggest shift in policy is the office encouraging teachers to move away from relying on a religion class textbook.

“This curriculum in the binder we’re presenting to principals and teachers is a guide into what the expected outcomes would be and what the student will be expected to learn,” said Dr. Brian Dougherty, Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Detroit.

The new curriculum breaks down the faith in 12 strands, with lessons spanning across grades kindergarten through 8.

This paradigm shift in thinking, focusing on expected results and not following the layout of a textbook, will allow teachers more flexibility in teaching core concepts.

“We’re moving away from the textbook and making the curriculum come alive,” Dougherty said.

The rollout session at the seminary offered educators and pastors a first look at the new curriculum.

“We know the whole evangelization initiative is going to be a process, including the rollout of this new curriculum,” said Anita Houghton of the Office of Catechesis.

Some concern was raised from pastors who feared the new curriculum would be too much of an add-on for clergy and teachers.

“We’re not putting an extra burden on the pastor,” Houghton said. “We wanted them here so they have an awareness, so they can be on hand to consul and be there for their teachers.

Houghton said the new curriculum is moving away from quantitative measures in assessing students and moving towards qualitative measures.

“We don’t want to grade children on how Catholic they are,” Houghton said. “We have a Catholic school system that is all Catholic, which embraces a Catholic identity at its core.”

Dr. Karen White, associate superintendent for the Central Region, said the curriculum should be familiar to teachers, since it highlights the same goals and aspirations of Catholic education for more than 100 years.

“I think what people are going to find in this curriculum is that it will be easier for teachers and students to buy in and have vibrant, meaningful discussions about discipleship,” White said.