The Nation’s Report Card is out and the results are frightening. Any lingering doubt about the harmful effects of school closures and prolonged virtual learning is entirely crushed by the plummeting fourth- and eighth-grade test results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress this year. 

But, in the midst of the sore disappointment and regret of failed education policy, there is a bright spot: Catholic schools performed well on all four NAEP tests, widening the achievement gap between Catholic school students and public school students:

Today, the divergence between Catholic schools and public ones is so great that if all U.S. Catholic schools were a state, their 1.6 million students would rank first in the nation across the NAEP reading and math tests for fourth and eighth graders.

Kathleen Porter McGee, a Catholic school superintendent, credits the swift reopening of Catholic schools during the pandemic as the reason why Catholic school students performed so well this year. A sensible approach to school reopenings and a strong emphasis on in-person learning set Catholic schools apart from public and charter schools:

In the fall of 2020, after we had learned more about curbing superspreader events and as it became clear that children were the least vulnerable to the virus, more than 92% of Catholic schools across the country re-opened for in-person learning, compared with 43% of traditional public schools and 34% of charters.

Catholic schools are also leading minority students to academic success:

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.

Tuition to private schools is often a barrier to entry for families seeking to escape their government-assigned schools. This is why school choice programs like those offered in Arizona, Florida, and Tennessee are essential to ensuring access to higher quality education options like Catholic schools that yield better results for students. 

Every child deserves to be enrolled in a school that puts their success and well-being first. The most recent NAEP results demonstrate that Catholic schools proved that they were willing and energized to do just that.