Discover the Difference: Dispelling Myths About Catholic Education

by Diocese of Des Moines | November 1, 2021

Students in class

The second week in November marks Discover Catholic Schools Week, a national celebration of Catholic education designed to share the good news of Catholic schools. As part of this national celebration, families are encouraged to visit our Diocese of Des Moines Catholic schools to discover the Catholic school difference. And with all families new to Catholic education, you will have questions. But let's start by first dispelling some of the common myths about Catholic schools.

MYTH: Catholic schools are too expensive.

Understandably, parents might have concerns about the cost of tuition, but Catholic schools are more affordable than you may think. On average, K-8 tuition in the Diocese of Des Moines averages about $352/month per student before tuition assistance.

In the Diocese of Des Moines, 40 percent of our students receive tuition assistance to make Catholic education possible. Additionally, the Students First Act makes state funding available in the form of an Education Savings Account (ESA) for eligible Iowa K-12 students who choose to attend accredited private schools. An ESA is a deposit of public funds into government-authorized savings accounts which eligible families may use to cover tuition, fees, and other qualified education expenses at accredited private schools in Iowa. In 2023, qualified families received $7,635 per child for the 2023- 2024 school year to help cover the cost of tuition, fees, and other qualified education expenses. Learn more about ESAs at

The bottom line is that no family is turned away for the inability to pay full tuition. If you desire a Catholic education for your child, we will find a way. 

MYTH: Catholic schools are only for Catholics.

While Catholic faith is the cornerstone of our schools, we welcome students of all faith traditions. In fact, 10 percent of our current student body is non-Catholic. Daily exposure to our faith-based mission and a caring culture enables students (Catholic and non-Catholic) to learn about the divine teachings of Jesus Christ and freely discuss the compatibility of faith, science and reason. Through the lens of Catholic social teaching, we encourage our students to respect all diversity, dignity, and beliefs in pursuit of knowledge and truth through critical thinking and constructive debate. This helps form strong principles, a moral center and a vibrant community that celebrates all achievements for the common good. 

MYTH: Catholic schools can't help children with diverse learning needs.

Diocese of Des Moines Catholic Schools are committed to working with all students to the best of our ability, including children who may require additional academic support. We have faculty endorsed in special education to meet the needs of diverse learners. Advanced students have access to opportunities rich with academic challenge through our high-ability learning courses. Moreover, all faculty benefit from professional development designed to aid our school in differentiating instruction to ensure academic growth and success for all students. 

MYTH: Catholic Schools have lost their Catholic identity.

Despite a shift to lay leadership in Catholic schools, Catholic identity remains strong. At Diocese of Des Moines Catholic schools, faith is incorporated into the daily curriculum to provide a foundation for success. Faith formation promotes a relationship with Christ and teaches students to live the Gospel through love and service to others. Our schools proudly embrace their Catholic identity and individual charisms. Parish pastors from across the diocese visit classrooms to share faith teachings. More than 500,000 hours of faith instruction are provided to all students every year. 

MYTH: Catholic school kids are sheltered and not exposed to the 'real world.'

Diocese of Des Moines Catholic schools develop character through an education rooted in faith that fosters service to God and others. This focus on service to others — both inside and outside the classroom — builds confidence and a sense of higher purpose. As a result, our Catholic schools and their students perform more than 120,000 hours of service in the community every year. In addition to service-learning and community outreach, our students experience numerous leadership, collaboration, and public speaking opportunities.

MYTH: Catholic schools are not accredited.

All 16 Diocese of Des Moines Catholic schools are fully accredited through the state of Iowa and meet or exceed the education standards of Iowa Code section 256.11. Additionally, 1/3 of our schools are recognized as Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education. Our teachers are licensed by the Iowa Department of Education and annually participate in continuing education and professional development. 

MYTH: Catholic schools don't teach the standard curriculum.

Diocese of Des Moines Catholic Schools' curriculum meets and exceeds state English, math, science, and social studies requirements. In addition to meeting all state requirements, our schools also conduct internal site visits to evaluate quality on a rotating basis. These visits focus on our Catholic identity, academics, governance and operational vitality and use the National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools as guidelines. Using these two systems provides greater accountability for our schools. In addition, this process ensures continuous growth for our faculty and students, thus allowing them to reach their full potential.

MYTH: Catholic schools only focus on core classes.

In addition to a state-aligned curriculum for core classes, our schools offer Early Childhood EducationSTEM education, fine arts, language immersiondiverse learner support, interest clubs, athletics and more. 

MYTH: Catholic schools are not diverse.

Catholic schools emerged in the United States to serve and meet the needs of immigrant families and children. Catholic schools greatly value diversity and welcome families from all races, ethnicities and backgrounds into our school communities. Diocese of Des Moines Catholic schools offer a student population that is 39% diverse (based on 12 Des Moines region schools), with more than 15 languages spoken. This sense of belonging helps students feel more secure, allowing them to focus on their education. 

MYTH: Catholic schools are too strict. 

Although Catholic schools hold students to a high standard of behavior based on respect for each other and the learning environment, we also offer grace and understanding. Teachers partner with parents to provide a healthy, safe, nurturing space for our students. All members of our school communities benefit from the adherence to what are reasonable guidelines. Our schools apply the use of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports and restorative practices. These interventions promote positive behaviors, build community and hold students accountable to higher behavioral expectations. 

Learn More at Visit Us! 

We invite you to learn more about our Diocese of Des Moines Catholic schools at Like us on Facebook @dmdioceseschools, follow us on Instagram @ dmdioceseschools, and follow us on Twitter @ CatholicDes. To schedule your personal tour, email We can't wait to meet you!

Diocese of Des Moines

The Diocese of Des Moines, created in 1911, serves people over a 12,446 square mile area in the southwestern quadrant of Iowa, including 23 counties.