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A Catholic School Renaissance?


Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 11/27/15

From The Wall Street Journal, evidence that Catholic education is on the rebound:

At first the rise of charter schools—to 7,000 today from 1,900 in 2000—was thought to be the nail in the coffin for Catholic education, which had been in decline for decades. Charters offer many of the same strengths as Catholic schools: order, kindness, discipline, high expectations (ideas initially borrowed from parochial institutions). But because charters are publicly funded, families don’t have to pay tuition. How could Catholic schools possibly compete with that? Within the past few years, however, the borrowing has begun to go in the other direction, as Catholic schools poach staff from charter networks, draw from the same donors, and model their operations on charter successes. America’s usual miracle-workers—competition, civil society, entrepreneurial wealth and philanthropy—have come to the rescue of religious education. Consider the Partnership for Inner-city Education, a nonprofit formed in 2010 to take responsibility for six Catholic schools serving disadvantaged children in Harlem and the South Bronx. The chairman of the Partnership’s board is Russ Carson, an equity-capital pioneer who also helped build KIPP charter schools in New York. Mr. Carson and fellow donors put millions of dollars into upgrading the campuses of these six Catholic schools. More important, the schools’ management was transferred from the archdiocese to the Partnership. Just as charter schools are public schools but privately managed, these are Catholic schools but privately managed. “We have effective control of the schools,” Mr. Carson recently told supporters convened by Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities. “We have the right to hire and fire the principals, the right to change the academic components.” The Partnership hired both its superintendent and chief operating officer away from Achievement First, a charter chain. Like a top charter, the Partnership carefully tracks test scores, student retention, costs and other metrics. Copying another classic charter innovation, it brought on “operations managers” to handle business matters so that principals can focus on instruction. The Partnership brought in coaches to retrain teachers, and began recruiting brainy and passionate instructors from Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education, the religious counterpart to Teach for America. It recently purchased a set of instructional materials popular with charters. The story is similar in Philadelphia, Camden, N.J., and other cities. Donor networks have brought modern management to Catholic schools. Social entrepreneurs have injected fresh ideas and energy.

And there’s more. Read on

Photo: Wikipedia

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