Poor people and school choice: The Cristo Rey work/school model

22 Jan

Jay Mathews reports in the Washington Post article, Private schools funded through student jobs which is about the Cristo Rey work/school model:

Twelve years ago, I stumbled across a story that seemed too good to be true. A Catholic high school in Chicago ensured its financial survival by having students help pay their tuition by working one day a week in clerical jobs at downtown offices.

This was a new idea in U.S. secondary education. New ideas are not necessarily a good thing, because they often fail. But the creator of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School was an educational missionary named John P. Foley who had spent much of his life helping poor people in Latin America. I was not going to dump on an idea from a man like that without seeing how it worked out.

Now I know. The Cristo Rey network has grown to 25 schools in 17 states, including a campus in Takoma Park, where more than half the students are from Prince George’s County and more than a third are from the District. It is blossoming in a way no other school, public or private, has done in this region.

Foley started the original school in 1996 in the Pilsen/Little Village section of southwest Chicago, a heavily Hispanic area. To some, it seemed to be a foolish venture. Catholic schools were dying in the nation’s urban neighborhoods. There was no way to pay for them.

But Richard Murray, a management consultant Foley knew, had an inspiration. What if Foley divided the student body into teams of four and assigned each team to an office job in the city? Each student would work one day a week. Their combined salaries could guarantee the school’s future.

More than 90 percent of the students at the original Cristo Rey school were from low-income families. Few had been subjected to the pressures of big-city offices. But they received proper training for their clerical assignments. As the experiment proceeded, they realized the writing, reading and math skills they were learning in school were relevant to their new jobs — and their work experience would help them find jobs to pay their way through college….

One of the Chicago students answered: “Maybe I don’t see any money, but I get an education.”

A network of new schools began to grow, including Takoma Park’s Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School, which opened in 2007 as the first Archdiocese of Washington high school in more than 55 years. Today, it has 325 students who “work one full day per week at law firms, banks, hospitals, universities and other professional corporate partners and are in the classroom the other four days,” spokeswoman Alicia Bondanella said.

More than 100 companies and organizations — including Ernst & Young, Georgetown University Hospital and Miller & Long Concrete Construction — employ Don Bosco students. Each student makes $7,500 a year, which is applied to the school’s $13,500 tuition. The remainder of the cost is covered by fundraising and the student’s family.

Bondanella said that 93 percent of students received outstanding or good ratings in their mid-year evaluations at their workplaces. Their attendance rate at work was 99 percent. Every one of the school’s 2011 and 2012 graduates were accepted into two- or four-year colleges. Eighty-two percent of the 2011 graduates, the first at Don Bosco to complete the four-year program, enrolled for a second year of college, twice the rate for students of similar backgrounds….


The Cristo Rey network has information about the model at their site. http://www.cristoreynetwork.org/

Here is what Cristo Rey says about their schools:

The Cristo Rey Network provides a quality, Catholic, college preparatory education to young people who live in urban communities with limited educational options. Our mission is clear – college success for Cristo Rey Network students.

Member schools utilize a rigorous academic model, supported with effective instruction, to prepare students with a broad range of academic abilities for college. Cristo Rey Network schools employ an innovative Corporate Work Study Program that provides students with real world work experiences. Every student works five full days a month to fund the majority of his or her education, gain job experience, grow in self-confidence, and realize the relevance of his or her education. Students work at law firms, banks, hospitals, universities, and other professional Corporate Partners.

The Cristo Rey Network supports school success through the following programs:

Teach, Lead, Learn

  • Developed a standards-based, rigorous college-ready curriculum
  • Focuses on professional development of school principals and teachers, emphasizing teacher effectiveness training
  • Provides data-driven decision-making to maximize student learning
  • Connects students’ classroom learning to their workplace learning

Mission Effectiveness

  • Optimizes the effectiveness of the schools’ Corporate Work Study Programs
  • Supports member schools with particular finance, job or enrollment strategies
  • Works with community groups in targeted cities to create more Cristo Rey Network schools

College Initiatives

  • Monitors the progress of Cristo Rey graduates while they are in college
  • Works with colleges and universities that are committed to supporting Cristo Rey students to ensure postsecondary access and success for our alumni

Professional Development

  • Grows current and future leaders at the schools and promotes ongoing spiritual formation, the sharing of best practices, as well as finance, strategic planning, and governance issues

Advocacy on National Education Reform

  • Cristo Rey leaders serve as a national voice and leader in the movement of education reform through meetings with elected officials, letters to the media, and prominent speaking opportunities.   http://www.cristoreynetwork.org/page.cfm?p=356

School choice is just as important for poor students as it for their more privileged peers.

Joseph P. Viteritti writes in the 1996 Brookings article, Stacking the Deck for the Poor: The New Politics of School Choice:

A new model of school choice has begun to emerge in state legislatures and in Congress. One might call it the “equal opportunity model.” Its goal is to give children who could not otherwise afford it the chance to attend a high-quality private or parochial school. The first such plans were enacted in Wisconsin and Ohio, but others have received serious consideration elsewhere. All provide public assistance to students on the basis of economic need. There is no skimming here, for the target population is students who are most underserved by public education, the lowest achievers. Nor do these initiatives portend an end to public education, for only a small portion of the population can meet the means-tested criteria for eligibility.

The Problem: Separate and Unequal

Defenders of the present government monopoly can conjure up whatever images they may of a future shaped by greater choice in education. But the system they propose in its stead offers little hope for many children who come from minority and poor families. Notwithstanding the promise enunciated by the Supreme Court in the Brown decision 42 years ago, the condition of public education in the United States still can aptly be described in two words: separate and unequal. David Armor gives an account in his recent book, Forced Justice: despite the best efforts of civil rights advocates and the federal courts over the past four decades, most black children today attend de facto racially segregated public schools, the condition improving minimally since 1968. Moreover, a substantial body of empirical research and a flood of litigation in the state courts (in nearly two-thirds of the states) shows wide disparities in per-pupil spending between poor and middle-class districts. No resolution to either situation appears in sight. Public schooling, for all its virtues, just hasn’t been very kind to some children. The same system that helped assimilate generations of European immigrants is not working very well today for the most disadvantaged members of society.

Yes, there has been some notable progress in American education. De jure segregation has been all but eliminated. Ambitious compensatory programs have been spun out of Washington and the state capitals. After a precipitous 15-year decline in national test scores that began in 1964, student achievement is beginning to show signs of gradual improvement. But these victories tell only part of the story. Our system of public education betrays a persistent gap in student performance defined by race. In 1995, black students trailed white students on SAT verbal scores by 92 points. The disparity in mathematics was 110 points. The data on Hispanic students is only slightly less discouraging. If we are serious about education reform in America, then the first order of business is to meet the needs of those students whom the existing system has failed the most. We must move aggressively to close the learning gap between the haves and the have-nots. http://www.brookings.edu/research/articles/1996/06/summer-education-viteritti

Most parents want a quality education for their child.

Moi wrote in School choice: Given a choice, parents vote with their feet:

Most parents want the best for their children and will make many sacrifices to give their children a good life. In the movie Waiting for Superman, a remarkable group of parents was trying to overcome the odds stacked against their children in failing public schools. David Miller Sadker, PhD,  Karen R. Zittleman, PhD in  Teachers, Schools, and Society  list the characteristics of a strong school. Strong schools must be found in all areas. At present, that is not true.  It is particularly important where student populations face challenges. Strong principals, effective teachers and parental involvement are key to strong schools. Charmaine Loever describes  What Makes A Principal Effective? It really doesn’t matter the income level or the color of the parent, most want the best for their child.

Perhaps, the best testimonial about this school comes from an editorial which describes the emotions of one parent. The NY Daily News editorial, My Baby Is Learning  describes a protest against charter schools:

Those words were spoken by a mother who had brought her child for the first day of classes at Harlem Success Academy 2 Charter School – and faced loud protesters with her youngster.

The demonstrators were part of a movement that portrays charter schools as an elitist threat to public education. They are not. They are publicly funded schools that admit neighborhood kids by lottery. Their students far outperform children in traditional public schools.

Charters have proliferated in Harlem, and thousands of parents have children on waiting lists – a trend that has driven activists, including state Sen. Bill Perkins, into shamefully charging that charters are creating a separate and “unequal” system.

But parents, the vast majority of them minorities, know better. Like the woman who confronted the protesters, they’re flocking to charters as a way out of failing local schools. And the bottom line for them is crystal-clear: Their babies are learning. 

The only way to overcome the great class divide is to give all children a first class education. AP reports in the article, More Students Leaving Failing Schools which was printed in the Seattle Times that given the choice, many parents choose to take their kids out of failing schools. Well, duh.

The next great civil rights struggle will be education equity for low-income and poor children.  ALL options for educating children must be on the table. https://drwilda.com/2011/12/15/school-choice-given-a-choice-parents-vote-with-their-feet/

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