Catholic schools lead innovation in urban education

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Saturday 30, October 2010 | Category:   Catholic culture

The movie Waiting for "Superman" takes a look at the education gap in the United States and the problems involved in education policy. I thought I would use this blog post to talk about a couple of Catholic schools that have been leading innovators in providing an education to people from low-income urban communities at an affordable tuition.

Cristo Rey Jesuit High School was founded in 1996 in a low-income Latino neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. The school places students at entry-level jobs, which cover roughly 65 percent of tuition costs. Cristo Rey students work five days a month and attend classes four days a week. Today around 575 students attend this high school. The Cristo Rey Network comprises 24 high schools around the United States.

The San Miguel Schools offer low-income middle-school students in Chicago two campus locations. The first San Miguel School opened in 1995 in the Back of the Yards area on the South Side and serves 80 Latino students in grades 6 through 8. In 2002 the Gary Comer Campus was established in the Austin neighborhood on the West Side and serves 110 African American students in grades 5 through 8. The San Miguel schools base their approach on the following formula:

Small classes: A 10:1 student to teacher ratio ensures small classes. Teachers are enabled to provide students with more individual attention and instruction.

More class time: San Miguel students have an 8.5- hour school day and attend school on a year-round calendar. They spend 53 percent more time in class than required by the state of Illinois.

A focus on reading and language arts: San Miguel students read an average of 120 books a year. Each day includes 80 minutes of reading.

San Miguel is not tuition-driven: San Miguel is accessible to children most in need.

A committed staff: Half of teachers are volunteers who receive only a monthly stipend and live together in the neighborhood where they teach. They live as a community dedicated to their students. Some are experienced educators; others are college graduates who wish to bring opportunity through education.

Parental involvement: San Miguel parents are expected to attend parent-teacher meetings every three weeks.

Experiential learning: San Miguel students travel to Washington, D.C. to learn about democratic traditions, to Minnesota to investigate the natural environment, and to college campuses.

Family and graduate support program: San Miguel graduates receive continual support throughout their high school years, including tutoring and mentoring sessions and various other youth development activities. Families receive educational opportunities and clinical counseling services

These schools accept donations and offer many volunteer opportunities.

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