Archive | Catholic education

This Catholic Schools Week, Florida has something to celebrate

LaToya Jones' daughters have found a new home at their Catholic school.

LaToya Jones’ daughters have found a new home at their Catholic school.

Catholic Schools Week is a national celebration of Catholic education, but don’t tell LaToya Jones of Jacksonville that it only lasts for one week.

Jones celebrates her school – St. Pius V Catholic School – on a daily basis.

The church rents its former convent to Jones, who lives with her three daughters two doors down from the school that has transformed their lives.

A year ago, the family was rocked by the loss of husband and father Lionel Jones, who died from complications of diabetes. Already struggling in a variety of neighborhood and private schools, the girls had a hard time coping.

At St. Pius, LaToya found a new home and a new home away from home, and her girls are thriving.

“It’s like our extended family,” LaToya said. “They help us out a lot. There’s always something going on, and the facilities are always open. It’s like a family away from home. They know my girls like their mom and grandma and auntie would. All the way down to the coach and janitor.”

Catholic schools have long provided more than just education to families like the Joneses. They strengthen communities for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Yet nationally, over the past decade, there has been a net loss of nearly 1,000 Catholic schools. Enrollment has shrunk by 17.6 percent. This represents lost community assets and squandered social capital. Continue Reading →


Islamic schools can have benefits beyond the Muslim community

They’re part of a burgeoning immigrant community that often confronts bigotry and xenophobia. They’ve set up a growing network of academically effective faith-based schools. Those schools, often assumed to hamper their assimilation into American culture, may actually help them become better citizens.

That was the story of American Catholics before the turn of the 20th century. They faced an anti-immigrant backlash and a wave of religious bigotry that inspire Blaine Amendments and spurred the creation of Protestant-controlled common schools.

And it may be the story of American Muslims today, as Ashley Berner, of Johns Hopkins University, and Charles Glenn, of Boston University, argue in The 74:

Muslims in the 21st century are in a position similar to that of 19th-century American Catholics. To the majority culture, their beliefs may seem perplexing and their loyalty suspect, although, according to the Pew Research Center, American Muslims are overwhelmingly “mainstream and moderate” and 82 percent report being satisfied with their lives in this country. Despite the high educational attainment and remarkable economic success of America’s immigrant Muslims and their children, however, some Americans consider their presence a menace. Islamic schools have become a focal point for rumors and vandalism, and some otherwise sympathetic legislators have retreated from supporting school-choice programs because they don’t want to fund Islamic schools.

Such sentiments are intolerant and unwise. Islamic schools constitute a powerful antidote to the alienation from American life fostered on the Internet and by marginalized groups. More than 200 Islamic schools exist across this country, and they are growing in number and adding grades and academic heft each year. Their academic outcomes have not yet been explored in depth, but if they continue to provide high-quality instruction and robust character education, we should expect to see a new version of the “Catholic school effect.”

Continue Reading →

Pluralism and the new definition of public education

Berner coverWhen it comes to public education, the U.S. stands apart from many industrialized democracies. It excludes private and faith-based schools, and has generally relied on local governments as the sole providers of publicly supported education in a geographic area.

A new volume by Johns Hopkins University researcher Ashley Berner argues this arrangement is largely an accident of history. She points to a new definition of public education, which is publicly funded and publicly accountable — and encompasses private schools.

As she writes in her final chapter:

No One Way to School attempts to draw a more inclusive argument that rests upon the foundational goals of the common school, while affirming that they are better met by plural education, than by uniformity. Excellence, equity, opportunity, and citizenship resonate across America’s educational history.

She contemplates a three-sector approach to public education that fits alongside The Urban School System of the Future, the policy platform of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, and precious few others in today’s education debate.

Her ideas echo many of the themes we’ve tried to emphasize for more than six years on this blog. And they’re likely to stretch the thinking of people in just about every corner of the school choice movement.

She draws vital lessons from John Chubb and Terry Moe about the ways bureaucracy can vitiate academic excellence, but she abjures the hands-off regulatory approach they advocate as one of several “narratives that risk being counter-productive.”  Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Class sizes, spending impact, leadership and more

florida-roundup-logoClass size violations: Fewer Florida schools are in violation of the state’s class size amendment this year, according to Department of Education records. They show 1,433 of 125,159 public school classrooms in violation, 1 of 6 lab schools, 47 of 649 charter schools and 10 of 2,331 choice schools. The class size amendment, approved by voters in 2002, puts caps of 18 students in grades K-3, 22 in grades 4-8 and 25 in grades 9-12. A loophole approved in 2013 allows districts to use schoolwide averages to meet the caps if those schools were designated as choice schools. So the number of choice schools has grown from 1,193 in 2013-2014 to 2,331, and 29 of the state’s 67 districts show no traditional public school classrooms. An attempt to close the loophole went nowhere in the 2016 legislative session. Gradebook.

Spending and education: A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that spending more on education improves achievement. The national study in 49 states broke down results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress testing, and showed a consistent pattern of improvement in low-income school districts where spending increased. The effect of the extra money also had a much greater impact than lower classroom sizes. New York Times.

Education leadership: House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, announces leadership assignments to education committees for the next legislative session, which begins in March. Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, will chair PreK-12 Appropriations. Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, will chair PreK-12 Innovation, and Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, will chair PreK-12 Quality. Rep. Elizabeth Porter, R-Lake City, is the chair of Post-Secondary Education, and Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, will lead Higher Education Appropriations. The full committee membership lists are here. Gradebook. Continue Reading →

A new approach to Catholic schooling spreads to South Florida

As Kayla Yaks advanced at St. Luke Catholic School in Palm Springs, Fla., she developed a passion for art and a plan for what she wanted to do after eighth grade.

She’s hoping for a coveted slot at Dreyfoos School of the Arts, one of the most sought-after magnet programs in the Palm Beach County school district.

But Kayla said this year, she noticed some changes at her school – changes that got her thinking beyond high school.

This fall, St. Luke officially became a Notre Dame ACE Academy, part of a national effort to revitalize Catholic schooling.

Kayla Yaks

Eighth-grader Kayla Yaks is learning to set long-range goals, including preparing for college.

There were signs of change students could see. Posters hung around the PreK-8 campus encouraged them to think about a pair of long-range goals: college and heaven. Teachers attended a summer workshop in South Bend, which helped instill a belief that each of their students is capable of reaching both.

There may have been bigger changes happening behind the scenes, but just a few months into the school year, the culture shift had made an impression.

“It showed me that I should have more than one goal, and I can go forward and do something higher than what I just accomplished,” Kayla said.

The emphasis on goal-setting and college attendance would seem familiar to anyone who’s visited a charter school run by an organization like KIPP. But the similarities don’t end there. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Bullying, union election spending and more

florida-roundup-logoSchool bullying: Parents and experts say bullying in schools is a far bigger problem than reported. National figures indicate 1 in 5 students have been bullied during the last school year. In Orange County, the number is 2 in 5, according to the report. But the official Orange County district numbers are 1 in 637. Statewide, the number is 1 in 806. One expert says there’s a “disconnect” between the amount of bullying that’s happening and the number of incidents reported. Orlando Sentinel.

Union election spending: The Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, has spent about $2.7 million on state legislative races. That’s about double the amount spent by those who support tax credit scholarships and voucher plans. FEA president Joanne McCall said: “This is not about Republican versus Democrat. This is about us versus them: public schools versus vouchers [and] for-profit charter schools.” Politico Florida.

Contract negotiations: The Hillsborough County teachers union and the school district reach a tentative agreement on a contract. All teachers would get a $200 cost-of-living payment, and teachers at the top of the pay scale would receive another $200 bonus. About a third of teachers will also get their previously scheduled $4,000 raises. The deal still has to be approved by union members and the school board. Gradebook.

Preschoolers sickened: Twenty-one preschoolers at Ave Marie Friends Preparatory School in Lauderhill are hospitalized with intestinal distress Monday. Food poisoning is suspected. The district is investigating. Sun-Sentinel. Associated Press. Continue Reading →

Catholic schools belong in the ed reform conversation – Jill Kafka, podcastED

Kafka with studentOver the summer, a group of Catholic schools in Harlem and the Bronx posted some attention-grabbing results.

Their students took the same tests as children in New York’s charter and traditional public schools. State data showed that, on average, all types of schools improved. But the Partnership Schools improved faster.

For the second-straight year, the results of this experiment in urban Catholic education lent credence to the idea that— like a few related efforts elsewhere in the country — it belongs in the larger effort to improve urban school systems, particularly for disadvantaged students.

“We really can be a proof point,” Jill Kafka, the executive director of the Partnership for Inner-City Education, says in the latest edition of our podcast.

“I think what we’re able to prove and show is that Catholic schools can be an excellent choice for parents in these neighborhoods,” she says. In addition to traditional and charter public schools, “we end up being the third leg of the stool. We can bring the excellence to the point where we are part of the education reform conversation.”

The six schools are looking to turn the tide in a city beset by enrollment declines and Catholic school closures that hurt surrounding communities. Continue Reading →

Can scholarships reverse the decline in New York Catholic school enrollment?

From Supreme Court justices to pop stars, from civil rights advocates to the leader of the largest public-school system in the nation, New York City’s Catholic schools have a long history of educating a diverse group of students — many of whom have grown into pillars of the black and Hispanic communities.

A new report warns that, due to declining enrollment and a “crisis” of school closures, that tradition is now at risk.

While there are multiple causes for the decline in Catholic school enrollment – including upwardly mobile immigrant populations moving to suburban communities, changing attitudes among Catholics regarding public schooling, fewer clergy and members of religious communities to staff schools, increased Catholic school operation costs, and an increase in tuition-free alternatives such as the growth of tuition-free public charter schools – a major factor in the decline has been lower- and middle-income households increasingly unable to afford tuition.

In New York, an array of private scholarship foundations has sprung up to try to tackle that last factor: The fact that low-income and working-class families often struggle to afford tuition at private and parochial schools. Continue Reading →