NY Post Highlights Partnership Academic Gains

August 9, 2016

The city needs every good school it can get

By Post Editorial Board

One other bit of news from the latest state Common Core exams means hope for New York’s Catholic schools.

Parochial schools were once a huge presence on the local scene, but more close every year. So it was heartening when the Archdiocese of New York decided not to shutter six struggling schools in Harlem and the South Bronx back in 2013. Instead, it agreed to let an independent nonprofit manage them.

The Partnership School Network remade all six, importing innovative management and borrowing the best practices of successful charters — such as emphasizing professional development and implementing the Core Knowledge curriculum.

And this year the six Partnership schools posted gains that topped the already-impressive performance of the city’s charter schools. Their students posted a 16-point increase over last year to reach a 43 percent pass rate on the English exam; and a 13-point gain on the math test, with 45 percent of students passing.

In short, Partnership has produced a template that could transform parochial education — a huge plus for the city.

The sad fact is that, fast as New York charter schools have been growing, adding to the choices for the city’s parents, the closing of Catholic schools has been eliminating other good choices.

Another irony is that the best charters themselves copy from the classic Catholic-school model — uniforms, firm discipline, high academic standards and expectations, plus a schoolwide ethic grounded in clear values.

We’re often accused of being hostile to the regular public-school system, but our real gripe is with its near-monopoly — which leaves it free to keep on serving the interests of its “stakeholders” rather than the students.

A healthy, competitive “education sector” should feature lots of options — different approaches that can learn from each other and, yes, compete to best serve the needs of different kinds of kids.

That’s why we’ve supported public charter schools, as well as the proposed Education Investment Tax Credit, which would boost giving for faith-based education, including parochial schools.

Most New York City children don’t graduate high school ready for college or the workplace. To change that, the city needs every good school it can get.

 For the original article click here.



 

Renaissance and results for urban Catholic schools

By Travis Pillow

The annual release of state test results in New York State saw rising scores across the board — as well as debate about what, exactly, that meant. But for a half-dozen inner-city Catholic schools, the results brought some unequivocal good news: Their students’ gains outpaced not only their public-school peers, but also the city’s charter schools, which are being lauded for outsize gains.

Collectively, the Partnership Schools increased student proficiency rates by 16 percentage points in language arts and 13 percentage points in math. Where they once trailed statewide averages in student achievement, they now surpass them.

Gains in a group of inner-city New York Catholic outpaced even high-performing charter schools. Source:Partnership Schools

The Partnership for Inner-City Education is part of the national Catholic school renaissance.

The proliferation of school choice programs, the growth of new organizations devoted to academic excellence in Catholic education, and the pressures created by what partnership superintendent Kathleen Porter-Magee calls a healthy fear of closure have prompted a growing number of Catholic schools around the country to explore new approaches to academic improvement and rediscover their calling to serve disadvantaged students.

An agreement reached in fall 2013 allowed the partnership to take over academic operations for six schools in Harlem and the Bronx. They serve about 2,100 students in grades Pre-K-8, 80 percent of whom qualify for federal lunch programs. Some 72 percent of their students qualify for financial aid, which Jill Kafka, the partnership’s executive director, said is provided through roughly $3 million in privately funded scholarships.

Catholic schools’ efforts to improve education of low-income students have a champion in Pope Francis, who visited one of the partnership schools — the 124-year-old Our Lady Queen of Angels — last fall.

Writing in Flypaper, Porter-Magee notes it wasn’t long ago that Catholic schools were widely cited as a source of hope in urban education.

"Over the past two decades, that confident leadership has been shaken by declining enrollment and financial struggles. Some in the reform sector and elsewhere have even taken to writing off urban Catholic schools as a relic of a bygone day.

At the same time, efforts from within the Catholic community have stalled out as the small-c conservatism that has long been a feature of Catholic schools (it has saved us from jumping from education fad to education fad, for instance) became a bug. As a result, charter schools have thrived as Catholic schools have wavered.

Yet the inherent strengths of Catholic education—a focus on values, faith formation, and academic rigor, coupled with the belief that all children can succeed—are as sturdy a foundation as they have always been. And we have retained much of the audacity of the leaders who made the American system of Catholic schools the biggest, most successful private school “system” in the world. Recently, educational innovators from within the Catholic community have been showing just how successful the right combination of old and new can be in their push for a Catholic schools renaissance."     

Those innovations aren’t confined to a handful of schools in New York City. Efforts like the expanding network of Notre Dame ACE Academies and Cristo Rey Catholic High Schools are creating pockets of rebirth around the country.

The latest results from New York reveal the promise of combining deep roots with new approaches, in what partnership leaders describe as 100-year-old startups. Still, the scores should probably be interpreted with some caution. State test results may not be directly comparable year-over-year. And short-term jumps in student achievement can be difficult to sustain.

The fact remains: For two years, these urban Catholic schools have improved more quickly than their counterparts state- and citywide. They lend credence to the idea Catholic schools should have a place, alongside charter schools and other options, in diverse educational ecosystems that create better learning opportunities for all students — especially the disadvantaged.

For the original article click here



 

Faith, hope, hard work, and results

By Kathleen Porter-Magee on August 3, 2016

It used to be that when people talked about urban school success stories, Catholic schools were at the center of the discussion. Twenty years ago, Cardinal John O’Connor, then archbishop of New York, all but dared public school leaders to send their hardest-to-teach students to archdiocesan schools. “Send me the lowest-performing 5 percent of children presently in the public schools,” O’Connor declared, “and I will put them in Catholic schools—where they will succeed.”

Such was the audacity of urban Catholic school leaders back then. We were confident. Our schools routinely outperformed neighborhood public schools. Our results were stronger—and longer-lasting—and our success came at a bargain price.In fact, it was the historic success of urban Catholic schools that fed the reform movement in general and the charter school movement in particular. Catholic schools were proving what was possible, and entrepreneurial young education leaders were quick to seize the opportunity to do the same in the public sector.

Over the past two decades, that confident leadership has been shaken by declining enrollment and financial struggles. Some in the reform sector and elsewhere have even taken to writing off urban Catholic schools as a relic of a bygone day.

At the same time, efforts from within the Catholic community have stalled out as the small-c conservatism that has long been a feature of Catholic schools (it has saved us from jumping from education fad to education fad, for instance) became a bug. As a result, charter schools have thrived as Catholic schools have wavered.

Yet the inherent strengths of Catholic education—a focus on values, faith formation, and academic rigor, coupled with the belief that all children can succeed—are as sturdy a foundation as they have always been. And we have retained much of the audacity of the leaders who made the American system of Catholic schools the biggest, most successful private school “system” in the world. Recently, educational innovators from within the Catholic community have been showing just how successful the right combination of old and new can be in their push for a Catholic schools renaissance.

One such innovation is the Partnership Schools, a private school management organization that took over six urban Catholic schools three years ago and where I am proud to serve as superintendent. This week, results from the 2016 New York State ELA and math test prove just how promising new approaches to urban Catholic education can be. 

In ELA, the average score of students in New York State public schools increased by six percentage points. In charter schools, student achievement grew by approximately thirteen percentage points. Achievement at our Partnership Schools, by contrast, grew by more than sixteen percentage points. Five of our six schools increased their scores by eighteen percentage points or more.

In math, our students and teachers fared equally well. While average scores for New York State public schools increased by one percentage point, and while charter school achievement grew by roughly four percentage points, math achievement at Partnership Schools increased by thirteen percentage points from 2015 to 2016.

These scores represent the second straight year of outsized gains for the six urban Catholic schools, all of which were at risk of closing before they were turned over to the Partnership Schools network. Thanks to the selfless and spiritual vocations of our teachers and leaders, we have proven that we can go from significantly underperforming the state average to significantly outperforming the state average.

Just over a year ago, I reflected on my first year as superintendent of Partnership Schools in this post. Then I identified the four qualities of our schools and work that would help us succeed:

  1. Subsidiarity: The traditional Catholic idea that nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organization that can be done as well by a smaller and simpler organization drives much of Catholic education.
  2. Deep roots: Our schools are genuinely tied to their communities. Four are more than one hundred years old, one turns ninety this year, and the youngest has been serving its Harlem neighborhood for sixty-six years.
  3. Healthy fear of closure: Every day, we face the real threat of closure. Our teachers and families know that if we don’t get this right—and really fast—we won’t live to see another generation of students graduate.
  4. Strength through adversity: Rather than bouncing around from one education trend to another, our schools had no choice but to remain steadfast in their dedication to “back-to-basics” curricula and a traditional “no-excuses” culture.

I credit these qualities—along with the tireless dedication of our teachers and school leaders, who instill in our students the values of integrity, humility, hard work, and service—for our remarkable success. Four of our schools are over one hundred years old, all have served their communities for decades, and if we do our jobs right and continue to push forward with academic success, all will continue to serve their communities for many years to come. These results point the way forward by showing just how much our schools can accomplish when academic rigor meets a community of faith.

For the original posting click here.

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