Many of them do, many of them don’t, but here’s a great story of one that does, from City Journal.
“For more than 100 years, All Hallows High School in the South Bronx has been educating immigrant and lower-income boys. Early on, the students were Irish; later, they were Italian; today, they are Hispanic and black. In past generations, the school’s teachers were largely members of the Irish Christian Brothers, men pledged to lives of poverty, chastity, and obedience and to a vocation of teaching those most in need. Today, only three brothers remain at the school, and more than a third of the teachers are themselves alumni. Despite demographic changes in the neighborhood and dramatic cultural change within the Catholic Church, All Hallows maintains its traditions, practices, and aims.
“What’s its secret—what holds this place together? I recently visited All Hallows to find out. I had heard great things about this old school and wanted to learn more. “Don’t try to reduce what we do to a formula or recipe,” said Brunelle Griffith, English teacher and track coach. “It’s larger than that and hard to describe.” It was a timely warning. For decades, education-policy researchers have sought to understand why some schools succeed where others fail. The best research tells us that the things that matter most in effective urban schools are hard to quantify—and even harder to replicate. Success is bound up in a shared sense of mission, reciprocity, trust, respect, and other intangibles that define strong relationships and forge social bonds. Yet, much of the policy debate around schooling still focuses on measurable inputs—spending, class sizes, teacher training, and curricular offerings. How can one measure a school’s culture, or the relationships it fosters between educators, students, and their families? And even if one could, how could those findings be translated into practice for other schools to emulate?
Prior to the growth of public charter schools over the last 20 years, many viewed Catholic schools as the model for inner-city education, since they achieved so much success with children from low-income families—the types of students that many public schools failed to educate. Some of the earliest charter schools tried to mirror Catholic school practices, but what made Catholic education effective was often lost in translation: it’s much more than strict rules. Understanding how All Hallows flourishes in the face of adversity can help us understand how to support such important schools—and how to apply some of their lessons.
“All Hallows is a school that works, though many would think that it could not, given its student demographics. It serves 510 young men from Harlem and the Bronx; 85 percent come from low-income families, defined as annual income below $32,630 for a family of four, the eligibility cutoff for free school lunch under federal guidelines. Sixty percent of students come from single-parent homes; 78 percent are Hispanic, and 20 percent are black. All students applying to Catholic high schools in New York City must sit for placement exams, and All Hallows generally admits students scoring high on the Catholic high schools admission exam, but it also considers lower-scoring students by looking at grammar school grades and recommendations from principals and teachers. Its intent is to admit all students whom it believes it can help achieve success. (The school does not accept special-needs students because it is not equipped to serve them.)
“All Hallows provides a traditional high school curriculum: four years of English, math, physical education, and religion; three-year sequences in history, foreign language, and science; and various electives in 12th grade. On the recommendation of their academic advisor, students may take up to five advanced-placement courses, beginning in tenth grade. In 12th grade, the first marking period of math is dedicated to SAT preparation.
“Every student takes an extra course in American history throughout his four years at All Hallows, one of four New York archdiocesan high schools to partner on curriculum with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Freshmen get to improve their writing and researching skills by analyzing documents related to America’s founding and New York City history. The school coordinates guest lectures by prominent scholars, field trips to historic sites such as Gettysburg and Washington, D.C., on-site exhibitions, and other special opportunities. All Hallows has been selected as an Amazon Future Engineer (AFE) school—a partnership between Amazon and Edhesive to improve access to computer-science education in communities currently underrepresented in technology. The school will offer two AP courses in computer science, beginning next year.
“By the standards of public education, All Hallows is under-resourced. It spends about $11,600 per student—less than half of what neighboring public high schools spend and about 64 percent of outlays at the city’s public charter schools. All Hallows teachers earn dramatically less than their public school counterparts. The 90-year-old school building is compact, vertical, and spartan. Its gymnasium has no bleachers for spectators, though its walls are adorned with banners commemorating past and recent glories.
“Despite such constraints, the school is achieving at high levels. In recent years, 85 percent of the students entering the school in ninth grade made it through 12th grade, and almost all the 12th-graders went on to college, ranging from city and state schools to highly regarded private universities. Almost every year, a graduate or two goes on to the Ivy League or other highly selective universities.
“All Hallows’ success continues despite a large institutional challenge, faced by almost all Catholic schools: the loss of a traditional talent pool for staffing. The first school established in the United States by the Irish Christian Brothers, All Hallows opened in Harlem in 1909 before moving to its current location in 1929. For much of the school’s history, the Christian Brothers made up a significant portion of the teachers. Today, two of the three remaining brothers (out of 41 staff members) are in their late fifties, while the third is in his mid-seventies. The school has made a challenging transition to lay leadership, including the establishment of a governance board that includes one sister and no brothers. This shift is the norm in U.S. Catholic schools today, where the number of religious brothers is down two-thirds from 1970 and that of religious sisters has declined even more, to just 28 percent of their earlier ranks, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.”
Retrieved November 25, 2019 from https://www.city-journal.org/all-hallows-high-school