How can we improve faith-based school options for families who want them?

Low-income families in New York City who believe in providing a faith-based education for their children are often faced with limited choices. Catholic schools in particular have faced significant declines and have been less than transparent in terms of ongoing student success in both high school and college admissions. Partnership Schools, a network of Catholic Pre-K through 8th grade schools in Harlem and the South Bronx that we supported in 2019, is committed to reversing these trends.

In 2013, Partnership Schools convinced the Archdiocese of New York to outsource the management of failing Catholic elementary and middle schools to its independent nonprofit. Partnership shifted from focusing solely on providing philanthropic and scholarship support to becoming a school management organization with full management, operational, financial, and academic responsibility for six flagship schools. When Partnership assumed management, only 17% of students passed the New York State math exam and only 22% passed the New York State ELA exam. On the most recent State exams in 2019, 52% of Partnership students passed the math exam and 49% passed the ELA exam. For the fourth year in a row, all Partnership schools met achievement levels that outperformed City and State school averages.

Partnership also developed a comprehensive high school choice matrix that factors in the success of neighboring charter, non-charter, and Catholic high schools in order to counsel families in making better choices. There will be at least two high school placement workshops for middle school students and their parents along with a guide and workbook to prepare for the admissions process. Through this work, Partnership will ensure that at least 75% of qualified 8th grade students apply to more than one school and that, of those schools, at least one is a Tier 1 or Tier 2 school as ranked by Partnership’s internal system. Additionally, Partnership anticipates increasing the average number of students scoring proficient on the 2020 New York State exams by at least 20 percentage points for math and at least 10 percentage points for ELA.

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