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Education Innovation
School Choice Works Wonders in Ohio

In Ohio, school choice combined with intense, holistic investment in students—including work-study programs—is producing incredible results in an impoverished population. Cristo Rey Columbus High School, like the 28 others in the Catholic Cristo Rey network, serves only low-income students; 83 percent of its currently enrolled students qualify for the school lunch program. Its class of 2014 had a graduation rate of 100 percent, and over the past few years, 90 percent of graduates have enrolled in college. They go on to graduate from college at rates twice as high as those normally achieved by students of the same socio-economic background. How does Cristo Ray do it? The Atlantic reports:

Cristo Rey found a creative way to fund most of the tuition. First, in Columbus, $5000 per student per year is potentially available from Ohio’s school-choice voucher program; if a student’s home school is designated as a “failing school,” that money can “follow the student” to a school of choice. Right now, 59 percent of Cristo Rey Columbus students are voucher eligible, a number the school expects will rise once the troubled Columbus City School system completes its audit and more schools will likely be classified as “failing.” […]

Now enters the second piece of the business model, the hallmark Cristo Rey Professional Work Study Program. Each student works five days per month (one day a week, and two days every fourth week) at a paid position in one of Columbus’s partner companies or institutions. Student earnings, about $6500 per year, are applied directly toward tuition. Unmet differences come from donations, fundraising, grants, etc.

The school complements these financial strategies with partnerships with local service providers: a hospital in the area provides the kids with preventive care each Friday, while a cluster of other services like financial planning classes for parents as well as students help impart skills the whole family will need to succeed and have a chance at some kind of mobility. Meanwhile, the students gain valuable work experience in apprenticeships or internships that can help them get jobs after graduation. It’s an inspiring model—and much of it made possible by school choice. Read the whole thing to get a sense of what successful education reform on the high-school level could look like.

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  • johngbarker

    Writer failed to mention that Christo Rey has a selective admissions policy. Below are the admission protocols (from their website). The school chooses its students and this is probably an important factor in the success of the model.
    “Completed Recommendation Form from English Teacher
    Completed Recommendation Form from Math Teacher
    Completed School Leader or Community Leader Recommendation Form
    Copies of Student’s report cards from the current and previous school year.
    Attendance data (absences and tardies) from the current and previous school year
    Standardized Test Scores from the current and previous school year
    Copy of health and immunization records
    IEP/ISP Records, if applicable” from Christo Rey website

    • Tom

      Okay. And? Means they’re getting the kids who actually want to learn out of the hellholes that are inner-city public schools. Far as I’m concerned, that alone validates this school’s existence.

    • GS

      If the school is selective, then it is not “an important factor”, but THE determining one.

    • Bruno_Behrend

      Take the worst kids in the public schools and Christo Rey will very likely outperform with them as well.

      The defenders of the public system love to hide behind the skirts of the “we have accept everybody” excuse.

      Sadly, their record of serving these students is abysmal, as they scrap proven processes like ability grouping for dangerously silly fads like mainstreaming everyone into proven less effective curricula.

  • gabrielsyme

    It is notable that parochial schools, generally operating with much lower per-pupil spending, are consistently able to obtain far better results than public schools serving the same populations – even adjusting for differences in income and so forth.

    Let’s be clear: the public school system is a means of secularising society, enriching public-sector unions, and bolstering Democratic constituencies. Every step towards less public control shows better educational and social outcomes. Society as a whole needs to move decisively towards (and past) the New Orleans model where education is entirely delivered by independent schools.

    • johngbarker

      ” It is notable that parochial schools, generally operating with much lower per-pupil spending, are consistently able to obtain far better results than public schools serving the same populations – even adjusting for differences in income and so forth.”
      Oh really. Please see Lubienski and Lubienski. The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools. University of Chicago Press, 2014

      • gabrielsyme

        Yes really.

        One book focusing on a single variable (and probably the least important one, math scores) does not a rebuttal make. Parochial schools have been shown, particularly in working-class and impoverished areas, to provide higher graduation rates, and test scores compared to cohorts in the public schools. And in places like New York, they often operate on a third of the per-pupil budget of the public schools.

        • johngbarker

          What is your data source?

      • Bruno_Behrend

        The Lubeinskis are old hands at such studies. They are at least as biased as any other researcher.

        From a more positive review…

        ” But parents, the Lubienskis report, seldom make school choice decisions based solely on academic considerations.”

        That is how it should be. The idea that a self-interested education bureacracy…

        [ that has essentially “privatized” itself behind purchasing legislation creating a closed class of protected employees]

        …is capable of creating a successful one-size-fits-all model for 52,000,000 students is laugable. They can’t, and even if they could, it would be substandard.

        We need to dismantle the district system, and the educational apartheid it creates. Money should follow the child to a much wider array of independent options.

        Such a model will not be perfect (nothing is), but it could never underperform the current system -academically or financially.

  • FriendlyGoat

    It’s not just “school choice” that makes this work. It appears that a combination of extraordinary support from certain segments of the business community, AND the careful selection of students based on their past academic records (see comment from johngbarker) are driving the success. Support from some other very dedicated Catholics is, no doubt, a big factor too.

    This does not mean that every Tom, Dick and Harry who wants to run a private school with “voucher” funds is going to create a social miracle. The main business model (for some of them) of trying to pay administrators and corporations more, while paying teachers less, is not somehow validated by the unique Christo Rey concept.

  • Major914

    On the main page: “The economically disadvantaged students at Cristo Ray Columbus High School in Ohio graduate both high school and college much higher than other students with similar backgrounds.”

    But, if one of them wrote the above example, they still don’t know how to write English sentences. Perhaps they shouldn’t be getting so ‘much higher’ all the time.

    • Enemy Leopard

      For crying out loud, the author is clearly literate. What you’re quoting from doesn’t even appear in the post itself, but instead in a brief summary on the main feed, which in all likelihood was written hastily. This sort of criticism is the very model of pedantry.

      • Major914

        In the imaginary world of ‘enemy leopard’: literate is other than as literate does; outstanding front page errors are irrelevant; quality does not matter.

        • Enemy Leopard

          I think you’ve mistaken me for someone who’s going to engage any further with your so-called analysis.

          • Major914

            You’re mistaken again.

  • Bruno_Behrend

    We have two Christo Rey schools in the Chicago area, and they have similar results.

    They are establishing a brand, as KIPP, Carpe Diem, and Rocketship are brands. We need more brands, more diversity, and more options to meet the needs of America’s diverse student body.

    The idea that we should rely on one, monolithic “public” system is a concept as flawed as it expensive. If you think about it, it is impossible for such a system to succeed, most particularly for the disadvantaged.

    The 150 year experiment to impose the Prussian factory model on American schools has failed. Centralization has failed. Districts have failed.

    It’s time for money to follow the child.

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