For every charter school that opens in Harlem, two Catholic schools have closed, write Patrick J. McCloskey and Sol Stern in City Journal. That means fewer good schools for inner-city students.
St. Aloysius School, a pre-K through eighth-grade school in central Harlem, was built for working-class Catholic immigrants but now serves low- and moderate-income black children, few of whom are Catholic.
St. Aloysius students outperform Harlem’s public school students by a large margin.
The school expects to spend $9,000 per student next year, “less than half of what Gotham’s traditional public schools spend and lower, too, than the $13,000 or so that charter schools get in taxpayer funds.”
But St. Aloysius has trouble filling its seats, though the school expects to take in students from Catholic schools that are closing. Tuition tops out at $2,600 per student and needy families pay less, but neighborhood charters are free. The school is leaving the archdiocese to make it easier to raise donations to keep the doors open.
Why do St. Aloysius students do so well?
Recognizing that inner-city children need extra time on task, the school offers after-school tutoring for the early grades, and it extends the school day for students in grades six through eight until 5 pm. Middle school students must attend a four-week summer session followed by a two-week summer camp.
. . . Another reason for St. Aloysius’s success, school officials say, is that it educates boys and girls separately beginning in the sixth grade, with the boys’ classes held in a few rooms at another Catholic school a few blocks away. This requires hiring three or four extra teachers and thus adds to costs, but the educators believe that it helps maintain discipline and a focus on academics during the risky preteen years and the transition to high school.
St. Aloysius “exemplifies the old-fashioned notion that school is a place where children learn about our civilization’s shared knowledge and values and where teachers remain the undisputed authorities in the classroom, imparting that knowledge and those values through a coherent grade-by-grade curriculum,” they write.
In a third-grade reading class, teacher Lauren Carfora spends 45 minutes on decoding skills and phonetic exercises and another 45 minutes discussing “a literary text to build comprehension and content knowledge.”
She guided the students through the narrative structure of the assigned story, the relationship of the characters, and the author’s use of literary technique, simultaneously expanding the students’ vocabulary and background knowledge.
Here’s the kicker: “Barely a moment of distraction occurred during those 90 minutes of teacher-centered instruction. The classroom calm allowed Carfora to cover a great amount of substantive material efficiently.”