NEW YORK CITY — Partnership Schools, a network of six Catholic elementary schools in Harlem and the South Bronx, posted academic gains for the 2015-16 school year that outpaced the gains made by New York City, New York State, and the state’s and city’s charter school sectors.
On July 29, the New York State Education Department released for grades 3-8 ELA and Math Assessment Results for 2015-2016. In ELA, Partnership Schools achieved a 16 percentage point year-over-year increase, compared to an approximately 13 percentage point increase for charter schools and a six percentage point increase for traditional public schools. In math, Partnership Schools had a 13 percentage point increase, compared with a one percentage point increase for public schools and approximately four percentage points for charter schools.
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 nonprofit Partnership Schools.
Said Jill Kafka, executive director of Partnership Schools, “Cardinal Dolan showed remarkable vision four years ago when he put his faith in a new approach to struggling Catholic schools in our city. These exceptional results are proof that our teachers, parents and community leaders have made the most of this opportunity to contribute to a new Catholic schools renaissance in our city.”
Partnership Schools Superintendent Kathleen Porter-Magee added, “We’ve proven that with hard work our schools can go from significantly underperforming the state average to significantly outperforming the state average. And let’s be clear, for a long time, too many have written off urban Catholic schools as a relic of a bygone day. These results point the way forward by showing just how much our schools can accomplish when academic rigor meets a community of faith.”
Partnership Schools represent an unprecedented coming together of best-in-class education organizations, with teacher recruitment and training from ACE academies, professional development from award-winning author Doug Lemov, curriculum from Core Knowledge, and best practices imported from the charter school world, together with a renewed commitment to Catholic identity to create a unique and thriving educational environment for students.
Joanne Walsh, principal of Our Lady Queen of Angels, the Partnership School that hosted Pope Francis in his first-ever visit to an American parochial school in September 2015, commented, “This has been a blessed year for us in so many ways and these test score gains are just one more indication of the impact our work is having in our communities and for students.”
As part of a broader reorganization, Partnership Schools and the Archdiocese of New York entered into an historic agreement in the fall of 2013, which granted the Partnership management control of six struggling Archdiocesan schools and shifted work from that of a philanthropic and scholarship support organization to a school management organization. In this arrangement, the Archdiocese retains governance over the six schools, while the Partnership assumes full authority for all aspects of school management including school leadership, academics (including curriculum and testing), finance, operations, administration, and facilities management.
Today, Partnership Schools is a network of six urban, Catholic schools in Harlem and the South Bronx serving 2,066 students in grades Pre-K through 8. Our schools are supported by outstanding teachers and leaders, as well as by a committed and engaged central leadership team that includes nationally known education experts. The Partnership’s mission is to develop academically excellent, operationally efficient, and financially stable Catholic schools that provide economically disadvantaged students the academic preparation, values, and skills they need to be successful throughout their lives.
To that end, we identify, adapt and implement best practices from across the education landscape in a way that is true to our mission, supports the history and legacy of our schools, and continues to emphasize Catholic identity and the unique culture of Catholic schools. In fact, we call our schools “hundred-year-old start-ups” because as much as we seek to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit of our innovative charter and public school peers, we are equally committed to honoring our role as stewards of deep community roots that were planted long ago.
Who We Serve
The almost 2,100 students served by Partnership Schools live in some of New York City’s poorest neighborhoods in the South Bronx and Harlem. Of the students enrolled in Partnership Schools, 80% qualify for free or reduced priced lunch and, during the 2015-2016 school year, more than 72% qualified for scholarship support. Our families are as diverse as the communities we serve: approximately 66% are Hispanic and 31% are African American. Many are from single-parent households and more than 38% are not Catholic.
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