Jill Kafka, the Executive Director of the Partnership Schools of New York City, left her job on Wall Street to help rescue urban Catholic schools in New York City.  After work with organizations that gave money for operational expenses and scholarships to low-income students, the Board decided to focus their efforts on six schools.  Why?  To build better schools for long-term sustainability.

How do you build better schools?  The answer has relevance for every Catholic school.  As a Catholic school struggles with enrollment and/or finances, the temptation is to cut all costs.  By cutting costs, the quality can suffer.  The Partnership Schools seek to confront that model by building quality curriculum, professional development, and data-driven instruction.  These “Catholic charters” build a focus around teaching & learning that many Catholic schools have placed on the back burner in place of fundraising, marketing, and advancement efforts.

The Partnership schools, by consolidating the efforts of six schools, take advantage of economies of scale to build instructional partnerships and a focus on learning.  In the process, they have reshaped instruction by working with their current teachers—as opposed to replacing them.  The focus is on teaching best practices, using data to drive instruction, and developing a culture of teaching and learning network.

Of course, the Partnership Schools rely on high-level fund-raising.  But that fund-raising is made easier with outstanding academic results in an authentically Catholic environment.  We can all learn from the Partnership Schools.

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