A private high school in Baltimore that accepts many low-income students has the highest college acceptance rate in the city.
Cristo Rey Jesuit High School has achieved a 100% college acceptance rate among graduates despite taking only students from disadvantaged neighbourhoods such as the one where this week’s riots first erupted. It also spends thousands less per student than public schools.
The school, just east of downtown, is funded almost entirely by corporate and private donors. It is one of dozens run by Cristo Rey that are scattered in big cities across the US.
Cristo Rey’s unique admissions process helps it find lower-income students who otherwise would fall through the cracks in the public school system, Jessica Gregg, the school’s communications director, told Business Insider.
The school bases its admissions only partly on grades.
“We all know that kid in high school who had a C average but is now killing it in their career,” said Gregg, adding that many other factors go into admissions.
Cristo Rey asks prospective students what they want to achieve at the school, and it asks parents why they want their child to enroll.
“You need to have at least one parent, grandparent, guardian invested in their education,” Gregg said.
Only the most motivated students get accepted. They’re involved in several school clubs and organisations and can already tell school administrators exactly what they want to do after graduation.
“They’re more forward-thinking at a younger age,” Gregg continued. “The kids who come here know they want to go to college.”
No Cristo Rey students were arrested for taking part in the violent protests.
Students work in a corporate internship five school days a month, which helps pay for their education and gives them skills for their resumes before they even enter college.
In school, small class sizes allows instructors to focus on providing the teens with the attention they need to tackle hard concepts and put themselves in a position to succeed down the road. This year’s graduating class is only 70 students, but the incoming freshman class is 100 strong.
Of the 100% students accepted to college, about 93% end up attending. Those who don’t attend often cite financial constraints, but the school tries to help students obtain scholarships and grants.
All of this is achieved while spending only about $US14,000 per pupil versus the $US16,600 spent per student by Baltimore city public schools, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Cristo Rey is doing great work, but there are a few caveats.
The school accepts many different kinds of working families. For example, Greggs said, a Cristo Rey parent might have a great job that pays $40,000-$50,000 but have three kids to support.
Not all students accepted see their way through to the end. The school has about a 25% dropout rate, according to Gregg.
“I think it’s fair to say the students in the most challenged situations struggle the most,” Gregg said.
The school has 350 students and projects to enroll 365 students the next year and 380 after that. In order to open additional Cristo Rey schools in Baltimore, the school would need to find jobs for more students.
“For every student, we need to have a job,” Gregg said. “We have to have jobs for 350 kids … If Baltimore maybe had some more businesses, it would be possible to replicate this.”
But for the children dedicated enough to stick it out, there is hope, according to Gregg.
“This is a school they have been waiting for their whole lives,” she said.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to add information about the internships that Cristo Rey students take on and about the number of students Cristo Rey plans to add in the coming years. We have removed an inaccurate line indicating the school can only serve 350 students.
We have also removed a misleading comparison that equated Cristo Rey’s four-year graduation rate to the five-year-graduation in Baltimore public school’s.
The updated article also removes misleading information about the performance of students from difficult circumstances. An earlier version of this article also incorrectly stated that all students who attend this school come from low-income families.
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