In 2004, Cristo Rey Boston High School (formerly North Cambridge Catholic High School) became a member of the Cristo Rey Network, an association of Catholic high schools that prepare low-income urban students for college through a rigorous curriculum and a unique work-study program in which students share entry-level jobs at area businesses. Between 2003 and 2007, the school received funds from the Cassin Educational Initiative and Gates Foundations to hire new work-study and development staff, purchase vehicles to transport students to and from their work placements, and train students and staff to transition to a Cristo Rey school.
The work-study experience, the signature component of the Cristo Rey schools, had an immediate impact on the North Cambridge Catholic High School’s college placement rate. According to data from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), from 2004 through 2007 the percentage of graduates enrolling in two- and four-year colleges after graduation from North Cambridge Catholic increased from 29% to 69%.
Between 2008 and 2010, the school implemented double-block classes in Math and English Language Arts in the freshman year, added other double block classes in upper grades, began a 9th grade proficiency program to remediate ELA and Math skills students should have attained by the end of 8th grade, and initiated mandatory Advanced Placement (AP) courses for all senior students. In addition, the school implemented a new professional development program designed to help teachers improve their practice.
In 2011, the school promoted two successful faculty members to Dean’s positions to coach teachers and write curricula with their colleagues. The Deans adopted Kim Marshall’s mini-observation model, which allowed them to give frequent and immediate feedback to teachers 2-3 times per month on their practice as well as monitor the implementation of the school’s professional development.
In 2011-12, Cristo Rey Boston introduced an advisory program as a way to encourage the development of meaningful relationships between faculty, staff and students. The program’s focus was on bringing adults and students together to engage in enjoyable and team-building activities. In 2012-13, the Advisory Program transitioned to an intentional focus on both building relationships among students, faculty, staff and families and teaching students about character traits critical to their success. Students at all grade levels used the same curriculum, which was based on work by Angela Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania and Carol Dwek of Stanford.
The result of this effort is that 100% of Cristo Rey Boston High School’s graduating seniors have been accepted to four-year colleges and universities since 2010, with more than 90% of graduates directly enrolling in these institutions after high school. The school’s dramatic academic turnaround has been recognized as a model for other schools, and a peer-reviewed case study on the effort was featured in the September 2012 edition of Catholic Education: A Journal of Inquiry and Practice.