28 June 2008

"More Than A Dream"

I recently finished reading "More Than A Dream" by G.R. Kearney. It details the evolution of a new private school in Chicago, Cristo Rey Jesuit H.S., from the spark of an idea to a mission statement and business plan to the recruiting of students, opening of their doors to graduation and beyond. I thought the book did a good job of highlighting the transition from what they started as (a small core group of experienced educators and administrators who wanted to create a new type of school with a different curriculum built for small classes with a tight-knit family-feel) to what they ended up being after compromises to increase the number of students were made to enable the school to bring in enough money to stay open. Class sizes had increased greatly, curriculum was not as dynamic or experiential as it had been, idealistic courses had made way for typical standards and less-experienced teachers were hired and a volunteer teacher program was started. The author also makes sure to share how the Cristo Rey plan became a template that could be, and was, franchised out to other areas that were interested in using the information they'd collected and starting their own school. It is a great idea. The students go to classes four days a week and report to a job on their fifth day. So five students together work one full-time position. It not only provides revenue to the school but provides invaluable experiences to the students. They get to see what life is like outside of their neighborhood. They see jobs other than just those they are familiar with. They build relationships with adults and start to build self-confidence and think about going to college.

Here are a couple things I wrote down, wanting to learn a bit more about...
  • Several of the people involved with starting the new school had been involved with Fe y Alegría schools in South America. This little article talks about why teachers enjoy teacher in Fe y Alegria schools.
  • Nativity schools were mentioned throughout the book. These schools are showing up with more and more regularity in America. You can read more about that movement here or here.
  • They talk about using the Ignatian pedagogical paradigm when developing their curriculum. It consists of the student's learning following three main steps; experience, reflection, action, and then evaluation over it all. The link gives a solid, concise and useful description of the paradigm.
  • There were two books that I wrote down as I was reading because I wanted to find out what they were all about and maybe read them myself. The first one is Paulo Freire's "Pedagogy of the Oppressed".
  • The second one I am looking forward to reading. It is "Breaking Ranks: Changing an American Institution" written by the National Association of Principals. It is a collection of key points that must be adopted and implemented to improve our education system and make it relevent in today's society.
  • There is a phrase that the author mentions is common among the Jesuits, "What are you doing for the kingdom?" The way it comes up in the book, it almost takes you by surprise. It's a simple question and, as shown in the book, we can be running from job to obligation to problem to whatever the next thing on our calendar is, but it is good to pause and ask ourselves that question and see what we come up with as our answer. A quick search of that phrase turned up these three interesting blogs. One, Two, Three.


  1. http://www.omahawiki.org/St._Peter_Claver_Cristo_Rey_Catholic_High_School
    this explains the Cristo Rey school in Omaha.
    here is the official site-
    very interesting the Jesuits do not run this school like some, it is run by the Archdiosese of Omaha. That is probably because they already have Creighton Prep--but if you look at this list--of partners they have the kids work at, Creighton is one. also isn't that
    your bank , oldest son??

  2. I had to go to another comment box, mixed upt he last one. I loved this book, it seemed so great of an idea for educating and interning kids who would never get that opportunity. The school in Omaha has only been open a year. and I love this--look at how many there are now!! Incredible, The Jesuits and the Catholic Church have done extremely well on this.
    and so many to open this fall. It would be great to volunteer at one sometime.

  3. Ps. That is our family's copy middleson has if anyone wants to borrow it.

  4. i like that the focus originally was, and to an extent still is, to serve the poorest section of the demographic; those kids that would not be able to afford private school otherwise. they talk about that point in the book a bit and it is something i have wondered about as well. if you look at the demographic that an overwhelming number of private Catholic schools serve, it is rarely one comprised of minorities, or poverty-level students. yes, there are some scholarships but i think they/we need to remember to ask what the purpose of the school is.

  5. great post. glad you enjoyed the book. you're spot on. though Cristo Rey has changed a lot in recent years, the original school in Chicago and the other schools that have opened around the country are explicitly focused on serving students who couldn't otherwise afford or attend high quality college prep high schools. if students from chicago can get into or can pay for other high quality college prep schools, they're turned down at Cristo Rey and encouraged to attend the other schools. This makes CR's success all the more remarkable. Thanks for the kind words about the book and your support of the school.