Academic journal article Journal of Catholic Education

?Es Su Escuela Nuestra Escuela? Latino Access to Catholic Schools

Academic journal article Journal of Catholic Education

?Es Su Escuela Nuestra Escuela? Latino Access to Catholic Schools

Article excerpt

As indicated by any measure, the number and percent of Latino students in Catholic schools is below what one might expect. Approximately 25.8% of all students enrolled in K-12 public schools in 2014-15 are Hispanic/Latino (Education Week, 2014). However Latinos comprise only 15.3% of students enrolled in K-12 Catholic schools (McDonald & Shultz, 2015). This lower-than-expected enrollment of Latino students in Catholic schools is particularly interesting, as Latinos comprise approximately 17% of the US population, about 11.9 million households (US Census Bureau, 2015), and makes them an estimated 38% of Catholics in the US (CARA, 2015). Perhaps most significantly, a 2008 study found that 67% of all practicing Catholics in the US between the ages of 18-34 were Hispanic (Notre Dame Taskforce, 2009). Despite the large numbers of Latino Catholics in the US, only about 3% of all Latino school-age children attend a Catholic school (Notre Dame Taskforce, 2009).

Efforts to increase the enrollment of Latino students in Catholic schools are relatively new. This article focuses on initiatives of one institution--the University of Notre Dame--to address the issue of Latino families' access to Catholic schools through the Notre Dame Catholic School Advantage Program. In the sections that follow, we first discuss the establishment of the Catholic School Advantage Program. We then outline Heclo's (1994) policy analytic framework of ideas, interests, and institutions to understand the opportunities and challenges that confront Catholic schools as they attempt to increase Latino enrollment (see also Clarke, Hero, Sidney, Fraga, & Erlichson, 2006).

Based upon an understanding of policy transformation generally, and the requirements to make such transition long-lasting, the framework utilizes perceptions of actor gains and losses, ideas, and strategies to maximize gains and limit losses, and the critical need to establish new institutional structures and related organizational cultures to sustain desired ends. In applying this framework to Catholic schools, we offer a policy conceptualization that synthesizes a series of recommendations as to how Catholic schools can increase their enrollment of children from Latino families consistent with the framework of ideas, interests, and institutions. As is evident from the previous discussion and continuing efforts in cities across the country to increase Latino enrollment, ideas and interests abound as to what can be tried to increase Latino access.

Next, we highlight specific recommendations for increasing Latino enrollment based upon six years of Fr. Joe Corpora's work in this field, and especially his visits to 41 dioceses across the country, where he has given a total of 54 talks on lessons learned from schools and dioceses that have been most innovative in pursuing the goal of increasing Latino enrollment. We will highlight successes from a selected set of schools to demonstrate the impact on schools adopting these lessons.

We then develop a policy synthesis of these recommendations and challenges by categorizing these efforts along two specific dimensions of action: leadership commitment and organizational capacity. We argue that through this categorization of the many available strategies, dioceses, parishes, and schools will be better positioned to prioritize commitment and coordinate their work consistent with available resources to have maximum impact. We conclude with a discussion of the likelihood that ideas, interests, and institutions can be sustained over the long term to continue greater access and achievement by Latino students and families in Catholic schools. We also identify major challenges that continue to limit the pace and magnitude of these efforts.

Origins of the Notre Dame Catholic School Advantage Program

In 2009, the Notre Dame Task Force on the Participation of Latino Children and Families in Catholic Schools issued a report entitled To Nurture the Soul of the Nation: Latino Families, Catholic Schools, and Educational Opportunity (Notre Dame Task Force, 2009). …

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