Academic journal article Journal of Catholic Education

De Marillac Academy: Perseverance, Purpose, and Promise/De Marillac Academy: Perseverancia, Proposito Y promesa/Academie De Marillac : Perseverance, Determination et Promesse

Academic journal article Journal of Catholic Education

De Marillac Academy: Perseverance, Purpose, and Promise/De Marillac Academy: Perseverancia, Proposito Y promesa/Academie De Marillac : Perseverance, Determination et Promesse

Article excerpt

For many years, the Catholic school system within the United States was considered the preeminent educational institution, particularly for poor and marginalized students who live in low income, inner city urban areas (Horning, 2013). According to Ladner (2007), Catholic schools traditionally have outperformed public schools and are considered the highest performing schools for students living in U.S. inner cities. Grogger and Neal's (2000) work demonstrated that urban minority students obtain the most benefit from attending a Catholic high school as evidenced by achieving higher high school and college graduation rates than their peers in public schools.

Though historically successful, Catholic schools have experienced a growing crisis over the past decades, resulting in thousands of school closures due, among other factors, to declining enrollments, the reduction of lower paid religious, and Catholics exiting to the suburbs. This has placed the Catholic school system's long-standing goal of educating economically disadvantaged students in inner city schools in peril (Brinig & Garnett, 2009). Despite the decline, Catholic schools are well regarded by Catholics with an 88% approval rating as well as non-Catholics with a 66% approval rating (Hamilton, 2008; Saroki & Levenick, 2008).

In the Fordham Institute study, Who Will Save America's Urban Catholic Schools?, networks of schools run by religious orders such as San Miguel and Cristo Rey schools were identified as promising options for invigorating urban Catholic education (Hamilton, 2008). The San Miguel schools are tuition free, generally middle schools, with an extended school day and year, extensive counseling and tutoring support, and follow up through high school and post-secondary education. De Marillac Academy (DMA), a San Miguel school and the focus for this article, offers fourth through eighth grade students a high-quality, Catholic education in the Tenderloin District in San Francisco. The majority of the children who attend De Marillac live in the Tenderloin area, a district known for homelessness, drug dealing, poverty, and crime, and walk the city streets to get to the school.

One hundred percent (100%) of the students are students of color with Latino students representing 70% of the student population. DMA's cumulative high school graduation rate is 88% while the national graduation rate for economically disadvantaged students in 75%. Additionally, 64% of all DMA graduates are enrolled in or have graduated from higher educational institutions (De Marillac Academy, n.d.). In contrast, nationally 53% of economically disadvantaged youth (De Marillac Academy, n.d.) and 35% of Latinos, the largest percentage of students at De Marillac (Krogstad, 2016), are enrolled in post-secondary institutions.

In consultation with De Marillac Academy leaders, the focus for this case study was to identify those non-cognitive skills and attributes the students were developing at De Marillac that could help explain, in part, their impressive rate of high school graduation and enrollment in post-secondary educational institutions. The research was inspired by the theoretical work of Angela Duckworth, who determined through her research that self-discipline and grit are better predictors for academic success than are grade point averages, standardized tests, and other quantitative measures (Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, & Kelly, 2007).

Though grit is a relatively new concept being explored in education research, it is similar to a much-studied concept: resilience. In a 2013 published conversation, Duckworth noted that though resiliency and grit are often used interchangeably and have similarities, they are different constructs. Resilience is generally seen "as a positive response to failure or adversity" (Perkins-Gough, 2013, p. 14). While grit has this characteristic in common with resilience, there is another component that Duckworth and others have identified, namely, having focused passions over time. …

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