Funded by the city's Jesuit institutions, including Georgetown University and Gonzaga and Georgetown Prep high schools, the academy is a middle school designed to remove boys from troubled families, corrosive neighborhoods and the distractions of adolescence, and provide them with a rigorous program of high expectations and intensely personal support. The idea is to put them on a path to college and, along the way, perhaps improve the academic strength of the inner-city applicant pool for schools like Gonzaga and Prep. (A similar program serves girls at Washington Middle School for Girls, a five-year-old facility in a renovated apartment complex in Anacostia.)
Ventures like this -- and the city has been blessed with a few of late, including SEED, an in-town boarding school that's part of the charter system, and KIPP, an extended-hours charter school structured much like the Jesuit Academy -- are often dismissed by defensive and frustrated public school administrators as tiny jewels that pluck a few lucky children out of the city's reality and smother them with attention so that they succeed..
Yes, and your point is?.
This is the point: For not much more than the city's schools spend, the Jesuit Academy -- part of a nationwide Nativity Network of small schools committed to small classes (12 is the max) and extended hours -- takes children who were almost certain to fail and infects them with the confidence, love of learning and study skills they need to take full advantage of their curiosity and intelligence. Nationwide, about 80 percent of Nativity students, drawn from a population in which most kids do not finish high school, graduate from college.
The school's philosophy is clear from the start. As headmaster John Hoffman puts it, "Healthy demands are made and accepted" in a setting of small classes, long hours and close relationships between students and teachers. Rather than choose boys by test scores, the academy recruits through boys' clubs, cops on the beat, teachers and tutors who have run across kids with gumption.