De La Salle Academy: High Expectations

Last week the NY Times wrote about De La Salle Academy, a 26 year-old private school in Manhattan where gossip is an expellable offense, dating is not allowed and makeup – even lip gloss- is prohibited. The school is for academically talented low-income children, with more than half of the students coming from families with annual incomes of less than $35,000. What makes De La Salle stand out, however, is its traditional approach to education:

 At a time when everything about education seems to be in flux – the role of testing, the expectations for teachers, the impact of technology – Brother Carty is something of a throwback.

Brother Carty has a “tough as nails” attitude toward unruly or disruptive behavior and says “pity parties are not allowed here.” Students can struggle, but the expectation is that they learn to cope:

 Parents are instructed on rules regarding parties and cellphone and Internet use. Teaching fads are generally dismissed, memorization is encouraged and smart boards are nowhere to be seen. “I’m not going to spoon-feed them, taking notes is a skill.”

While his rules are harsh, there is a softer side to headmaster Brother Brain Carty – he is as much as pastor as a friend and principal teacher.  He makes it his mission to know everything about every one of his students and their families. He even goes to such lengths as hand selecting each student that comes in, guides eighth graders through the high school admissions process and consults those students four years later during the college application process.

With 1,300 friends on Facebook and children vying for his attention each morning, the tough approach is obviously appreciated by his students.   More impressive still, De La Salle sends most of its graduates to the city’s top private high schools or elite boarding schools in New England.  While it’s true that Carty’s approach may not be best for every student – especially those struggling with basic literacy skills – his passion is evident.  And his commitment to high expectations for each of his students is to be commended.

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