How A Former Catholic Church Became An Extraordinary Charter School

04/19/2017 11:03 pm ET Updated Apr 20, 2017

The very model of a modern education.

99%. That’s the rate — each year since 2012 — at which graduating seniors at Boys’ Latin Charter School in Pennsylvania are accepted into colleges across the United States.

That’s a remarkable statistic. And it’s even more impressive when you consider the context: Boys’ Latin is an “all-black school in an iffy part of West Philadelphia,” as the Wall Street Journal observed yesterday.

How did this triumph take place? In 2005, David Hardy, a local education leader (and board member of my organization, the Center for Education Reform), saw that young men in Philly could benefit not only from greater academic achievement, but also from character development. Two years later, his vision became a reality, when Boys’ Latin welcomed its inaugural class. By 2008, Hardy had transformed a former Catholic church and school into one of the most modern, state-of-the-art institutions in the region.

Like all charter schools, Boys’ Latin was founded with a clear mission: to provide a productive educational experience to underprivileged kids. Today, that mission is bearing great fruit.

For example, even though 4 out of every 5 students here qualifies for a free or reduced-price lunch, every single one studies Latin for four years. And on the National Latin Exam in 2011, 15 Boys’ Latiners earned performance medals. If Ancient Romans time-traveled to 21st century America and needed a translator, it wouldn’t hurt to point them to West Philadelphia.

Boys’ Latin describes itself as a college-preparatory school. Judging by the rate at which its students are attending and matriculating from college, the school is succeeding wildly on that promise.

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