Improving Urban Middle Schools

Lessons from the Nativity Schools

By L. Mickey Fenzel

Subjects: Urban Education, Social Context Of Education, Education, Educational Research, Sociology
Paperback : 9780791493502, 146 pages, February 2009
Hardcover : 9780791493496, 146 pages, February 2009

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Table of contents


1. The Current State of Urban Middle Schools

2. The Nativity School Model

3. Nativity School Structures and Programs

4. Academic Success

5. Social, Emotional, Spiritual, and Physical Development

6. Instruction and Instructional Quality in Nativity Schools

7. Costs, Funding, and Governance

8. Summary of Findings, Conclusions, and Implications

Appendix A: The Schools, Their Students, and Their Teachers
Appendix B: Procedures and Instruments
Appendix C: Attendance Rates and Standardized Test Results for Individual Schools
Appendix D: Comparison of Means of Student Self-Perceptions and Perceptions of Environment for Eight Nativity and Two Traditional Parochial Schools

A look at Nativity schools, alternative middle schools that have had great success educating at-risk, urban students.


Winner of the 2010 Alpha Sigma Nu Book Award in the category of "The Professional Studies" , presented by Association of Jesuit Colleges and University and Alpha Sigma Nu

Nativity schools—there are over forty in urban areas throughout the United States—provide an important alternative to urban middle schools failing to provide their students with an adequate education. Nativity schools, which are privately funded, provide a year-round educational experience for at-risk urban children. They feature small classes, an extended day, and attention to students' social and spiritual developmental needs. L. Mickey Fenzel visited eleven Nativity schools in seven cities, conducting interviews and classroom observations, and collecting standardized test scores and survey data. Fenzel examines features of the Nativity model that distinguish it from other educational programs and takes a close look at the controversial use of volunteer teachers. The Nativity model is also discussed with respect to its social justice mission that is rooted in Jesuit tradition.

L. Mickey Fenzel is Professor and Chair of Teacher Education at Loyola College in Maryland.


"…a strong case for the effectiveness of the Nativity schools model." — CHOICE

"This book addresses an overlooked topic in school reform. It will be beneficial to a number of audiences, including charter and small school research. Obviously, the author has spent an enormous amount of time studying these schools and the research presented in this book will be an asset to many aspects of educational research." — Steven B. Mertens, coeditor of The Young Adolescent and the Middle School