Santa Clara Academy is a Diocesan Pre-K through 8th grade school located in South Dallas (West Oak Cliff Area). The Academy began in the fall of 1994 through the initiative of Bishop Charles V. Grahmann and the Presbyteral Council. The Bishop conducted an in-depth year-long survey to determine what special needs existed in the area. Job opportunities and living conditions were among the most voiced needs, but invariably, the parents articulated an even greater need for a Catholic school education where their children could receive the Holy Sacraments in a crime-free environment. The School, from the beginning, has served children of the area, many of lower income families. Santa Clara’s campus includes 17 classrooms, computer lab, science lab, library, finance office, and secretary/principal’s office. A part of the church is sectioned off as the cafeteria for use during lunch.
Many of our students are from various locations in the Greater Dallas area who choose to attend Santa Clara because they seek the individualized education that the school provides. An overwhelming majority of our families sacrifice greatly to send their children to Santa Clara. The seven elementary and four middle schools identified as our students’ home schools, which are a part of Dallas Independent School District, are ranked as low performing or unacceptable, mostly as a result of the overcrowding and behavioral issues that those school face. Santa Clara is the only choice for parents wanting a values-based school with a safe, secure environment, a rigorous curriculum, and caring and nurturing teachers. Many of our students are from single parent families, and others are raised by grandparents or other relatives. As a result of these hardships, very few of our parents are able to help us with fundraising, gifts, or even time commitments.
We target a traditionally underserved population. The racial and ethnic makeup of the school is 95% Hispanic; 3% Caucasian; 1% African American; and 1% American Indian/Alaskan Native, of which 54% are female and 46% are male. The Santa Clara community has 203 students, and at least 81% receive some amount of tuition assistance. The Diocese of Dallas awards 41% of the $240,000 total tuition assistance given to Santa Clara Academy. Each year approximately $140,000 must be raised directly by the school for financial aid for families.
The school started tracking students with the use of EasyCBM data in 2012. Our graduating class of 2012, included 18 students, of which 1% was accepted into catholic school, with a 0% total enrolled in advanced classes; 2013 graduating class of 11, 18% was accepted into catholic school, 36% in advanced classes; 2014 graduating class of 18, 39% accepted into catholic school, 33% advanced classes; 2015 graduating class of 21, 81% accepted into catholic school, 71% in advanced classes. Since 2013, 98% of our students have been accepted into Catholic high schools in the Dallas area. The other 2% have been accepted at public school academies or public schools specializing in college preparatory curriculum. The 2015 graduating class of 21 students earned $168,000 in scholarships with 29% earning four-year scholarships. Santa Clara is successful in making a difference in the lives of the students, especially low-income children at risk of getting into and maintaining academic success for the four years of high school. Eighty-six percent of our graduating class was accepted to the high school of their choice, with 56% having two or three acceptances as choices. The effectiveness of our school program is evidenced by an increase in the number of students enrolled in Advanced Placement classes in English (50%), mathematics (47%), and social studies (23%).
A demographic study of our student population illustrates some of the challenges Santa Clara faces; 64% of our student population lives in a household that qualifies as low-income, near poverty, or at poverty; 29% are native Spanish speakers who speak Spanish at home. Forty-one percent of the 2014-2015 student population had deficiencies as determined by Iowa Test Basic Skills (ITBS), a norm referenced test administered to K-8th grade students. However, with high expectations, tutoring, enrichment and resource programs, 99% of our eighth grade students graduate to high school.