Although the number of urban Catholic schools has declined in recent years, Nativity model middle schools, first developed by the Jesuits over 35 years ago, have appeared throughout the nation to address the need for effective alternative education for urban children placed at risk. The present study compares the effectiveness of two types of high-poverty Catholic schools for 322 African American middle school students. Result show that Nativity schools are more successful than traditional Catholic schools in effecting student gains in standardized test score performance. Results also suggest that features such as small school and class size, small student-teacher ratios, and an extended academic day contribute to these gains. The quality of the school and classroom environment, as perceived by students, that contributed to the amount of engaged learning time also may have contributed to their stronger academic performance. Implications for urban schooling for African American middle school children placed at risk are discussed.

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