School Turnaround: Cristo Rey Boston High School Case Study

  • Jeffrey Thielman Cristo Rey Boston High School


The mandates of the federal No Child Left Behind Law, including the threat of closing a school for underperformance, have led to multiple public school turnaround attempts. Because turnaround is a relatively new area of focus in education, there is limited research on what does and does not work, and even the definition of turnaround is a work in progress. The research that is available is almost exclusively from the public school sector. This article gives some history and context for school turnarounds currently taking place in the United States and describes the turnaround of a Catholic, inner-city high school in the Archdiocese of Boston. The school, Cristo Rey Boston High School—formerly North Cambridge Catholic High School—has a history spanning nearly 100 years. Unlike a public school, North Cambridge Catholic High School was not subject to closure or takeover for consistently poor student performance on standardized tests. Instead, the principal and his faculty were driven by their own desire to improve the quality of education they were offering their students.

Author Biography

Jeffrey Thielman, Cristo Rey Boston High School

Jeff Thielman has been involved with the Cristo Rey schools since 1998 and became president of Cristo Rey Boston High School in 2009. A former trial attorney who served for three-and-a-half years as a Jesuit International Volunteer in Peru in the late 1980s, he served as development director of the first Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago from 1998 to 2000. In 2001, he became the executive director of the Cassin Educational Initiative Foundation, which helped finance the start-up of the Cristo Rey schools. He is cofounder of the Cristo Rey Network, the national umbrella organization of the Cristo Rey schools and oversaw the start-up of 24 Cristo Rey schools from 2001 to 2009. He has served on the board (School Committee) of his local public school district in Massachusetts since 2003.

How to Cite
Thielman, J. (2012). School Turnaround: Cristo Rey Boston High School Case Study. Catholic Education: A Journal of Inquiry and Practice, 16(1), 115-147. Retrieved from