An inner city school sends all of its graduates to college. How?

Many of you have been sending me stories about the incredible success of Urban Prep Academies in Chicago. (The Web site is worth a visit.) The charter high school is sending all 107 of its first class of graduating seniors to four-year colleges.

urbanprepgoodIn reading about the school, the same theme emerges: Students aim for college because that’s the expectation and culture of the school.

Many people argue that it’s Pollyanna-ish to maintain that expectations can overcome the grim realities of these inner city teens’ lives and the deficiencies of their early education. Clearly, it is not simply the expectation that these students will go to the college that matters, but the day-to-day effort by teachers and administrators to make it happen.

Here is an excerpt from a good story in the Christian Science Monitor about Urban Prep:

The school of about 450 students is in a neighborhood where violence is pervasive, and many students have to cross gang territory every day. It’s thus crucial for the school to offer an oasis of relative calm.

“For us, it’s not just about teaching new vocabulary words. We really do have to understand what is going on with this student outside school,” King says. That means faculty members develop close relationships with students and are available by phone on evenings and weekends. Often, they provide help on issues that seem to have nothing to do with school: homelessness, family tensions, or money problems.

The No. 1 criterion in hiring is that teachers believe in the mission, says King, who notes that some of the most successful teachers have not been black men. But having those role models is important, he adds. “None of us are particularly shy about sharing with students our life stories,” he says.

The most notable aspect of Urban Prep’s culture is its focus on college, an emphasis that infuses every aspect of the school – from an achievement-oriented creed that students recite daily to the framed acceptance letters that decorate the walls.

“Every single adult in the building – from the director of finance that handles payroll to the CEO to all the teachers – has a very clear understanding that our mission is to get students to college,” says Kenneth Hutchinson, the school’s director of college counseling.

“We start in the freshman year,” adds Mr. Hutchinson, who grew up in Englewood. “It’s not about helping them fill out applications; it’s about building strong applicants.”

Senior Milan Birdwell says he always knew he wanted to go to college, but he had no idea how he would get there. When he transferred to Urban Prep as a sophomore, he had a grade-point average of 1.6. Since then, he has raised it to 3.04 and posted a respectable score of 21 (out of a possible 36) on the ACT. “It’s like someone opened a door, and behind that door is a future,” he says.

Milan has been accepted to five colleges and is waiting to hear from the University of Rochester in New York – his top choice.

The success that Urban Prep has seen so far can be replicated, King believes. Pedro Noguera, a professor at New York University who has been researching single-sex black schools, concurs.

“What this school shows is that under the right conditions, black males can thrive. They can be very successful,” Professor Noguera says. The key to its success isn’t that it’s all-male, he adds. It’s “the attention they pay to teaching.”

Ok, here’s the million dollar question. If they can do it at Urban Prep, why can’t it be done everywhere? Why can’t we do it in Georgia?

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1teacher

April 27th, 2010
5:35 am

fear of high standards…fear of consequences for bad choices.

justbrowsing

April 27th, 2010
6:14 am

This school seems to be created with an understanding of the issues plaguing African-American male students in public schools. They are not treated the same- period. They are referred to the office more frequently and have issues which our public schools are unable to address due to the bureaucratic machine it has become. Attention to their unique issues is what allows this school to be successful. Let’s just face it, the world is a different place for them without the resources and support needed to build them up before they go out into it.

Been there done that

April 27th, 2010
6:20 am

Sure it can be done, but motivation by the student and family is needed to make a change. I would also like to know how many students they take allow within one graduating class. I lifted this from the admissions page of their site…
“Urban Prep Academies operates non-selective enrollment high schools that admit students via lottery. We hosted our 5th Annual Admissions Lotteries on February 17, 2010 for our schools in the Englewood, East Garfield Park and South Shore communities. Families interested in freshman admissions are strongly encouraged to submit Post Lottery Applications. All post lottery applicants will be placed on the waitlist. As seats in the class of 2014 become available we will offer them to waitlisted students. Please contact our Admissions Department to receive a Post Lottery Application.”

Been there done that

April 27th, 2010
6:23 am

Hmmm, did the filter catch my post for some unknown reason? I’ll try again…sorry if it ends up as a repeat. I’m curious as to their school size and their admissions page indicates the motivation factor…it’s a lottery to get in.
“Urban Prep Academies operates non-selective enrollment high schools that admit students via lottery. We hosted our 5th Annual Admissions Lotteries on February 17, 2010 for our schools in the Englewood, East Garfield Park and South Shore communities. Families interested in freshman admissions are strongly encouraged to submit Post Lottery Applications. All post lottery applicants will be placed on the waitlist. As seats in the class of 2014 become available we will offer them to waitlisted students. Please contact our Admissions Department to receive a Post Lottery Application.”

catlady

April 27th, 2010
7:00 am

Can you tell us how many young men started the program? What is the dropout/attrition rate 9-12? How were they chosen or did they self select or were they assigned? Student/teacher ratio? Extracurriculars?

What kind of financial/volunteer support does the school get?

What are the requirements (if any) for their parents?

Tell us about SAT/ACT scores.

I laude the school and its students, but tell us more about how they got there!

catlady

April 27th, 2010
7:08 am

Filter is working well already today.

Maureen Downey

April 27th, 2010
7:08 am

Just emptied filter.

Teacher

April 27th, 2010
8:08 am

While I love successful charter schools I want to point out that they do better than traditional public schools because the population of students is different. Parents that are highly involved are the biggest predictor of academic success. The fact that your parent takes the time to apply and go through the necessary steps to enroll you in a charter school makes them involved. The public school is expected to create the same success without the same population of students. The best teacher and the worst teacher could get these students to college. The best teacher and the worst teacher would have the same difficulty with a student that does not care about school, or anything it has to offer.

Jennifer

April 27th, 2010
8:13 am

Easy. The students are attending a school that really gives a hoot about them and always considers decisions in light of what is in the best interest of the child. Something many Georgia educators should stop and consider from time to time.

Jennifer

April 27th, 2010
8:22 am

I have another idea — maybe it is because we are too busy in Gwinnett thinking about an alternative ed program/school to funnel elementary students into and too busy suing an independent all girls charter school that dared to open and defy the powers that be. I have already suggested to 3 GCPS board members that they start an all boys academy charter like Ivy Prep to help out boys, instead of funding a historically unproven alternative ed school for “good kids (and now tots) who make bad choices”.

high school teacher

April 27th, 2010
8:24 am

two words: charter school. I notice that the young men in the picture are wearing what looks like a uniform. Shall we start there in marking the differences between charter school and regular public school? How about the practice of teachers giving their phone numbers out to students so that they can contact them after hours? How many public school teachers would be arrested for preying on innocent young children?

GoodforKids

April 27th, 2010
8:35 am

They have terrific, crucial ingredients:

-Clear, attainable goal that kids can get excited about (not every child going to Ivy League, every child prepared for and going to college)

-Shared purpose (EVERYONE is focused on the same mission- these kids’ futures)

-Sense of Belonging/Community of Learners(perhaps especially bonded because of how different their focus is from the focus of some people in the surrounding neighborhoods)

-Strong attention to emotional and social life of the child.

-Child and his family made a choice to commit to this school.

-Adults who are leading the way and available to support the child.

What do they do to help the child prepare for college? What does learning look like in their classrooms? I bet that even in times of rote memorization, there is a shared determination to get through the boring, painful stuff. But I would bet most of their learning is not individuals sitting at their own desks completing worksheets and other seatwork.

I bet they are not teaching to some boring test. I bet they are discovering.

I

dbow

April 27th, 2010
8:35 am

You can’t make an honest comparison between a public school and this school. This school has discipline and motivated parents. If these same kids were to go to their home schools, how many of them would have graduated? Race does not play a part here! Motivation knows no color!

Proud Black Man

April 27th, 2010
8:44 am

Its about time you people wrote a positive article about people of color in academia.

LSH

April 27th, 2010
9:00 am

These kinds of articles that tout the success of students getting IN to college do not usually spend the same amount of time talking about the percentage of students who GRATUATE from college. These are two very different things. College admissions boards LOVE to talk about the admission of students of color- but what happens to them when they get there? The article mentions the student who wants to go to the University of Rochester and he has decent, but rather unimpressive grades. Even if he gets in, he will be competing with students who have stellar grades and outstanding SAT scores. Will he be able to compete? Perhaps, but it will be a huge struggle for him. When I was a high school teacher, I spent a lot of time wrangling with parents who were desperate for grades and behavior not to affect their chances of getting IN to college without worrying too much about their ability to succeed once they got there.

Ole Guy

April 27th, 2010
9:06 am

Here’s some kids…let’s call em young men, for in having the courage to aim high, with no guarantee of success, they all have earned levels of maturity which far exceed too many of their peers…who have received a brand of guidance and motivation of which leaders apparently feel Georgia kids unworthy. No municipalities are immune to the fiscal problems du jour; leaders in the Windy City see, in youth, virtue and promise while local/state leaders, here in Georgia…in what is/was regarded as (scoff) world class…see, true to their own achievements, NOTHING but a bleak future for Georgia’s youth. In stark contrast to what a little foresight and leadership can accomplish, Georgia leadership is FAILING MISERABLY.

Perhaps, someday, a few of these young men will see fit to venture down into Deepest Darkest Georgia and infuse a little common sense leadership.

mystery poster

April 27th, 2010
9:25 am

I’m surprised no one touched on the size of the school. With 107 graduates and a school population of 450, I would be willing to bet that class sizes are small. It’s easy to fade into the background and slide along doing nothing when you’re one out of 3000 in a school. A bit harder when everyone knows your name.

fred

April 27th, 2010
9:48 am

@mystery Poster. Small school population does not always equal small class sizes, often it means a lack of choice in courses offered. I don’t know if this is the case here or not, but it is at my school where we have a population of 503.

dbow

April 27th, 2010
9:55 am

Small class size means nothing if you don’t have discipline and engaging lessons. I’ve taught classes of 50 and 5 and sometimes the 50 is better than the 5. Sometimes not. And race has nothing to do with any of this!!

Former private school educator

April 27th, 2010
9:57 am

It takes:
1) parents interested enough in their cildren’s success to fill out the application, and ,when selected, support their child’s school and teachers;;
2) Students who see that their lives CAN change for the better if THEY change their views;
3) an adminsitration and teachers who are there to educate, motivate, and guide each student through not only class work, but the pitfalls of everyday life;
4) SMALL classrooms – That is the secret of the most successful private schools – small classrooms allow the teacher to work wih each student individually as as well as in small groups. The burn out rate at private schools is very small in comparison to the rate pf public school teachers because he work load is manageable. Teachers are often first a social worker these days, a teacher second, so small classrooms are more likely to see students succeed while these same students fail in larger public school classrooms.

Question

April 27th, 2010
10:00 am

Parental involvement is the key to 99% of kids being successful in school. If we could get more parents involved we could see graduation rates go through the roof.

School Choice

April 27th, 2010
10:14 am

It also takes school choice. The parents had a choice. Let’s offer Georgia’s parents a choice.

excuses, excuses,...

April 27th, 2010
10:15 am

It is such a shame that teachers/educators can’t accept others’ success because they are afraid of being criticized of their failures. Well, it’s almost funny.

SHALALALAQUAUNDRA

April 27th, 2010
10:19 am

LSH, YOU CAN TELL YOU ARE A PUBLIC SCHOOL PRODUCT

TC

April 27th, 2010
10:31 am

That is simply awesome. I am the mother of two little boys ages 3 and 9, they come from a home with both parents, I stay home with my sons and they go to private school. My boys have no excuse not to succeed. I love to hear stories about African American or any children for that matter who are doing well, it can be done even in dire circumstances.

Lori

April 27th, 2010
10:41 am

When will Georgians wake up to the value of a truly outstanding public school system, where both low and high achievers are challenged and motivated by knowledge that the world is a very competitive place. There are lots of ways to be one’s best, including vocational education, but they all start with motivation to learn. Georgia’s culture is anti-intellectual in the extreme – reduce everyone to the lowest common denominator. We moved to Northern Virginia last year and here, everyone, no matter the income level, race, country of origin, no matter whether there are kids in the household or not (single, gay, elderly, whatever) VALUES education and EXPECTS public schools to perform, and more importantly PAYS for outstanding teachers and schools. Still, many schools don’t make AYP – there are language barriers, transient or rebellious students who miss a lot of school, disabilities that the NCLB simply assumes away, but almost never a parent, teacher, or administrator who is not motivated to see the best out of every child, whatever it takes. Come on, Georgia, you can do MUCH MUCH better.

DeKalb Educated

April 27th, 2010
10:43 am

This is great. I wish there were school like this every where. Marva Collins also started a school in Chicago for kids who could barely finish 7th grade much less high school in the 70’s. The same principles apply – respect, discipline and high standards. The parents support it, the kids see a way out of their situation through positive routes of study and discipline. All kids can do this with the right teachers, parents, community and attitude.

AMAZED!

April 27th, 2010
10:43 am

Now maybe everyone will understand why we need more charter schools throughout Georgia! This one said it ALL! Please go to http://www.cherokeecharteracademy.org and fill out survey to support! The superintendent in Cherokee doesn’t want this to happen because he knows it will pull all the good motivated students and parents away from there precious over crowded grade, grade inflated, learn nothing schools! Give these kids a chance and a chose!

the prof

April 27th, 2010
10:50 am

Everyone, PBM is not black, he has been exposed as a fraud.

Maureen Downey

April 27th, 2010
11:04 am

dbow, This is a public school.

K Teacher

April 27th, 2010
11:11 am

It may be a public school, but I can guarantee you, only students with invovled parents, students with plenty on intrinsic motivation, and class sizes that are low (only 107 seniors in the whole school ?!?!?!) are allowed in. How many schools in Georgia have that few seniors?

Of course they can be successful with those things in their favor.

Teacher

April 27th, 2010
11:32 am

Maureen- This school is not public in the sense that they accept whoever comes through the door. Involved parents seek this school out. The parents of troubled students would not bother.

dbow

April 27th, 2010
12:13 pm

Maureen, this is not a true public school. To suggest otherwise is to be disingenuous.

Maureen Downey

April 27th, 2010
12:21 pm

dbow, I agree that charters operate differently and often have smaller enrollments, but they are public schools. I disagree that these students represent extraordinary exceptions; this school draws teens from the area and most of them come from single mother homes.

kalukilani

April 27th, 2010
12:25 pm

maureen, thank you for setting dbow straight!

catlady

April 27th, 2010
12:41 pm

“Non selective enrollment” is really a sophistry! If you have to find out about the school (by reading,which not everyone can do), apply for an application via phone or mail (exclusion), apply (you have to be able to read and write), and then wait, Buddy, you HAVE de-selected 2/3 of the general population, much less the high risk population! Not to mention if you have to provide other things, like transportation or food (don’t know if you get those provided).

I am certain what these folks are doing is good and important work, but please call it what it is!

catlady

April 27th, 2010
12:42 pm

I am 2 for 2 with the filter today!

Proud Black Man

April 27th, 2010
1:34 pm

Everyone, the prof is a nancy boy, he has been exposed as being sweet.

Larry

April 27th, 2010
1:39 pm

Urban Prep is a charter school with an intense academic focus and well-know expectations. A comparable school in Georgia is Gwinnett School of Math, Science, and Technology. Here’s the difference between GSMST and other Gwinnett public schools:

GCPS has 1.7% ESOL and almost 5.5% of students in QBE disability categories I through V.
GSMST has no students in any of these categories.

A little over 6% of GCPS students qualify for gifted funding.
Half the GSMST student body is gifted.

Urban Prep and GSMST can be compared to each other, but neither should be compared to surrounding public schools because the students they attract are highly motivated and nothing close to typical.

? Catladay

April 27th, 2010
1:43 pm

Catlady, are you really saying that 2/3 of the population can’t read or write?

Tonya T.

April 27th, 2010
1:47 pm

Maureen:

As an black person, I can tell you for a fact YOU are incorrect. The minute these students and their families cared enough about their education and their future to seek out this school, they became exceptions. This is where life experience and exposure factors in; you gotta really know hoods like this to understand. I saw this school profiled a few weeks ago and applauded them then. But let’s get real…small school, black males being role models for younger brethren, discipline and structure all set the bar for success.

It may be a public school in names and affiliation, but the format is more like that of a prep school.

catlady

April 27th, 2010
2:13 pm

? Catladay: No, read more carefully. I combined factors (like what our gov did with his survey, but I did not extrapolate from there.)

Well, well, well

April 27th, 2010
2:16 pm

Meh, Proud Black Man is just some idoit who wants to throw out the race card and ruin every topic. Just ignore him and he’ll go away.

catlady

April 27th, 2010
2:39 pm

I think what I was getting at was that, in that neighborhood (as described) there would be a high proportion of functional or real illiterates. Add to that the other roadblocks, and you would be excluding, off the bat, about 2/3 of the potential students.

Dave

April 27th, 2010
2:41 pm

My cousin has been trying to get her child into a charter school which is also by lottery. I think what most people don’t understand about the success of these schools, is that the parents care about their children’s education. The sad fact is that many parents don’t find a good education valuable. When I was in high school, I had to do my homework in home room because my step father didn’t allow reading in the house. When you were at home that was supposed to be family time (which meant watching tv).

dbow

April 27th, 2010
2:41 pm

Nobody has set me straight because this is not a true public school no matter how you slice it. No public school is going to have 95%-100% parenatal buy in the same way a charter of this kind will. It’s like comparing two doctors, one who graduated from Harvard and one from a South American doctor factory. Technically they’re both doctors, but one has the advantage of probably not killing you. Maureen and all the others of her ilk, stop trying to push your agenda on the unsuspecting public because most of us on this blog see through it.

Georgia Teacher

April 27th, 2010
2:50 pm

Folks,

This is simple. The boys are there by choice. They choose to be a part of that program. Their parents choose to make sure they go there.

These boys succeed because they choose to, because the parents choose to help make it happen.

If you want student achievement, setting high standards is just part of it. The other part is getting the students and parents to choose to meet those standards.

I would ask one other question: what has happened to the high schools this charter school draws from since its inception? Have their scores gone up?

kalukilani

April 27th, 2010
3:11 pm

tanya, is it that the students and parents didn’t care enough about their education or that there wasn’t a previously established school setting that could get the job done?

catlady

April 27th, 2010
3:59 pm

I truly believe that if a school was built next to my elementary school, called a charter school, and you had to apply to get into it, those students (who would be pulled from the school zone my school pulls from) would have much higher grades and test scores, BEFORE EVER SETTING FOOT IN THE SCHOOL. And after they did, due to the “prestige effect” they would see themselves as even better and stronger, no matter what educational programming was done.

The reason for the first is because of parental motivation. Motivated parents would choose the perceived best school, and their kids would do well. The second effect has been well documented. You call something new and improved or say it will work for your problem, and you will see positive results, even if it is a placebo.

I am not saying this school is not doing good work, but it already excludes many of the most dire cases, just by the application process (too many down and out folks figure “why even try” or they are simply unable to complete the process). In addition to that, you have the two effects noted above.

This isn’t rocket science.