Is this good news not-so-good?,0,3299917.story

Urban Prep Charters is a charter school in Chicago, Illinois extremely tough Englewood neighborhood. It holds the distinction of being the first all-male charter school in the United States, and with an all African-American student body, something truly great has happened: every single member of the Class of 2010 has been accepted to a four year school. The article even notes one of them was accepted to John’s Hopkins. As a reward, the school’s prom will be provided free of charge to students.

I must emphasize that this is a great thing. These kids come from one of the toughest neighborhoods in the nation. The article notes that a big part of the education offered at the school revolves around providing positive male role models; given that there are probably not that many in their neighborhood. I don’t know what the level of college acceptance is in the local public school, but I know it is nothing close to 100%. I hope these fine young men go on to wonderful things.

But …,CST-NWS-urban06.article

… not all is as it seems. The school’s average ACT is 16.1; over 4.5 point below the state average, and still 0.9 pointe below the average of the Chicago Public School (CPS) System (though, it is 0.7 points higher than the average for African-American males in the CPS). Only 15.3% of the school’s juniors passed the Prairie State Achievement Test, which is lower than the CPS rate for African-American male students.

One particular student, the one accepted to Johns Hopkins, had an ACT of 15.

First off, I have been on the record that ACT and other standardized test scores are extremely limited. I stand by that. ACT scores are not the end all- be all of a person.

However, these scores are a bit of a red flag. In short: they clearly are showing little to no improvement over their non-charter counterparts.

So what gives? On the surface, there appears to be no difference.

One aspect of this is that students are required to participate in extracurricular activities. All students are provided with the opportunity to engage in summer internship programs.

There is strict discipline at the school (a plus), an emphasis on not making excuses (double plus), and …

Urban Prep’s four years of double-period English, as well as a senior class that helps kids write personal college statements, prepared Henderson for the heavy writing needed just to apply for college.

Johns Hopkins seemed more impressed with his 3.8 GPA and his extracurriculars than his ACT, said Henderson, who will probably attend another college that is offering him a better financial package.

“The ACT does not determine how smart you are,” he said.

The school has an overall goal of getting kids into college. In that, there is unquestioned success! However, I am wondering if there is a line between: “getting into college” and “surviving in college”.

At my school, for the most part, the emphasis is not on getting kids into college, rather it is surviving once they get there. We know that most of our kids are able to get in, but we are constantly worried that a lack of preparation will result in our students getting wiped out once they get there. For some of the lower level students, we do have more emphasis on getting into a college, and in many cases they get into colleges who specialize in students who cannot get accepted into traditional colleges.

So, are these kids at Urban Prep prepared to survive at college? I see that they get tons of support in getting there … but when the support is gone, will they thrive?

I hate to sound doom and gloom, because I hope everyone of them not only makes it through college, but lands a great job doing whatever they want afterwards.


2 Responses to Is this good news not-so-good?

  1. Elizabeth says:

    I don’t know, I think that having intense preparation in English and specifically in essay-writing can only help in attending college, even if much of the focus has been on applying for college.

    • teganx7 says:

      …not to mention a heavy dose of discipline. Maybe this is the direction of public education …. since public schools cannot mandate this, get rid of public schools and replace them entirely with different public schools that can … one might ask “Why not change the laws, and allow all public schools to operate in this way?”

      I think, like you … there is a still a question of “will this work”. Part of me hopes it does (all of me hopes it does for this particular group of kids).

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