At least for its graduates, DCP has managed to close the achievement gap in San Jose.
Fifty-four of 56 seniors have met the school’s stiff graduation requirements: acceptance in a four-year college and a “C” or better in every core course — one of the basic requirements for admission to the California State University system.
That far exceeds the rate for other Latinos in the district and is higher than the district as a whole.
Most DCP students are three or more years behind when they start ninth grade. The school spends most of ninth grade trying to bring students up to grade level in reading, writing and math. Students who remain too far behind must repeat the grade.
School leaders and teachers work hard to create a school culture that values academic achievement. Because the school is small, it’s easier to create personal relationships with students and parents. As a charter school, DCP’s leaders can determine their mission and their budget priorities, and hire and fire teachers.
Joe Rodriguez interviewed some DCP students for a column. They talked about what they might be doing if they hadn’t taken the challenge of a college-prep school.
Some would say Tatiana, Eric and Gabriel should have fallen through the cracks in the public education system by now.
“I could be flipping burgers at a Burger King,” said Gabriel Hernandez. Instead, he’ll be flipping through textbooks at California State University at Monterey Bay next fall.
“Me, I could be heading toward the gang thing,” said Eric Zuniga. Actually, he’s heading for Menlo College, to study liberal arts.
“I don’t know,” said Tatiana Jimenez, “I probably would attend a junior college or just get a job.” She’s getting ready instead for Holy Names College in Oakland.
About half the students who started four years ago didn’t make it, though a few repeated a grade and will be graduated next year. (The Merc’s stats ignore the repeaters, so they’re a bit off.) Of those who made it to graduation in four years, all have been accepted to a four-year college. These kids — most of them D and F students in middle school and the first in their families to go to college — do better at completing college-prep classes with a C or better than average students in San Jose Unified; they’ve more than doubled the district’s success rate for Hispanic students.
The charter school spends $11,368 per student; $7,083 comes from the state and the rest from private donors.
Update: Animo Leadership Charter High School, a nearly all-Hispanic, all-low-income charter in the Los Angeles area, also graduated its first class, reports the LA Times. All 125 graduates (out of an initial class of 140) are going to college, trade or technical schools; nearly 60 percent are going to four-year colleges. The school, which is part of the Green Dot network of non-profit charters, is funded entirely by state and federal funds of about $7,500 per student, equivalent to what other California high schools spend.