SEED students grow

SEED, an all-minority charter boarding school in Washington, D.C. is sending its graduates to college, reports the Christian Science Monitor.

One class member is off to Boston University, another to Duke, and a third has been accepted at Princeton. Others are bound for American University, the Art Institute of Philadelphia, Georgetown, and other schools. One hundred percent of the class is going to college next year.

. . . SEED’s Class of 2004, like the rest of the school’s 300 Grade 7-12 students, is fairly typical of the public school population of southeast D.C.

Ninety-eight percent are African-American, 2 percent are Hispanic. Ninety percent come from homes below the poverty line; 88 percent come from single parent or no parent households, and 93 percent are the first generation in their families to go to college.

Students are selected by a lottery; 30 percent have to take an extra “growth year” before they’re ready for high school. By high school, SEED students outscore other D.C. students. They are much less likely to get into fights or try drugs; they are much more likely to graduate.

A teachers’ union policy analyst complains the school, which costs $24,000 per student, takes too much public and philanthropic money. It’s only possible to help a few students because the cost is so high to provide room and board and round the clock supervision. Education Gadfly calls that finding the dark lining in a silver cloud.

I do think the cost matters. SEED may be cost-effective for kids who are doomed to failure if they stay in troubled homes. But not all inner-city students come from dysfunctional families. While $24,000 a year is not much compared to tuition at an elite private school, it’s more than double what D.C. spends on the average student.

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  1. I think it’s a fabulous idea. I find it interesting that a teachers union is bitching about how much it costs — aren’t they the ones who keep saying that throwing more money at the problem will fix it?

    In any case, I’m glad there is a public school of excellence in DC – it’s not like there are other chances. I used to live in Maryland and ran into the DC kids, the best of their public schools, in the late 80s/early 90s. It was the saddest thing I had ever seen. These kids were so far behind – and that was their =best=. Looking at their curriculum, though, it’s not exactly excellence – it’s a real, solid high school education. That was the base curriculum for college-bound students at my high school, though most of us took calculus before college.

  2. Ross (The Heartless Conservative) says:

    If it works, expand it. If it doesn’t work fix it or scrap it. I am antitax but I would support most any education program that is proven to work. I would much rather spend $24,000 per student for a program that works instead of $10,000+ per student for a program that is worthless.

  3. JimInNOVA says:

    While there certainly is some selection bias to be considered (it takes an involved and concerned parent to send their kid to a 24/7 boarding school) that is still a phenominal success rate. Maybe all children really should be locked up between the ages of 10 and 18 like my father said…

  4. interested bystander says:

    I don’t accept that every child that stays in a troubled home is “doomed to failure”, however…an ASSOCIATED PRESS article on prisons in Alaska compared the cost of state run prisons to prisons run by private contractors:

    “A summary of the report released Wednesday shows a state-owned prison at Sutton costing $109.29 per person per day, compared with $92.50 for a state-leased, privately operated prison in Whittier and $70.25 to send inmates to Arizona.”

    My calculator works that out to a cost of $25641.25 to $39890.85 to incarcerate a prisoner for a year.

    So, do we spend the money creating a productive child/adult or take the chance that we will have to spend it housing a criminal?

  5. John Thacker says:

    The teachers’ union must be insane if they don’t realize that the best way to get more funding is to show that more funding actually helps if used correctly– which this program seems to do. (And the normal D.C. schools don’t.)

  6. also worth seeing where they compare on a cost per graduating student (ie divide DC $ / student by the graduation rate)

    $ / student $11,200

    graduation rate 55%


  7. andursonne says:

    I’d like to see more about their test scores. How well did they do on the SATs? I guess my suspicion of affirmative action makes me want to look closer on how well the students actually performed.