Beating the odds

Forty-four students were graduated yesterday at Downtown College Prep, the San Jose school I wrote about in Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea, and the Charter School That Beat the Odds. The school recruits students who earned less than a C average in middle school and will be the first in their families to go to college. One of the speakers said she was the first in her family to finish high school.

As each graduate walked to collect the diploma, a teacher read aloud the student’s thank you note. Some wrote their thanks in Spanish so their parents would understand, sometimes switching to English to thank siblings, friends and teachers. One girl thanked her mother for letting her live with her grandmother so she could finish school. A boy thanked his mother for letting him return for a fifth year after he failed 12th grade the year before.

All the graduates had been accepted at a four-year college, though some will start at community college and then transfer to save money. One non-graduate is expected to earn a diploma by the end of the summer; four more will come back in the fall to repeat 12th grade. It’s not easy to earn a DCP diploma.

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  1. Cardinal Fang says:

    Bravo, brava to all the graduates. Bet there were a lot of tears of joy among the watchers.

    At first I was worried about the DCP grads who were going to community college. So many kids start out at community college, then give up before transferring or getting an AA. But then I realized, these DCP kids are already hardworking and motivated by now. They know the drill. Nobody’s been coddling them. They should have no trouble in community college.

  2. Joanne wrote: “The school recruits students who earned less than a C average in middle school…”

    Not to pick nits, but every student (maybe a half dozen) from my ESSJ middle school to attend DCP in the last three years has been an honor student (3.4 – 4.0 GPA). It may true that DCP actively recruits kids who have performed below a C average, but they clearly enroll those who have performed otherwise. I would be surprised if this was not true across the board, and I’m not sure the above refrain gives the whole picture.

  3. Apparently the reason why they do not offer Geometry to incoming freshman is to discourage advanced students from attending: If they want to skip Algebra I they need to go elsewhere.

  4. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Congratulations, JJ. Sometimes a little faith helps good works.

  5. I’m glad to find someone like you working on ICTs in schools. I’m trying to work on a similar subject but from a private angle, harnessing the use of ICTs by schools in Africa. I have built a number of websites that I intend to use for illustration along the line. Among them a global university directory with links to all institutions in all countries. I want to develop sites for poor schools in Africa and would like to know if anyone can be of help.