To and through college

In Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea and the Charter School That Beat the Odds, I wrote about a San Jose school that recruits low-achieving students and tries to prepare them to succeed in four year colleges.  “To and Through College” is the motto. With six graduating classes, Downtown College Prep has released a college success report.

While only 10% of low-income students complete college within six years nationwide, DCP graduates earn their degrees at the rate of 47%. We are encouraged by the results we have achieved thus far but remain determined to close the college achievement gap that exists in our community and our nation.

Overall, 57 percent of four-year college students complete a degree in six years.

Since 2004, DCP has graduated nearly 400 students. Ninety percent come from low-income families, 97 percent are Latino and 92 percent are first-generation college students.

Some 94 percent are eligible for the University of California and the California State University system; 82 percent enroll in college.

In answer to some questions in comments: I’m sure DCP makes a difference for its students because many were not on track to complete high school, much less qualify for college. By comparison, only 29 percent of Latino graduates are UC/CSU eligible in San Jose Unified, even though the district made the college-prep sequence a graduation requirement years ago. Graduates aren’t eligible because they earned D’s in some classes.

The Silva family took a chance on DCP in its first year. His older son, Jose, is now a Chico State graduate; Elizabeth is a junior at UC Davis and Benny Jr. is a freshman at San Francisco State. At an event honoring teachers and staff, Benny Silva Sr., who works for Roto-Rooter, was asked to speak:

“Every day I go into other people’s homes to repair their toilets. What they don’t know about me is that my children are college graduates.”

Or on their way. Below is Elizabeth Silva’s graduation photo, which includes her grandmother. Including family members in the picture is a DCP tradition.

Elizabeth Silva, Class of 2008
About Joanne

Comments

  1. Once you take selection bias into account, do you think the results for those kids would have been substantially different had they gone to a public school?

    Say around the margins–that is, of the 100% of the 47% who graduated, some 70% would have graduated anyway but 30% were “saved” by going to this school? Or do you think the odds are different?

  2. Cardinal Fang says:

    What happened at DCP to the class of 2008? Previous classes had above 90% of graduates starting at college, but in 2008 that plummeted to 82%. Was it an effect of the financial crash?

    The six-year graduation rate for DCP is for the first class, the class of 2004, only; that’s the only class for which six years have passed since high school graduation. Any information on how subsequent classes are doing?

    Cal, good point about selection bias, but also consider that if not for DCP, some of the 2004 DCP graduates, probably a substantial percentage, wouldn’t have graduated from high school . And of the students who would have graduated from high school anyway, a substantial percentage wouldn’t have gone on to college.

    What percentage of students who started as freshman at DCP in 2004 ended up graduating from college by 2010? What percentage of Latinos in Santa Clara County who started as high school freshmen in 2004 ended up graduating from college by 2010?

  3. Cardinal, that’s what I was asking (and indeed, asking, not objecting). Given that some percentage of the students would have been motivated to graduate no matter the odds, what’s the rescue rate? Counterfactuals are hard to estimate, of course. I’m just curious.

  4. Cardinal Fang says:

    Cal, I think your guess– that 70% of the graduates would have graduated from college anyway– is way high. Some wouldn’t have graduated from high school let alone college, some would have graduated from high school but not enrolled in college, some would have dropped out of college. I understand that we’re looking at selection bias, but still. Before DCP was established, how many of the high schools that the kids would have otherwise gone to had Latino B/C students end up graduating from college? Did they have any of those students *at all*?

  5. That picture is beautiful. Charter school, public school, homeschool, whatever. That girl made it and her family is proud. That’s all that counts.

  6. Now that there are high schools that do succeed in getting most of their low-income students to enroll in college, and the colleges are more focused on retention and graduation than they used to be, we also have to look at what happens to the students after college graduation, since that has become the new hurdle to overcome. DCP will need to figure out how to track their grads on that issue in order to make claims about ultimate outcomes.

  7. Before DCP was established, how many of the high schools that the kids would have otherwise gone to had Latino B/C students end up graduating from college?

    That’s not the question. The question is how many of the kids who were motivated enough to seek out DCP would have graduated. And that’s quite different–the very difference that selection bias causes.

    I mean, come on. 44% of the 75K+ economically disadvantaged Hispanics still managed to get basic or higher on the CST in Algebra II. That’s not counting the thousands of similar students who lucked into a Summit or other school that would commit fraud just to get them to college (that is, Hispanics with weak skills who go to CSU anyway).

    Anyone who would seriously argue that comprehensive high schools would ignore Hispanic kids with that level of ability and neglect them to the streets or a cashier job at Safeway is just being absurd.

    So if the kids have skills and incentives, they will do well at most public schools. All we’re talking about are the kids who wouldn’t have acquired the skills had they not gone to DCP (and their scores aren’t all that), but did have a relative who cared enough to put them in DCP.

    I dunno. I think a save rate of 30% is decent.

    The other possibility, of course, is that the kids who go to DCP are fundamentally nohopers with terrible skills, that the skilled low income Hispanics would never go to a charter school. But in that case, the save rate is considerably different–and also, kids with low academic skills but high incentives are the very ones we’re suggesting should go to votech school. They aren’t college material.

  8. Cardinal Fang says:

    The graduation rate is based on one class only, the class of 2004:

    100 entered
    54 graduated (may include transfers?)
    51 entered college
    24 graduated

    Suppose Cal is right, and 70% would have graduated from college anyway. Then DCP “saved” 7 kids that year.

    I think you’re excluding the middle, though, Cal, the students who are neither no-hopers nor sure college entrants. According to Joanne’s book, most of the class of 2004 had earned D’s and F’s in middle school. Some were repeating ninth grade. Most students read at grade-school level. About half were not fluent in English. “We wanted Hispanic students who were failing in school but weren’t in jail,” said the DCP principal.

    It doesn’t sound to me like many of those students would have managed to get through college.

    I wonder about the ethnicity of the students who graduated from college. Does it mirror the ethnicity of the students who entered DCP?

  9. Cardinal, that’s not the middle. That’s the bottom.

    So let’s recap, just to be sure I’m not misunderstood:

    My original offered premise: DCP takes students from the whole range of Hispanic ability, but the bulk of them are highly motivated kids, some of them with good skills, some of them with weaker skills. But the selection bias of kids who see an opportunity for individualized attention and higher achievement.

    In that case, I said, wouldn’t a bunch of them graduated anyway? I still hold that this is true–IF they represented the whole range of Hispanic ability.

    But you are now arguing that MOST of the class are incredibly weak ability–failed all their classes, couldn’t read at grade level, and so on.

    That’s selection bias of a different sort. In other words, highly skilled kids didn’t choose to go there at all, and they were basically giving some sort of structure to kids who were, to put it mildly, unskilled no hopers.

    Looking at the 2003 stats, it appears you are correct (they look somewhat better today). The kids who graduated had extremely low scores as juniors.

    But that, too, suggests a different conclusion: Back then, DCP took kids who would otherwise flunk out and didn’t improve their abilities much but did keep them in school. Many of these kids wouldn’t even have had a graduation rate, because a comprehensive high school wouldn’t have been able to teach them how to read, or do all the back up math preparatory to algebra. CHSs would have taken a huge hit for waiting to teach algebra junior year–and faced discrimination law suits when it turned out that most of the kids taking it junior year were Hispanic.

    So in that context, DCP’s improvement shouldn’t be compared to the overall Hispanic rate, but the nohopers Hispanic rate, and two questions should be asked:

    1) Did their skills improve dramatically?
    2) Were the majority of them in fact ready for college?

    I suspect the answer to 1 is: for a minority of them, the improvement was dramatic, for the rest the kids were just kept in school to graduate, which is still a big improvement. The answer to the second one is plainly no, based on their stats.

    But clearly, my original premise was backwards: DCP was about offering a place for desperate Hispanic parents with utterly unmotivated kids to get through high school with multiple chances and lots of support. Highly skilled Hispanics clearly appear to have stayed in SJ Unified.

  10. Cal, DCP was designed for low-achieving students not for the average Hispanic student. Parents of A and B students are warned that the school isn’t designed for students who already are doing well in school. Very few enroll. (In the first year, many Vietnamese parents with high-achieving kids were interested by the “college prep” emphasis; once they got the talk, they all went away.)

    Some students are referred by middle-school counselors who think they’re very likely to drop out of high school if they stay on their current path. In other cases, parents choose the school because they fear their kids will drop out or join a gang. The kids often do not want to go to DCP at first.

    That’s changed somewhat over the years as younger siblings and cousins enroll. Some already understand that they’ll have to work much harder in high school. But the entry skills continue to be very poor.

  11. Joanne–right. That’s what I figured out through this conversation–thanks for confirming it.

    Which means, though, that comparison to the overall Hispanic graduation rate makes no sense. It will raise the sorts of objections that I made originally.

    However, it does raise these questions: first, should these kids going to college? You’ve been making a number of posts on votech. Even if these kids are getting college degrees, take a look at their skills–they are very low. (are they graduating from 4 year colleges?)

    Again, I’m impressed by DCP. I’m just saying they are unintentionally misleading,in a way that undersells their achievement–but also raises questions of the “wow, how’d kids with these low skills get into college in the first place?” variety.

  12. Mark Roulo says:

    100 entered

    24 graduated [from college]

    So 24% graduated from college.

    Isn’t this close to the US average? If so, and if the kids were taken from the *bottom*, then this is quite good.

    … should these kids going to college?

    Probably most of them should be going to a 2-year program focusing on a job, or going to a VoTech school. But that is probably true of most of the ~25% or so of the general population who attend college. No?

  13. Did you see the test scores from that group? They were abysmal. So even if they did graduate, they are unlikely to compete realistically against college graduates who can read and do math at a college level.

    But that is probably true of most of the ~25% or so of the general population who attend college. No?

    Attend, or graduate?

    Colleges have an enormous incentive to push whatever black or Hispanic students they can through college. Thus, black and Hispanic master’s grads have the same skills as white community college graduates.

    The fact that low-skilled Hispanics were able to go through the motions to get a college degree is nice, but unless they actually have the skills of a college graduate, I’m not sure what it gets them .

    And no, the majority of people who actually graduate from college have higher skills than 100% below basic or lower on the algebra II cst.

  14. Cardinal Fang says:

    Cal, where are you seeing the test scores from the DCP students?

  15. Here

    In earlier years, DCP was part of SJUSD. Today it’s its own district.

  16. Mark Roulo says:

    Cal: “Attend, or graduate?”

    I wrote attend. I meant graduate :-)

  17. Cardinal Fang says:

    I looked at those tests. The graduating class of 2004 would have taken their CST tests in 2003, when they were juniors. At that time, 67% of them scored at basic or above in English, which I find impressive for students who were so unskilled as entering freshmen.

    Half of the class took the Algebra II CST. Of those, half scored at basic or above. One student was advanced, two more were proficient.

    I can’t figure out how to parse “the majority of people who actually graduate from college have higher skills than 100% below basic or lower on the algebra II cst.” I thought it might mean that all the DCP students scored below basic, but that’s not true. What is your point, Cal? That some DCP graduates are not good enough at math? They all managed to pass the high school graduation exam.

  18. Wow, totally my bad. First, I was looking at 2004, not 2003, and second, I was inadvertently looking at the summary report, which reported 100% BASIC or lower, not BB or lower. I really hate that about the STAR reports. What, proficient is all that counts? So my statement about 100% below basic was totally off. The second year (2004) is definitely weaker, but still had some basic scorers (no advanced or proficient).

    So first, I entirely retract the 100% comment, because no matter which year, some of the kids hit at least basic level. And thanks for checking me on that.

    However, on my larger point to Joanne, the point (leaving aside the data) still stands. I’ll repeat it:

    However, it does raise these questions: first, should these kids going to college? You’ve been making a number of posts on votech. Even if these kids are getting college degrees, take a look at their skills–they are very low. (are they graduating from 4 year colleges?)

    Again, I’m impressed by DCP. I’m just saying they are unintentionally misleading,in a way that undersells their achievement–but also raises questions of the “wow, how’d kids with these low skills get into college in the first place?” variety.

    Michael’s response was “arent they just like the US average?” And I think we can agree, details aside, that no, they are not like the US average college entrant.

  19. Cardinal Fang says:

    Cal, do you know the average proficiency of CSU freshmen? (That’s not meant to be snarky. I don’t know this information and thought you might.I do know that a startlingly high number of CSU freshmen require math or writing remediation.) According to Joanne’s book, most of the class of 2004 ended up at CSUs. Would they have been underprepared, compared to their classmates? I suspect not. As the DCP kids write with some competence, work hard, know how to study, and aren’t afraid to get help, they’re better off than many entering CSU freshmen.

    Maybe you think that most CSU students shouldn’t be going to college, but that’s another discussion. You said that these particular Hispanic students “went through the motions to get a college degree,” a serious criticism. If they were roughly at the level of their CSU classmates, then they didn’t “go through the motions” to graduate any more than their classmates did, you were unjustified in attacking them the way you did, and you should apologize.

  20. You said that these particular Hispanic students “went through the motions to get a college degree,” a serious criticism.

    No. I am saying that anyone, Hispanic or otherwise, who goes to college with skills that guarantee them years of remediation, “went through the motions”–not because they planned it, but because their teachers and their schools were committed to creating transcripts that would allow them to enroll in college despite their skills.

    And from what I can see, DCP kids were roughly on par with the “average” CSU student–that is, one who will spend a year or more in remediation. Should we be pleased because, unlike the others, they didn’t drop out but continued on to devalue the college diploma? (they and millions of others, I hasten to add).

    My point, again, is not to criticize DCP,but to observe an inconsistency between Joanne’s praise of DCP coupled with the many posts she makes on voced. The majority of DCP kids are not college material (and, sadly, the fact that some of them may have graduated from college doesn’t even contradict that statement). Why not point out that DCP would be better off creating a school that will help their kids get jobs, rather than go to college?

  21. Cardinal Fang says:

    I don’t remember posts where Joanne says that students who are capable of graduating from a CSU, and who want to go to college, should instead enter vocational education.

  22. Hopefully, you also don’t remember my saying she had posted any such thing. Well, I’m probably too optimistic.

    I think you should abandon this conversation, as you clearly don’t understand your part in it, much less mine. Obsessively pedantic focus on details is useful for proofreading, though, so thanks.