Small school changes lives

Downtown College Prep changes lives, writes Tom Vander Ark after a visit to the San Jose charter high school. Most students come from Mexican immigrant families and enter ninth grade with fifth-grade reading and math skills.  All graduates in the class of 2011 will go on to  college, including Mount Holyoke, University of California at Santa Cruz, UC Santa Barbara and San Jose State. The school’s counselor helps graduates cope with college challenges, including transferring from community college to a four-year university.

Read all about it in Our School.

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Comments

  1. tim-10-ber says:

    Wow! Joanne…do you know the stats on this year’s graduating class? How many entered the school in 9th grade, what actual grade level were they when entered, how many dropped out? Just curious…thank you.

  2. They might be going to college, but they’re all going to remedial ed for a long, long time.

    EAP Results

    88% did not demonstrate readiness in English, and 94% didn’t demonstrate readiness in math–and the other 6% were only conditionally ready.

    Their test scores are abysmal. But hey, they’ll be able to go to college and pay a ton for education they weren’t able to understand the first time. We’re supposed to celebrate this?

  3. CarolineSF says:

    The Downtown College Prep class of 2011 lost 51.8 of its students (in hard numbers) between enrollment in 9th grade and the beginning of senior year — publicly available information doesn’t show how many actually graduated.

    67 seniors were enrolled at DCP in the 2010-11 school year.
    The same class in junior year (09-10) had 83 students.
    The same class in sophomore year (08-09) had 119 students.
    The same class in freshman year (07-08) had 139 students.

  4. Well, Vander Ark works for Gates. No surprises there.

  5. The small school gets smaller and smaller each year… Thanks for the info CarolineSF. I work in a neighborhood high school in chicago and we get lots of students that are pushed out of nearby charter schools during the school year.

  6. tim-10-ber says:

    Thank you for the stats…so just why are we celebrating this school? This is a failure…

  7. CarolineSF says:

    As with American Indian Public Charter School (see the more recent post on this blog), the actual statistics give a different picture of the school.

    If I ran a school that were experiencing such high attrition (or, in the case of AIPCS, such a major transformation in demographics), it seems like my common-sense strategy would be to celebrate the successes of the remaining students, maintain good relations with my funders and school community, and LAY LOW, refraining from the public preening and boasting that prompts busybodies to look up the statistics.

    I’m not sure what Coulson, Vander Ark and Jacobs are thinking when they switch on the spotlight like this — probably that (to switch metaphors) there’s plenty of Teflon to protect them.

  8. Roger Sweeny says:

    I’m not sure what Coulson, Vander Ark and Jacobs are thinking when they switch on the spotlight like this — probably that (to switch metaphors) there’s plenty of Teflon to protect them.

    One possibility might be that, limited though their success is, it’s better than the other schools in the neighborhood.

  9. CarolineSF says:

    That’s a valid question. However, Coulson, Vander Ark and Jacobs were not portraying AIPCS’ and DCP’s success as “limited.”

    And would other schools in the neighborhood do just as well if they got rid of more than half their students and didn’t replace them, and if they rapidly shed students in demographic subgroups that tend to be low academic achievers and brought in demographic subgroups that tend to be high academic achievers?

  10. Roger Sweeny says:

    CarolineSf,

    You’re absolutely right. Get rid of the n*ggers and you have a better school. Bring in the Asians and you have a better school.

    See how dangerous this game is?

  11. CarolineSF says:

    Crossposting to respond to Roger in both places:

    In that case, everyone who ever discussed the achievement gap is a racist, Roger Sweeny. “Darky” and “n*****” are offensive and racist terms. An open and thoughtful discussion of the achievement gap is not racist.

    I understand that you’re play-acting in an effort to distract from the fact that the statistics undermine the cheerleading for Downtown College Prep and American Indian Public Charter School. That’s really kind of pointless and not an effective way to respond.

  12. Roger Sweeny says:

    CarolineSF,

    You certainly use nicer terms but the meaning is the same. I am in favor of open and thoughtful discussions of lots of things–including the achievement gap.

    I have no dog in the fight about DCP and AIPCS.

    If an easy way to make a school better is to get rid of under-represented minorities and bring in Asians, that says something important.

  13. One possibility might be that, limited though their success is, it’s better than the other schools in the neighborhood.

    Oh, stop being ignorant. I know exactly where DCP is, and what district it’s in, and I know the schools in the area.

    San Jose Unified either outperforms or ties DCP in every CST performance group for economically disadvantaged Hispanics.

    DCP may give students more indiidualized attention, but it is not translating into higher performance, and not even the deluded reformists dare describe the SJ Unified Public Schools as wastelands of non-achievement.

  14. Peace Corps says:

    One has to ask: If DCP is not the better choice for the students that choose to go there, WHY do they choose to go there???

    Does anyone know?

  15. CarolineSF says:

    I don’t know that anyone discussed whether or not DCP is a “better” choice for anyone, Peace Corps.

    Schools that shed their challenging students in large numbers — in a manner that public schools cannot do — are understandably popular with the remaining students and their families, just for starters.

  16. Which is an argument for grouping students by readiness in the regular public schools, and for figuring out how to improve behavior in regular public schools, so that parents won’t be so drawn to charter schools.

  17. CarolineSF says:

    Yes, figuring out how to deal with behavior problems and other high needs in the public schools is a bigger challenge than most people understand, in my opinion.

    Schools, such as these types of charters, that manage to avoid and get rid of those challenging students have obvious appeal.

    But they don’t solve the problems in the big picture — on a “scalable” basis. It’s wrong and misleading to conceal the real situation and pretend that they do — a pattern of dishonest behavior designed to win them more private funding, of course.

  18. But, the regular public schools were not “solving” those problems for years before charter schools were even thought of. The order of events here is that charter schools were thought up because regular public schools were so often percieved as failing, both academically and behaviorally. I happen to be one who thinks that some were failing because of poverty, and others were failing because of poor leaderhsip, inadequate teachers, lack of effective curriculum, etc. To the extent that charter schools have siphoned off many of the more able and self-controlled students, they have left the regular public schools with a higher proportion of struggling and misbehaving students. But charter schools did not create the problem; if they did not offer something that every child deserves (peaceful environment, teachers who are held accountable) they would not exist.

  19. CarolineSF says:

    It’s certainly a valid point that charter schools didn’t create the problem of disruption of schools by kids with behavioral and other problems.

    (Some of that problem was created by IDEA — the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act — and I’m not disparaging IDEA, just pointing it out. Charter schools, of course, notoriously underserve disabled students, especially the more severely disabled.)

    However. Charter schools are falsely presented as *solving* the problems (as we see in this post and the post about American Indian Public Charter School). BB’s point is that it solves the problem in the immediate here and now, from the charter schools’ point of view, to simply leave the more challenging children to the public schools. I agree — it solves the problem for the charter schools.

    It doesn’t solve the problem in the big picture, and of course makes things worse for the public schools and the students who remain in them.

    The fact that charter schools and their supporters are chronically misleading about the entire situation makes things still worse.

  20. Roger Sweeny says:

    Which is an argument for grouping students by readiness in the regular public schools, and for figuring out how to improve behavior in regular public schools, so that parents won’t be so drawn to charter schools.

    Unfortunately, we are, if anything going in the other direction. Now there is a push for “inclusion” of all students the same age in the same classroom, no matter the students motivation or degree of preparation. It is hoped that, perhaps with the help of an aide, the teacher will be able to sufficiently differentiate instruction to get everyone to learn.

    It is yet another unproven idea that will probably fail. However, it does not come from the Gates people who got criticized a few days back. It comes from where most unproven ideas come from in the ed business: from the ed schools.

  21. soulforce says:

    A few things about DCP that are important to realize.

    1) Our graduates represent our school population. We are a 98 percent latino school, with 86% free and reduced lunch. That statistics is the same for the senior class.

    2) Our graduates are almost 5 times more likely to graduate from college then other low income students in the state.

    3) 70 percent of our student arrive in the 9th grade 3 or more years behind, yet we believe all of them have the potential to thrive in college.

    We need all schools to believe in the limitless potential of young people.

  22. CarolineSF says:

    That’s all great. The issue here is the false touting of a 100% college matriculation rate actually when the majority of students leave before the beginning of 12th grade.

    Tom Vanderark, Joanne Jacobs — what’s your response?

  23. If DCP is not the better choice for the students that choose to go there, WHY do they choose to go there???

    My guess is the parents know that their kids will be lured into hanging with the wrong kids at large public schools, where they will be put into heterogeneous classes with bright kids and see the only choice as “not caring” or “being stupid” and choosing the former.

    Thus, the DCP kids aren’t doing well, but all the kids are doing better than they would be if they were not doing anything at public schools.

    And that’s a perfectly valid choice. Nothing to be ashamed of. However, it’s simply false to say that the kids are being better educated than the public schools are doing with the same kids. The public schools are doing the same or even better. But DCP can kick the wrongdoers back to the public schools, and save a few more kids who would otherwise be lured into doing nothing.

    So long as public schools can’t kick out the same kids, DCP will continue to serve a need. But it can only serve that need because it skims the low performing kids with parents who want them to do better. And it would do better still if it stopped pretending that the kids were being educated for college. They should spend all four years preparing the kids to succeed in remedial work at a junior college, and send the top kids back to SJ Unified, where they’d actually be better off. But that would involve acknowledging that they aren’t, in fact, preparing these kids for college.