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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Charters get grads to college, but few graduate

Urban charter schools are getting their low-income, minority students to college, but few go on to earn college degrees, reports Greg Toppo on USA Today.

At the Los Angeles-based Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, 95% of their low-income students graduate from high school and go on to college,” he writes. “Virtually all qualify to attend California state universities.”

Yet only 22 percent earn a four-year college degree within six years.

About 23 percent of low-income charter students complete a bachelor’s degree within six years, according to research on the high school class of 2008. Another 5 percent earned associate degrees. Nationally, only 9 percent of the lowest-income students complete college. “For low-income, high-minority urban public schools, most comparable to charters,” the college completion rate is 15 percent, writes Toppo.

Raising college graduation rates will be “our job for the next 10 years,” said Alliance CEO Dan Katzir.

In 2009, 15 years after the popular Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) opened its first middle school — and five years after its first high school — KIPP . . . found that six years after finishing high school, only about one in five students in New York City had earned a college degree. . . . The chain began focusing less on simply getting students to college and more on skills that would help them get through college, with an eye toward turning out graduates who could be successful after they left the heavily structured KIPP environment. “We weren’t trying to produce kids who were just great eighth-grade test-takers,” (Steve) Mancini said.

KIPP encouraged seniors to apply to more colleges and “trained college counselors to match students more closely with colleges that fit their abilities,” writes Toppo.

Two years later, the  four-year college completion rate had risen to 33 percent. In 2016, it hit 45 percent, with another 6 percent earning associate degrees.

Many charter networks with disadvantaged students now provide extensive counseling to help their graduates deal with academic, social and financial problems in college. Like KIPP, they’re also looking at how to prepare students to be independent learners in college.

San Jose’s Downtown College Prep analyzed its how its graduates are doing in college in I Am The First.

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