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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Charters get more poor kids ‘through’ college

Top charter networks have increased the college-completion rate dramatically for their low-income black and Latino graduates, concludes Richard Whitmore, who’s posted a series called The Alumni on The 74. 

Getting disadvantaged students to college isn’t enough, charter leaders have concluded, according to Whitmire. What matters is getting them through college to a bachelor’s degree.

Nationwide, only 9 percent of low-income blacks and Latino students earn four-year degrees within six years, compared with 77 percent of students from high-income families, as of 2015, he writes.

The six-year graduation rate is 50 percent for graduates of Uncommon Schools, based in New York, and 46.7 percent for graduates of Houston-based YES Prep Public Schools.

While Uncommon provides lots of in-college support for its graduates, the focus is on academic preparation, said Paul Brambrick-Santoyo, the network’s curriculum director. “If you had a million dollars to spend on boosting college graduation rates, would you spend it on expanding in-college supports or boosting the quality of grades 5–12?”

Image result for uncommon schools graduates

Uncommon works hard to raise grades (do your homework!) and SAT scores: Both strongly predict college success. The schools have changed writing and science instruction to get students to think for themselves.

Success rates are rising: Half of Uncommon Schools’ class of 2013 earned a bachelor’s degree in four years and another 23 percent are enrolled. Many more Uncommon students are choosing STEM majors.

Other college graduation rates are: KIPP Public Charter Schools (38 percent), Texas-based IDEA Public Schools (35 percent), Achievement First (32 percent), Chicago-based Noble Network of Charter Schools (31 percent), Los Angeles-based Alliance College-Ready Public Schools: (25 percent) and Oakland-based Aspire Public Schools (25 percent).

Los Angeles-based Green Dot Public Schools claims 55 to 60 percent of its graduates complete a bachelor’s degree within six years, but Whitmire isn’t sure the numbers are accurate.

Here are Whitmire’s “facts, figures and caveats.”

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