Boston Prep Shows Public Schools How to Get a 100% College Acceptance Rate
Posted By Donna Fuscaldo on December 16, 2015 at 12:07 pm
Charter schools play an important role in educating and preparing students to earn a college degree. But for many of these schools in poor areas and inner-city neighborhoods around the country, getting their students to graduate high school is all they can ask for. Outside circumstances often play a bigger role in whether or not the student simply attends school, let alone graduates.
But one school is proving it can be done and in one of Boston’s neighborhoods that lacked its own school. Boasting a 100% college acceptance rate, Boston Prep in Hyde Park is churning out graduates who are attending Stanford University and Williams College. And that’s with many of the students entering the grades 6 through 12 prep school with a 3rd-grade reading level. “It’s all about giving kids an environment that is conducive to learning,” says Preston McSwain, founder of Fiduciary Wealth Partners and a director at Boston Prep. “We believe writing, reading and arithmetic need to come first.”
College degrees will be a requirement for the future workforce
While graduation rates among high school students in the U.S. are high, the numbers in several large cities tell a starkly different story. According to America’s Promise Alliance, graduation rates in the 50 largest cities are well below the national average. What’s more, DoSomething.org says that over 1.2 million students drop out of high school every year in the U.S., amounting to one student every 26 seconds.
For students who do graduate high school, many in poorer areas don’t go on to attend college. This sets them up for a lifetime of lower wages amid a backdrop of increased demand for college graduates. According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, by 2020, 65 percent of all jobs in the economy will require a college degree and training beyond high school. However, in the Hyde Park neighborhood where Boston Prep is located, only 25.8% of adults age 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 43.9% in the entire city of Boston and 39.4% in Massachusetts.
What makes Boston Prep a charter school success story is the fact that the school is located in an area that has high dropout rates and some of the lowest test scores in the state. Yet, it is able to produce some of the highest test scores in Massachusetts and a 100% acceptance rate for college. Like in many other states, students who attend Boston Prep are chosen through a lottery system, which means the school isn’t picking and choosing who can attend.
What could be the reason for Boston Prep’s success is that it holds high expectations for its students, regardless of their level when entering the school. Purposely, the curriculum is designed to challenge students and break away from old learning stereotypes.
For instance, McSwain says the school offers Latin as a second language, has longer school days, requires students to wear a uniform, adheres to a rigorous code of conduct and holds Saturday classes for students who are falling behind. An emphasis is also placed on preparing students for college throughout the seven years of schooling. But it doesn’t stop there.
Boston Prep also aims to foster ethical growth via weekly ethics classes and a school culture built by the students. Not to mention, it requires school to be a whole family experience, not just for the students. “The students are going to be involved in school, and we want the family and community to be involved as well. While we can’t mandate that, we strongly encourage high family involvement,” says McSwain.
Successful charter schools ignore learning myths
Unlike other high schools that focus only on preparing students for college, helping them apply to school and then sending them on their way, Boston Prep works with its students once they graduate to ensure they are successful in their pursuit of a college degree. Alumni of Boston Prep receive regular, individualized coaching and mentoring, networking support, book stipends and emergency financial support. This may largely contribute to the fact that 85 percent of its alumni are currently pursuing a degree and not dropping out.
This is particularly telling given the college completion rate among poor students is much lower than their wealthy counterparts. Consider this: According to the University of Pennsylvania’s Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy, in 2013, 77% of adults from families that were in the top income bracket earned a bachelor’s degree or higher by the time they turned 24. That’s up 40% from 1970. Yet, only 9% of people in the lowest income bracket earned a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2013, up only 6% from 1970.
Boston Prep isn’t the only charter school having successes in inner cities around the country. Urban Prep Academies, serving Chicago, has had 100% college acceptance for its Englewood, West and Bronzeville campuses for six consecutive years. Like Boston Prep, the school’s emphasis is on preparing students for college, and it refuses to believe in negative stereotypes and low expectations. Instead, the school pushes its students to achieve more.
“If there are little-to-no distractions, students can be focused on education,” says McSwain. With the charter schools that are having successes, “there is a lot of nurturing and care. The curriculum is obtainable and also challenging.”