Response from previous post
In my last email, I included an email and article highlighting the news from Uplift Education, a first-rate charter operator in Dallas that I visited in October 2009 (see 10 photos at: https://picasaweb.google.com/WTilson/Uplift?authkey=Gv1sRgCL7E2rGyr4qxNA), and included this quote: "We recently had our first college signing day on the campus of SMU, celebrating the 100% college acceptance rate for our 200 seniors (over 1,000 acceptances and $25 million of scholarships)…"
One of my friends replied, asking: 1) What percent of Uplift's incoming freshman made it through to graduation and college, and 2) How have Uplift's previous graduates done in college so far? These are VERY important questions (and I'll share Uplift's answer to them in my next email) because it's easy for even a lousy school to trumpet that 100% of its graduates are going to college by letting the most troubled kids who are unlikely to go to college drop out (or push them out) and/or send them to noncompetitive (typically two-year) colleges where they are unlikely to ever get a two-year degree, much less a four-year one. (To be clear: I'm not questioning Uplift at all – everything I've heard and seen tells me that it's a great operation. Rather, my last email triggered some thinking on a critical issue.)
This is why KIPP tracks – and reported in its recently released College Completion Report (see www.kipp.org/ccr) – the percentage of its 8th grade graduates who earn a four-year college degree. Here's what I sent around in my email at that time (http://edreform.blogspot.com/2011/05/promise-of-college-completion.html):
The Promise of College Completion
KIPP recently released its first College Completion Report, entitled The Promise of College Completion: KIPP's Early Successes and Challenges (attached and posted at: www.kipp.org/ccr). I'm dedicating this entire email to it because it's so important: at the end of the day, closing the achievement gap doesn't mean a certain percentage of kids scoring at grade level on a test or earning a high school degree. No, what REALLY matters is what percent of students earn a four-year college degree, which today is pretty much a requirement to have a fair shot at the American Dream (this wasn't always true – in my parents' generation, a high school degree was sufficient).
I have never seen another middle school ANYWHERE – regular public, public charter, or private – report the college completion rate of its EIGHTH GRADE graduates; the best I've seen, for middle schools, is high school completion rates, and, for high schools, college acceptance (or, in a few cases, matriculation) rates. But these statistics don't mean much, as KIPP's experience shows: 95% of its 8thgrade graduates earned a high school degree and 89% enrolled in college, but "only" 33% earned a four-year degree within six years. I say "only" because, while 33% might not sound impressive, it's actually equal to the national average and is FOUR TIMES the rate for low-income students. In addition, more recent KIPP classes are trending toward nearly a 50% four-year college completion rate!
KIPP, as usual, is leading the way in terms of data collection, reporting and self-assessment. I think every school district and charter school/CMO in this country should be required to track students, staring in 8th grade, and report publicly how many finish high school, matriculate to college, earn a two-year degree, and earn a four-year degree. Now THAT would create some seriously interesting results – and accountability!