“Why are academically gifted students from poor families less likely to attend top-ranked colleges and universities than equally smart kids from wealthy families?”
This is the question that Alexandria Walton Radford poses in her new book, “Top Student, Top School? How Social Class Shapes Where Valedictorians Go to College.” She explains that some of the reasons behind this disparity are lack of opportunities, absence of guidance towards college, and a minimum of access to resources.
Charter schools help facilitate access to excellent education. While sometimes charter schools can be controversial, they can often provide underserved communities with affordable schooling opportunities where children can excel.
In this series, Noodle highlights some of the most successful charter school across the nation. The following charter schools have proven to be excellent choices due to their emphasis on:
- Teacher feedback
- Data-driven instruction
- Robust academic training
- Increased instructional time
- High expectations for each student
The Southern States
Here are some outstanding charter schools that academically prepare underserved communities for college in the Southern states.
New Orleans Charter Science and Math Academy — New Orleans
New Schools of New Orleans (NSNO) had more than 95 percent of its first three graduating classes accepted to colleges across the country. Sci Academy is an open enrollment, tuition-free high school in New Orleans East. According to the school’s website, “in the last past four years, Sci Academy has obtained the highest statewide test scores among open-enrollment high schools in New Orleans.”
95 percent of the Sci Academy student body is comprised of African-Americans. All learners engage in a robust curriculum that encompasses core subjects — math, language arts, social studies, and science. Honors and AP courses are also offered, as are co-curricular activities.
The Academy offers ACT prep classes and a course that prepares students for the college application process. In 2014, the nonprofit organization Children at Risk placed Sci Academy on its list of best high school math and science programs. The school ranked 11th for math and science, and 7th overall.
Orlando Science School — Orlando
The school’s state-of-the-art educational models for subjects like math, science, and reading align with the Florida Sunshine State Standards and have been recognized by the United States Department of Education as exemplary. They’ve also earned acknowledgment from the Florida Department of Education as a High Performing Charter School. OSS’s accolades are due in part to its dedicated staff, committed students, and involved parents.
The school’s math curriculum uses a variety of teaching methodologies, including lecture, class discussions, hands-on and computer-based exercises, math labs, and structured study teams. Students work with their classmates in small collaborative groups that allow each member to become actively involved in producing information rather than passively storing knowledge Students utilize tools like quizzes, portfolios, formative and summative tests, and practice tests. The school’s curricular program centers on phonemic awareness, phonics, and reading comprehension.
YES Prep Public Schools — Houston
Students of YES Prep Public Schools of Houston, Texas have outperformed the rest of the state in the areas of reading, writing, math, and science.
YES Prep is a free, open enrollment public school system that serves 8,000 students from disadvantaged communities in 13 integrated campuses, with 900 employees for grades 6–12. For 15 years, the preparatory school has upheld one fundamental principle — that all students, irrespective of race or socio-economic background, can achieve high academic success. Teachers have cell phones, subsidized by the school, so that students can communicate with them in the evenings and on weekends if needed.
"YES" stands for Youth Engaged in Service. Students at these charter schools make a commitment to give back to their communities by volunteering one Saturday each month.
YES Prep uses the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills standards (TEKS). Students are evaluated several times during the school year to address academic issues, and solutions are applied based on the findings. Students are required to take the SAT and a minimum of one Advanced Placement (AP) course while in high school. To ensure that every student is college-ready by the end of 12th grade, YES Prep has an extended school day and school year, and it requires students to engage in spring visits to colleges across the country.
To learn more about outstanding charter schools in other regions, check out the other articles in our series:
Landrieu, M. (2014, May 16). Charter Schools: Let Every Child Have Access. Retrieved October 29, 2014.
New Orleans Sci Academy. Retrieved August 5, 2014, from Sci Academy.
Orlando Science Schools — Orlando Science Charter School. Retrieved August 5, 2014, from Orlando Science School.
Yes Prep — Public Schools. Educational Model. Retrieved August 5, 2014, from Yes Prep.