“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 schools 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 Western States
Here are some outstanding charter schools that academically prepare underserved communities for college in the Western states.
Aspire Public Schools — California (plus several branches in Tennessee)
Founded by Don Shalvey, Deputy Director of US Programs at the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, and Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix and education philanthropist, Aspire Public Schools is one of the nation’s highest-performing charter school organizations, ranking number six in California, according the Academic Performance Index.
APS was in the top five percent for performance and achievement of similar-sized districts, outperforming the state average across all California systems. The school further distinguishes itself by requiring students to pass five college courses in order to receive their high school diplomas.
Denver School of Science and Technology — Colorado
DSST maintains a spirit of excellence by partnering with CH2M HILL and the Clinton Global Initiative to train students for STEM degrees and careers. The school’s website states that “DSST Public Schools transforms urban public education by eliminating educational inequity and preparing all students for success in college and the 21st century.” This tuition-free preparatory school has seven campuses and opens its doors to students from diverse racial and economic backgrounds.
In order for students to graduate, they must complete seven years of secondary math, eight years of lab-based sciences, a senior project, and an internship. The DSST program is stringent but offers summer-school programs for students who have not demonstrated grade-level proficiency in a particular subject.
DSST’s high academic expectations empower students to take the next educational step to college. “One hundred percent of DSST’s first graduating class was accepted into four-year colleges, including Stanford, MIT, Pomona, Cal Tech, and Wesleyan.”
Eastside College Preparatory School — California
Schools at East Palo Alto, CA have very low graduation rates. Sixty-five percent of learners drop out of high school, 35 percent do not graduate, and less than 10 percent are enrolled in four-year colleges.
The achievement gap for minorities is noticeable in the fields of math, science, and engineering. In an effort to improve these statistics, Eastside College Preparatory School, with the support of the Brin Wojcicki Foundation, offers a series of engineering and computer science classes that have been designed to prepare students for science and math majors and careers. Eastside also has math and literacy resource programs for students who are underprepared in those areas.
In 2007, a residential program enabled students to begin living on campus, a feature that allows them to receive added guidance, supplementary structure, and academic support. Upon graduation, all Eastside students have, at a minimum, taken the necessary coursework for admission to the University of California system.
All Eastside students are required to take part in a summer enrichment program each year. Incoming freshmen attend the Summer Bridge Program to get a head start on the upcoming academic year, and seniors attend Senior Summer Institute to prepare for the college application process.
Eastside Prep’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. In 2012, Alma Suney Park, a sixth-grade teacher, was the recipient of President Barack Obama 2012 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).
To learn more about outstanding charter schools in other regions, check out the other articles in our series:
- Notable Charter Schools by Region: Big Cities
- Notable Charter Schools By Region: The Southern States
Home | Aspire Public Schools. (n.d.). Retrieved August 5, 2014, from Aspire Public Schools.
Denver’s Science and Technology Public Schools — DSST. Retrieved August 5, 2014, from DSST.
Fullwood III, S. (2013, September 24). Why Economic Disadvantage Becomes Educational Disadvantage. Retrieved August 17, 2014.
Welcome to Eastside College Preparatory School. Retrieved August 5, 2014, from Eastside College preparatory School.
Landrieu, M. (2014, May 16). Charter Schools: Let Every Child Have Access. Retrieved October 29, 2014.