“It’s high school graduation season, when many students are celebrating the end of their high school career. But some schools are deciding that their job doesn’t end with the granting of a diploma — or even a send-off to college.
Top charter schools can often boast of sending virtually all of their graduates to college, even when the majority of their students are low-income or are the first members of their families to pursue post-high school educations.
As it turns out, many of those students don’t earn a degree.
Some of the best charter school networks — places like the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) or Harlem Children’s Zone — are working to change that. They are not only helping their graduates get into college, but are also counseling them once they are on university campuses. The idea is to boost the number of graduates who earn bachelor’s degrees.
For KIPP, the wake-up call came when the organization did an audit of graduates of two of its middle schools in 2011. They found that just one-third had completed a bachelor’s degree 10 or more years after graduating.
As it turns out, KIPP’s graduation rate is actually impressive, given that 90 percent of their students are low-income. The college completion rate for this socio-economic group is a mere 9 percent.
The rate for the highest income students is 75 percent. That’s what KIPP wants to see for its graduates. The fact that they were falling so short of that goal was sobering, says Jane Martinez Dowling, head of KIPP NYC Through College. “We realized how hard this work is,” she says.
Dowling’s office is charged with raising college completion figures. Her team of counselors work with hundreds of KIPP graduates on the East Coast. They keep in regular touch with KIPPsters (as graduates are called), mentoring them on their study habits and course selection and meeting with their advisers.
Photo courtesy NPR and Harlem Children’s Zone
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