“There’s another headline USA Today could have put on its article: Attending a charter public school boosts students chances of graduating college by 50 percent. The statistics in the story support that for low-income students of color who live in cities, an 8-point difference in four-year degree attainment between those who graduated from charter high schools and graduates of district public schools.
“The bigger story is: All schools serving low-income students and students of color (as charter schools do in higher percentages than traditional district schools) need to build on their success in boosting college enrollment to focus as well on college completion. Charter networks such as Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, Democracy Prep and KIPP are showing the way with the smart data-tracking, counseling and post-graduation supports that the article highlighted. One reason we know college completion is such a problem is because these schools prioritize monitoring it. The article didn’t give them credit for doing that and transparently sharing the data with USA Today.
“There’s work for postsecondary educators, too. Charter schools place a priority on knowing each student as an individual and providing customized supports that lead to college, but that same personal, nurturing approach isn’t always what students encounter when they get to college. On top of that, tuition costs, food insecurity, class schedules and campus norms can work against students who’ve overcome the odds to get to college. The article points out ways that charter schools are identifying those colleges and universities that do the best job of supporting students who arrive with disadvantages that cause them to struggle on campus. We need more of those schools, in more communities.
“With most good jobs requiring a college degree, walking across the stage in 12th grade can no longer be the mission-accomplished moment for any high school district, public charter or private. As the article noted, many charter schools and networks are focusing on college completion and getting strong results. We hope that the attention on the importance of college completion will also lead district-run schools to put resources into tracking the outcomes of their students and playing a support role in their educations well after they graduate.”