The Inspiring Young Men of Urban Prep Academy

For the second year in a row, a Chicago public high school has seen all of its graduating class accepted into a four-year college or university. Urban Prep Academy for Young Men, a school specifically for male African American students, is an example of how excellent education opportunities can turn around young lives.

Urban Prep Academy for Young Men Chicago Public Schools 100 percent graduation college attendance charter reform

An Unlikely Story

Last year, Urban Prep Academy for Young Men sent off its first graduating class into the world, each of the 107 students heading to a four-year college. This would be an achievement in any school, but it's even more remarkable given that only four percent of students entered the school reading at grade level.

This year brought a repeat performance. Of the 2011 graduating class, all 104 students will have the chance to attend a four-year school in the fall. The academy's young men, only 11 percent of whom entered the school reading at grade level, have been accepted to attend some the country's most selective schools. Many students are even receiving full scholarships to attend these institutions.

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A Model of Reform

Established in 2006, Urban Prep Academy's Englewood campus is the first public charter high school in the United States. The institution was created to directly address dismal dropout and college attendance rates among Chicago students, specifically targeting African American boys from economically depressed neighborhoods. About 60 percent of black males in Chicago Public Schools drop out and only one in 40 African American boys from the school system attend a four-year college or university.

To address the specific challenges faced by this population of students, Urban Prep Academy founder Tim King endeavored 'to create a school that was going to put black boys in a different place.' The curriculum at Urban Prep Academy has been developed based on the learning styles and developmental stages of boys. The school features longer days, a code of conduct policy and student uniforms. Programming also accounts for the challenges of living in poor neighborhoods.

Urban Prep Academy for Young Men Chicago Public Schools 100 percent graduation college attendance charter reform

Delivering Results

High expectations and discipline have paid off for the students of Urban Prep Academy. These budding scholars are succeeding in their own lives while helping to end negative stereotypes about young black men. The work of their teachers, who are available on nights and weekends to help students with schoolwork, is reaping remarkable results.

Given this impressive performance, Urban Prep Academy has gained national attention for its innovative approach to education. In an address to the National Press Club, Education Secretary Arne Duncan lauded the school for its success producing college grads in the face of neighborhood challenges. Duncan has cited the school's success as evidence of the power charter schools can have in transforming learning communities.

Learn about one Penn State University professor's efforts to improve education in American public schools.

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