"YES" Preps Students for College

There are more then 50 Charter Schools in Houston, some with low performance problems and others that are doing quite well. Among the latter are five schools that require an acceptance letter from a four year college to graduate from high school. Houston Public Radio's Rod Rice reports on Yes Prep Public Schools.

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How do make sure 100% of your graduates get into college? It's done by being committed, totally, to your students. Dylan Ramlochan is in 6th grade and has only been at Yes Prep for two weeks and he's already seen the difference.

"At my old school if we have a question they didn't give us the teacher's phone numbers."

At Yes Prep students can call their teachers to ask questions about their home work. Dylan is a student at the newest Yes Prep at Lee High School. It is just beginning the third week of summer school for new 6th graders, who will end up in college.

"People often ask us what's the magic bullet?"

Bill Durbin is Yes Prep Lee's School Director.

"There isn't really a magic bullet, it's called longer hours, we're in school about 65% longer than most school, it's a lot of homework, it's a lot of practice and it's a lot of individual one-on-one time with students."

Now if you think the secret is that Yes Prep takes only top performing students, Durbin says you'd be wrong.

"We're open enrolment schools so any student any student that wants to come can come in, we don't look at test scores, there's no application to register, so pretty much it's filling out a form and getting into the waiting pool."

Some Yes Prep's have waiting lists but because Yes Prep Lee is new it still has some 6th grade openings. And that's another thing about Yes. It will open a new school one grade at a time. Yes Prep Lee is only 6th grade, next year that class will be the first Yes Prep Lee 7th grade class. It takes seven years to build a Yes Prep school into a 6th through 12th grade institution.

Yes Prep students are mostly minorities and economically disadvantaged. Most enter Yes at lest a grade behind in math and reading. Bill Durbin says there are no cracks to fall through at Yes if they show up and do the work they'll go to college.

The longer hours, individual attention, week-end and summer commitments can make teaching at Yes Prep a hard job, and it is, but Nella Garcia who's been with Yes for four years says the job comes with built in benefits.

"When you are part of this Yes team, you know that you are on the front lines of changing education and honestly there's nothing that makes me feel better."

Bill Durbin jokingly says he does the job because he likes the punishment. In reality he believes that education equity is the civil rights issue of the day.

"The more that we can educate everyone and do it really well, the better off we're all going to be. We can't continue to have a college graduation rate for African Americans and Hispanics of about 13-percent. That's just not good enough. We have to educate everyone and give everyone the same educational opportunities."

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