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100% College-Going Rate at Chicago Charter School: A Miracle Or Scam?

Chicago finally has something to celebrate as the Urban Prep Academies are once again sending 100% of their graduating students off to college for the fourth year in a row. The only problem is that some parents, critics, skeptics, and bloggers are breaking their silence and claiming that the miraculous graduation rate is more of a scam than a miracle.

All 167 seniors who attended the all-boys charter school in Chicago are off to college and celebrated their outstanding achievements at their graduation on Thursday.

The media has been sent into a frenzy as families are celebrating the over 100 young men were able to conquer the obstacles before them and graduate high school.

In the midst of gang violence, pointless shootings, death of loved ones, and a struggling economy each and every one of the students have been accepted into college and are ready to further their education.

The miraculous graduation rates has earned the high school the informal title of “Hogwarts in the Hood” but Urban Prep’s founder and CEO Tim King says there is no magic at play here, just dedicated students.

“The only magic going on at Urban Prep is the magic that these guys put in with their hard work and dedication,” he said of the graduating class.

According to some media outlets and some troubled Chicago parents, however, the school’s success is nothing but media framing at its best.

“I pulled my son out of Urban Prep this year,” an anonymous reader posted back in 2011 on an article about Urban Prep’s graduation rates. “Their mission statement is encouraging, but say to say they don’t stand behind it.”

The most troubling accusation of the comment was the fact that the students may not even be prepared for college although the school is telling them that they are.

“The kids scores are below high school level,” the parent continued. “Freshmen and Sophomores reading and math scores are between 3rd and 7th grade, without any real plan for improvement. They absolutely did not have a lot of homework.”

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the comment also accuses teachers of changing grades to help students pass.

“And when you have teachers changing grades because they asked,” the comment continued. “Well, I am just saying m son doesn’t need that type of support to get ahead. He needs to be taught not passed.”

That’s the not the only accusation of something fishy going on either.

Several media outlets have reported suddenly drops in the numbers of students enrolled in the school once graduation time starts to roll around.

The decreasing numbers are leading some people to believe that the charter school is simply getting rid of the students who are not on the right track to graduate or who will be graduating but haven’t been accepted into a college yet.

The problem with this theory, however, is that every high school has a jump in student withdrawals around graduation time. Parents of students who aren’t on track to graduate may choose to pull their child out and re-enroll them in another school to protect them from bullying or embarrassment.

A few kids dropping out doesn’t always mean that it’s the school trying to get rid of them.

At the same time, we should still be celebrating the young men who did manage to graduate high school in the midst of chaos.

One student revealed that he lost his mother to cancer and his father to a shooting during his senior year but he still prevailed and managed to graduate.

Other students faced poverty and managed to focus on school work even when they didn’t have food on the table or a sufficient roof over their head.

At least for a short while can we celebrate their achievements? Is it fair that when they work so hard to reach success they are automatically accused of cheating to get it?

Is it really that hard for the media to believe that a group of African American males can all excel in school and be ready to go off to college?

The real concern shouldn’t even be the drop rates of students, it should be the accusations being made by parents that teachers are changing grades.

If the school really is passing students and not pushing them past an elementary reading level, they will ultimately embark on their journey to college only to fall dangerously behind.

Making it into college is only half the battle, if the students aren’t prepared for the hard work and higher level reading, the charter school may be setting them up for failure and disguising it as a miraculous achievement.

For now, we can only hope that the boys will be ready and will be successful as they further their education.

“I’m ecstatic for my brothers, my family, and for myself as well,” said Derrick Newton who graduated this year. “It’s just a great honor to be here right now.”

It certainly is an honor and it should be an ecstatic time for Newton and the entire city of Chicago; and the media has no right to take that away from them.


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