There is only one thing that proves to be more expensive than education in life. The lack of it.
But, when addressed, the results are nothing short of a miracle — ESPECIALLY in America’s inner-cities.
In fact, a book I recently wrote, Miracle on Cooper Street, showed that beginning a decade ago, we took inner city kids from schools in Camden, New Jersey, where dropout rates were higher than 50 percent.
Then we proceeded to graduate 100 percent of them. Each year. Thirteen years in a row.
Moreover, 100 per cent went on to college – some to schools such as Brown, Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania.
For other cities looking for similar results, prepare to change and charge ahead, confident that your kids can attain the same results.
Indeed, the work that my colleagues and I have led in Camden, New Jersey provides evidence and hope for the possibilities to adapt new practices to different settings where social and economic conditions disconnect the most vulnerable members of our communities from opportunity and prosperity.
If you provide children with quality education options, support families and children holistically in a community setting and enlist the support of universities as partners with community, you produce better academic results and improved community outcomes.
Then what happens? Eventually, the cycle of poverty breaks. One family at a time.
The school I founded, the LEAP Academy University Charter School in Camden, provides an example of what can be — for those cities that are open to the change.
LEAP is built on the premise that a school can enhance the education and future career opportunities for urban minority children and families.
The School has a dual focus on closing the achievement gap and ensuring college preparation and completion among African American and Latino students who are poor and mostly first-generation college students.
LEAP has successfully developed a comprehensive educational Pipeline program that integrates pre-kindergarten through secondary education, all in one street.
Several elements have contributed to the School’s success in college placement and graduation rates, including:
• A focus on building an educational pipeline that supports children from infancy through college to ensure that we address the academic and socio-emotional needs of children as early as possible.
• Integrating school-based support structures to help children and families stay in the pipeline, including a Family Support Center and a School Based Health Center that provides health, counseling and wellness services to families and students.
• For classroom teachers, performance-based evaluation and providing professional development options that guide teachers in improving student learning and academic growth.
• Having an extended school day and school year to allow time to provide experiences that lead to better outcomes for children and increased engagement with families and community.
• A college-going culture that includes families and students throughout all grade levels anchored in the integration of college readiness through college access centers at each school building.
• Dual Enrollment in College courses and STEM internships for all our students.
• Engaging parents while working to strengthen their capacity and self-sufficiency by keeping a two-generation focus that binds families and children together.
We understand that governments and universities are searching for viable approaches to improve the quality of educational opportunities for poor children and how best integrate education within larges agendas for community development.
This framework creates new conditions for effectively preparing children and adults to participate as full members in the civic, cultural, and economic life of the community and region. The nature of how we plan this comprehensive initiative has become a replicable model and one that could be very useful in other parts of the United States of abroad.
Our teachers at the very start tell our kids how to shake a hand firmly, and look people in the eye. No insecure looking away. Project who you are, because you are SOMEBODY in the world, no matter the condition of the house you came from and go home to.
And this model has worked in Camden. Could it work elsewhere?
I believe the answer is a resounding ‘yes.’