Video: Hating On Urban Prep

Is it possible that all of us who've bashed Urban Prep for its ridiculous string of great press and its 100 percent graduation rate just haters? It's worth considering, if just for a moment. There's an awful habit in education (and other fields) of tearing down other peoples' success and making excuses for our own weaknesses -- and comparing things to the ideal rather than the real.  What if Urban Prep's graduation rate is only 80 percent, when all is said and done?  That's still an awful lot better than most schools do for poor black boys.

Filed under: Media Watch


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  • I must admit I am vastly confused about the praise for Urban Prep Charter. This school in 2009 on the PSAE had only 24.6% of its 11th grade students meeting or exceeding standards in reading, in 2010 again only 24.6% were meeting or exceeding standards in reading. In math on the PSAE in 2009 only 12.7% were meeting or exceeding standards, in 2010 that percentage dropped to 11%. While these scores are better than high schools like Manley or Robeson they are actually a little worse than several north side general high schools like Amundsen, Schurz, or about the same as Roosevelt. Urban Prep is not even in competition with the main campus of Noble Street Charter which had in 2010 42.6% of its 11th graders reading at or above state standards and 61.5% meeting or exceeding PSAE math standards.

    It gets worse when we look at ACT scores. Urban prep had an average ACT score in 2010 of only 16. Again better than Manley or Robeson, but worse than some north side general high schools like Steinmetz or Mather. This data can all be seen at

    I honestly do not think that the standard we should be measuring Urban Prep by is the one Alexander suggests: "[Urban Prep is] still an awful lot better than most schools do for poor black boys." The scores Urban Prep are putting up are nothing to cheer about and certainly nothing to base a Mayoral campaign on. By the way Alexander according to the ISBE in 2009 Urban Prep had only 78.7% low income students, the average school in the city had a low income percent of 83.4%. Amundsen had 81.7%, Schurz had 89.1%, and Noble Street had 86.2% low income. At least 21.3% of the boys attending Urban Prep do not qualify as poor.

    Rod Estvan

  • I do not think in any way I hate the Urban Prep Academy, nor charter schools in general. I actually think Noble Street charter's main campus is one of the better public schools in the city. But I have a deep dislike for contemporary journalism which gives Urban Prep a pass because it claims to have a 100% graduation rate and places 100% of the graduates in college. When we are seeing very weak test score data for this school the first thing that comes to mind is the media's howling about social promotion. It seems very, very difficult to argue that there is not some type of social promotion going on at Urban Prep, but apparently it is ok at this school. But it is a high crime at traditional schools.

    When teachers at traditional schools pointed at the problems with effectively educating low income black students they were effectively accused of having low expectations. Now on this blog I am reading apologists for Urban Prep making the same arguments, that is extremely interesting isn't it?

    Now don't get me wrong, I support social promotion for students who work hard and show progress even if their standardized tests scores are very low. Some of these students will do well in life to be sure. To be honest special education has been legally socially promoting students for years and it has not always been a good thing for generating high expectations for these students. But here is the contradiction, Urban Prep Academy is part of the process promoted by Mayor Daley to end social promotion which he equated in a speech to a crime against students.

    I want to make several additional observations on the public performance data of Urban Prep. Not one disabled student at the 11th grade level could read at state standards in 2009, there were 10 such students in 2009. Five of these 10 students with disabilities were reading at the very lowest level, effectively functionally illiterate. This is unfortunately not uncommon in CPS, when I look at numerous all African American general high schools I see similar performance for this subgroup over and over again.

    As I stated in my earlier post on Urban Prep the school has a lower percentage of low income students than most CPS general high schools. How did Urban Prep do with low income vs. non-low income students? In 2009 118 Urban Prep students were given the PSAE of these 103 were low income and 15 came from families above the formal poverty line. Only 24 of the 103 low income students were able to read at state standards or 23.3%, of the 15 above the poverty line only 5 were able to read at state standards or 33.3%. This of course tells us something which is that this school like all others has a performance gap between low income and non low income students. Effectively in 2009 Urban Prep did worse for poor African American boys than those from higher income families.

    On this issue how does Urban Prep compare to CPS as a whole? In 2009 CPS tested on the PSAE reading section 16,863 low income students and 29% met or exceeded state standards in reading. In 2009 CPS tested on the PSAE reading section 3,847 non-low income students and 57% of these student met or exceeded state standards in reading. I would say based just on this one year Urban Prep does not look particularly effective in comparison to the school district as a whole. This is why Urban Prep did not meet AYP standards, funny no one in the media is mentioning that.

    Rod Estvan

  • The Street Agent

    He was a pleasant old gentleman who wore two hats. One as a day to day sub,
    the other as an agent for small to tiny to obscure colleges. For every senior he got into
    One of these schools they paid him a fee. He was good at both jobs .I cannot tell how many kids he
    helped into these schools but he did tell me he could place any high school graduate
    into a college.
    Perhaps that is why the Urban Prep boast didn

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