YES Prep is a charter chain in Houston that was started by a TFA alum and is currently run by Jeremy Beard, the husband of TFA CEO Elisa Villanueva-Beard. In the recent US News and World Report ratings YES prep had several high rated high schools.
Charter schools are supposed to be education innovators and YES prep is, as far as I can tell, the inventor of one of the biggest half-truths in recent education history — the 100% college acceptance rate, failing to mention, that this is really just 100% of the graduating seniors, which could be much less than the original cohort. I first heard about this in 2010 when Oprah awarded them $1 million, in part, because of this amazing, beating-the-odds statistic.
Over the years, various reformers and charter schools have used the 100% college acceptance rate trick to their advantage. Arne Duncan did it with Urban Prep Charter schools in 2011. Michael Johnston continues to use it for the school he was principal of as he currently runs for Governor of Colorado. Just the other day I saw something on Twitter about a Milwaukee charter school that claimed 100% college acceptance and it turned out that their senior class had 33 students vs. their freshman class of 140.
Considering that YES Prep is run by the husband of the CEO of TFA, I think they are definitely worthy of examination. Over the years I’ve uncovered various scandals about them. One is that 2 out of 12 of their middle schools are ‘F’ rated in Houston. The biggest, though, is that while 14% of their middle school students are black, only 3.5% of their high school students are. This is pretty strong evidence that YES prep has a discriminatory practice for their high school admissions.
Since TFA is one of the darlings of the ed reform movement (Arne Duncan spoke at a fund raiser in Chicago the other day) and since YES prep is the darling of TFA (now that KIPP has had a big scandal involving a TFA-alum founder and, allegedly, a student), and with the TFA CEO being married to the head of YES prep, all these shady dealing are very relevant and not very widely known.
I recently obtained a copy of YES Prep’s 83 page student guidebook. In there, among other things, it is easily seen how they can maintain their 100% college acceptance rate for graduating seniors: Getting into college is a graduation requirement. Here is the section from page 13:
Some other things I found interesting from their handbook:
Page 10: In the parent section, this is a strange thing the parents have to sign on to. There is a partnership with the parents, the students, and the school. If the school is doing things that provoke the students into misbehaving, then the school should be a shared partner in this.
Page 12: State test scores are used as a factor in determining if a student is promoted to the next grade level.
Page 13: Students have to take an AP test. This seems designed to get the school better ratings in US News, which uses that as a big factor.
Page 16-17: Their retention policy is very vague and gives them a lot of power to use this as a way to get students to transfer out.
Page 17: Students who have less than 90% attendance may not get promoted to middle school. Also students who don’t do well on the state test.
Page 17-18 to be promoted from 8th to 9th grade, need 90% attendance and passing the state tests.
Page 20: If they get into college, but then their college acceptance gets rescinded for any reason, they no longer are eligible to graduate.
Page 34: Being late 10% of the time and missing 1st period can cause you to lose credit for that class.