College acceptance rates are misleading

Charter schools love to boast about the percentage of their graduates who are accepted at college.  But what they don’t talk about is the percentage who actually graduate (“The Unmet Promises of a New Orleans Charter School,” The Nation, Sep. 30).  If they did, they would be embarrassed.

The latest example is the graduating class at Sci Academy in New Orleans.  Despite its efforts to help students make the transition to handle college-level work, they have failed miserably.  It proudly announced that 49 of its 52 graduates were headed to college.  But by Christmas of their freshmen year, 12 percent had either dropped out or transferred to a community college.  In contrast, some of its graduates who went directly to work had reached the middle class working in various government jobs.  Only six of Sci’s first graduates finished college within six years, which is the federal standard for on-time graduation.

But Sci is not alone.  KIPP, the nation’s largest nonprofit charter school network, said that only one third of its alumni have earned a bachelor’s degree.  That may be above average for low-income students but a long way from its goal of 75 percent.  I haven’t seen data from Success Academy in New York City yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if its graduates do not fare better either.

Charter schools’ claim to fame is the percentage of their graduates who are accepted at college. But college is not for everyone.  It takes a certain IQ, motivation, and grit to succeed.  Advising everyone to apply to college is destructive.  Students quickly realize they are over their head.  So they drop out, with onerous student debt.  I continue to believe that they would be far better served by pursuing a vocational course of study, coupled with an apprenticeship.

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