The Author

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I am a high school English teacher, and mother of two charming little ones of my own. I teach in a high poverty urban charter school, while I live in a typical American suburb that has frequently been rated one of the safest cities in the country. It is a paradox I struggle with constantly, but it is my life.

Monday, April 26, 2010

College Prep

So, I teach at a "college prep" school. I put that in quotes because it is sort of a misnomer. Yes, we are literally college prep in that we do not offer "general" or "remedial" courses; every class that we teach will apply to a CSU or UC school. We are also college prep in the fact that our diploma requirements are the same requirements that it takes to get in to college, unlike many high schools where you just have to meet the state minimums. Our students do need 2 years of foreign language and a year of art, among all the other college prep requirements. We are also college prep in the way that most of our teachers plan our curriculum; we truly are planning coursework that we believe will prepare the students for college. If a student gets an A or B in my classes, then he or she is truly approaching college readiness (understood that I teach 10th grade), and the A and B students often are demonstrating this already by taking and succeeding in college courses during high school, since we are linked to a nearby junior college.

Why the quotes then? Well, because our student body is not what one typically thinks of when they think of college prep. We are 100% free lunch- no one pays- because we are a high poverty school. Most of the students will be the first in their families to go to college, and many will be the first to even graduate high school. However, even more challenging to this title is the fact that many of them have no intention of going to college. It is actually weird. Some of them are here just because it is the best (not to mention safest) school in the surrounding area. One of my kids actually said to another student today, "You don't want to go to work with your Dad?! Isn't he a mechanic? That's the best job ever!" Now, given, I have a lot of respect for mechanics and am glad they do what they do. I also recognize that modern mechanics can be quite challenging. But the best job in the world? Really? (On a side note, the student who made the comment obviously doesn't know the other student very well. That student would much rather be helping his mother make clothes than helping his father fix cars).

Anyhow... so I am really starting to wonder about the lack of college prep attitude at our school. Not amongst the faculty, but amongst the students. 35% of my students are not passing, at least not by my standards, meaning that they have a D or F. I say they are not passing because, while they will get high school credit with a D, you can't really get into a 4-year college with that.


Wow. I am having a hard time sitting with that number.


  1. I wonder if some of it is attitude from the parents? You know a lack of support to go to college. My step-brother wasn't supported in his decision to go to college at all by either my step-dad (because he was moving so far away) and his mother just didn't want to pay for it. It was kind of sad.

  2. Some of it is, some of it isn't. It's odd... a lot of the parents REALLY want their kids to go to college, hence they are at this school. They want this because they want the kids to have a better life than they have had. The parents, however, sort of think that just because it is a college prep school, the kids are automatically going to go to college and do well. They don't see that getting Ds at a college prep school isn't going to get their kid to college, and they don't push the work ethic, because they don't realize what really needs to get done. The kids, on the other hand, see mom and dad and think- that's fine, I am happy with that life, so they don't necessarily make college a priority either. If mom can survive cleaning people's houses, so can they, is the mentality I guess.