Innovative School Programs Help Prepare Hispanic Students for College and Career Success

Innovative School Programs Help Prepare Hispanic Students for College and Career Success

New Report Examines Five Model High Schools Providing a High Quality Education


Seattle, WA–(HISPANIC PR WIRE)–September 19, 2007–Five innovative school programs in underserved communities across the country are helping low-income minority students succeed in high school and prepare for college and career. Three of these programs are located in schools that serve predominantly Hispanic students. According to a new report released today, these programs share a common, effective framework: increased parental involvement, early introduction to the idea of college, implementing culturally relevant approaches to education, and providing better access to challenging courses needed for college.

These programs are addressing critical challenges in education today. Nationally, only 70 percent of U.S. high school students graduated on time in 2004, according to Education Week’s 2007 “Diplomas Count” report. The graduation rate for Hispanic students was 58 percent. For African American students, it was 53 percent.

Too often, the students who do graduate are not prepared for college – only 20 percent of Hispanic students and 23 percent of African American students who started high school in the class of 2002 graduated eligible for college, according to the Manhattan Institute.

Rethinking High School: Preparing Students for Success in College, Career, and Life(1) is the fourth report in a series by WestEd, a non-profit education research firm. The report, commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, profiles programs serving predominantly low-income, minority students in Oakland, Calif.; Mabton, Wash.; Houston, Texas; Bridgeton, N.J.; and Portland, Ore. Their approaches vary, but each has demonstrated early progress, including improved test scores, graduation rates, and college enrollment for students.

“Communities across America face many of the same challenges in preparing students for success in high school and beyond,” said Tracy Huebner, senior researcher at WestEd and the lead author of the Rethinking High School series. “Through strong leaders, parent engagement, effective teachers, rigorous coursework, and culturally relevant support for students every step of the way, the five schools featured in this report serve as models to other communities struggling with low graduation and college enrollment rates.”

Three of the programs in the report demonstrate that there are many effective approaches to preparing young Hispanic students for success in college, career, and life:

— Lionel Wilson Preparatory Academy: Hispanic students make up 82 percent of the student body in this Oakland, Calif., charter school. The school is helping nurture a college-going culture through early introduction to the idea of college and parent involvement. The school holds an annual college fair, where students are required to be accompanied by their parents. College spirit is reinforced in their language, where the students’ motto is “College? ¡Claro! Es mi derecho, mi futuro, y mi realidad.” Their success is evidenced in that between 2004 and 2006, Wilson students have made steady gains in mathematics and English language arts. In fact, the percentage of students scoring proficient or above in math tripled from 11 percent to 34 percent.

— Mabton Junior/Senior High School: Located in rural Washington, Mabton High School is 94 percent Hispanic. The school-wide college prep curriculum aims to boost the higher education prospects of its predominantly Hispanic student body. Their progress in this area is indisputable – in 1996 Mabton offered no Advanced Placement (AP) classes; today, almost 40 percent of juniors and seniors are now benefiting from AP English with many others in AP Biology and AP Spanish.

— YES Prep Public Schools, Southeast Campus: The student body of this charter school in Houston, Texas, is 96 percent Hispanic. One of the program’s requirements for graduation is acceptance to a four-year college or university. As a result, all Southeast seniors take the SAT college entrance exams, and from 2000-2001 through 2005-2006, their average scores were higher than those students of the Houston Independent School District (HISD) and the state as a whole. Eighty-seven percent of their graduates are the first in their family to attend college.

While the report highlights the programs’ innovative approaches and progress, it also underscores how they each address one or more of five common barriers facing low-income students:

— Inadequate preparation entering high school

— Perception that college is an unattainable goal

— Disconnected curriculum and low student expectations

— Inadequate preparation for college

— Insufficient educational opportunities for dropouts

“Innovative programs like these demonstrate that all students can overcome barriers to success and thrive in an environment that holds them to high expectations and gives them the necessary support,” said Vicki Phillips, director of education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Every student in every community deserves a high-quality education that opens up the doors of opportunity.”

The new report also revisits five programs previously examined in a 2005 Rethinking High School report that continue to show strong results. Together, these education programs are part of a growing national movement of more than 1,800 schools and programs supported by the foundation designed to ensure that all students graduate from high school ready for the challenges of today’s global economy.

Nationally, the foundation and its partners are focused on increasing graduation and college readiness rates by supporting the creation of new high-quality high schools and the transformation of existing low-performing high schools into more focused and effective learning environments. To date, the foundation has invested more than $1.7 billion to improve high schools, supporting schools in 47 states and the District of Columbia.

About WestEd

WestEd, a nonprofit research, development, and service agency, works with education and other communities to promote excellence, achieve equity, and improve learning for children, youth, and adults. It has 14 offices nationwide, from Washington and Boston to Arizona and Southern California with headquarters in San Francisco. For more information about WestEd: visit

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people — especially those with the fewest resources — have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, the foundation is led by CEO Patty Stonesifer and co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

1. To read the full report, please visit

Innovative School Programs Help Prepare Hispanic Students for College and Career Success