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A high school diploma can’t be the end of the story — not when only about 9% of children from low-income families go on to complete college.

That’s why America’s top charter school networks launched a revolutionary campaign to continue supporting students long after they leave high school. Richard Whitmire’s The Alumni goes inside these efforts — and for the first time publishes new data that reveals a college graduation breakthrough. New chapters every Wednesday.

‘The Alumni’ in the WSJ: Charter and Traditional Schools Find a Common Purpose in Texas

Richard Whitmire’s analysis ran in the October 27 edition of The Wall Street Journal: Charter-school operators and traditional school districts have long behaved like enemies. But an intriguing truce has emerged in an unlikely place: Texas. In the Lone Star State’s three biggest cities, charters and traditional district schools have discovered that collaborating to help […]

Top Charter Networks Worth the Disruption, Set High Accountability Bar for All Public Schools

For the first time in over 20 years, it’s possible to start answering at least some questions about whether charter schools are “worth it.”  Over the past decade, the growth of charter schools has inflicted enormous disruptions on traditional school districts. Superintendents have grown unhappy about losing students and unions have become angry about both […]

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Porterfield: When Public Charter School Alumni Thrive in College

The public charter school alumni who proudly shook my hand at commencement last May in front of beaming families and educators made F&M a richer and finer institution, truer to our mission — and they are going to make their mark on the world. All the visionary work of those who founded their schools and those who taught like champions was well worth it.

WATCH: Closing the Opportunity Gap for College — F&M College Prep

High-achieving students from modest economic backgrounds experience college life and opportunities for them during a summer college prep program at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa.

Georgetown Scholarship Program: Getting First-Generation Students Acquainted to College Early On

The graduation rate within six years for GSP students is 96.4 percent — several percentage points above the overall graduation rate. And that’s why college counselors at charter networks strive to get their students accepted at prestigious universities like Georgetown: Once in, they stay in and earn degrees.

Pachnanda: Taking Innovation to Scale, Alliance Amps Up College Matriculation and Persistence

While financial constraints can be an obvious cause of college abandonment, there are other less apparent, but equally challenging, factors that come into play for first-generation students like those Alliance serves. Students often lack the support needed to navigate the enrollment and financial aid process. They lack an understanding of how to access campus resources and how to advocate for themselves. For many, a new and culturally different environment can affect their confidence and belief that they belong.

WATCH – The Alumni Tell Their Stories: Michelle Johnson Found Support at a Diverse & Challenging College

Michelle Johnson discusses her ambitions to become an entrepreneur and how she found support at a difficult time in her life at a diverse and academically challenging college.

KIPP Alumni Leadership Accelerator: Realizing the Belief that Its Graduates ‘Are Going to Be the Change Agents of the Future’

“If you think about the work we’re doing, one of the big beliefs is we can have a transformative impact on the lives of children,” KIPP President Richard Barth said. “Then, we want to have a disruptive impact on the educational ecosystem in communities across the country. But there’s a third belief, which is our alums are going to be change agents of the future.”

WATCH – The Alumni Tell Their Stories: College Helped Nadirah Muhammad Pursue Her Dreams

Nadirah Muhammad discusses how she knew she wanted to work as a foreign service officer since she was a little girl, and how attending North Star and Spelman gave her the tools to continue to pursue her dreams.

Green Dot Public Schools: Not Just About Getting Students Into College, But Getting Them Into the Right Ones and Keeping Them There

While Green Dot may not be “killing it” like Uncommon Schools and Achievement First, where success rates are as much as five times the general like-student population, their college success rate, even if it’s only roughly double that of LAUSD (estimate only — LAUSD doesn’t have official college success data), has to be viewed as a modest success.

Milkie: Noble Network’s ‘3 Rs’ for Post–High School Success

Hard work on the part of our students and staff is the “secret sauce” to success. But there are things we have learned that can help increase the odds for kids with backgrounds and challenges like ours. I might categorize them as Noble’s version of the “3Rs” — research, readiness, and remaining in touch.

KIPP NYC College Prep: Tracking Students Through College Like No One Else in America

In trying to boost college degree-earning the counselors at Kipp NYC College Prep embrace two maxims. First, students should always “overmatch” colleges, meaning go to a college that’s a reach for them, mostly because better colleges take better care of students from places like the South Bronx. Second, whenever possible, students should try to win a spot in the Educational Opportunity Program (called Higher Education Opportunity Program at private universities).

Wacker: UT Austin Rethinks Student Success to Boost 4-Year Graduation Rates

UT Austin has spent the past five years focused on increasing the percentage of students who graduate in four years. In 2011, barely half of UT Austin’s students were earning diplomas in four years, and a disproportionate number of students failing to complete their degrees were Pell Grant-eligible students, the first in their families to attend college, or students of color. Today, the university's four-year graduation rate stands at 61 percent, and Laude and his colleagues are hoping to reach 70 percent when 2017 numbers are released in October.

Rice: Why I Care — How Charter Schools Helped Turn My Town Around

Improving Newark’s schools was no easy feat. It was long and complicated and an uphill battle — one Newark’s leaders continue to fight today. So to friends and critics alike who ask why I care so much, it’s because this is personal for me.

YES Prep: At the Birthplace of College Signing Day, ‘Pumping Out Kids Prepared and Ready to Roll’

Barbic and Kamentz were sipping Shiner Bocks, munching on Tombstone pizzas (it was the only food the now-shuttered bar served) and watching ESPN’s SportsCenter, which was broadcasting college signing day for the nation’s top student athletes. Lots of drama, lots of shouting, lots of happy families. “Why shouldn’t our families experience the same acclaim?” they reasoned. Most are the first in their families to go to college, many of them headed to name-brand universities. This needs celebration.

Thomas: I Won a Lottery Worth Far More Than Money

It’s amazing to think the day I “won” the lottery to a very special school was the event that would change my life for the better. I won my ability to choose, to go to college, decide which careers I’d like to explore, and the choice to change someone’s life instead of take it.

McCurry & Toll: Smoothing the Path — Better Preparing Students for Long-Term Success

And we know that there is more still we need to do, especially to ensure the long-term success of our scholars in an ever-changing world. Through this deep commitment to continuous improvement, our hope is that the next generation of “Christines” will arrive at college feeling better set up for success and on a smoother path to graduation and becoming the leaders our country needs.

Alliance College-Ready Public Schools: AMPing Up Its Alumni Network to Track and Guide Students Through College

Alliance relies on improving its college selection process using a list of colleges more likely to guarantee success for its unique students, almost all of whom are low-income and minorities and then supporting them in college with a student mentor program known as AMP, Alliance Mentorship Program.

Shalvey: Dramatic Support for Educators Rather Than Political Drama

As one of the earliest founders in the charter public schools sector I want to be clear: Our work was about innovating and committing to learning and sharing what we learned with teachers and principals everywhere. It was not about crushing the competition, as some critics are wont to say.

Petruzzi & de Jesus: Focusing on College Persistence to Break the Persistent Cycle of Poverty

It is past time we — charters, traditional schools, colleges, the NSC — develop more reliable measures of student outcome. It’s a next logical step in charters’ growth — and an obvious one to better serve our students.

Noble Network of Charter Schools: It’s Not Just About Going to College, It’s Also About Leaving to Learn Outside Chicago

Noble’s college success rate is at least double that of Chicago Public Schools generally, and probably far more than double the comparable rate for similar low-income minority students within CPS.

King & Peiser: College Completion — Charter Schools as Laboratories

As is true in any laboratory, the learning never ends. New approaches are constantly tested. And life-changing innovations are just around the corner.

Woodworth: Behind the Data — Communities Must Hold School Boards, Authorizers Accountable to Ensure Quality Education

The results from CREDO's recent study align strongly with The Alumni’s findings in graduation rates.

‘The Alumni’ in The Orange County Register: California Charter Schools Must Work on College Success Rates

Richard Whitmire’s analysis ran in the August 12 edition of The Orange County Register: Something puzzling emerged from a research project looking at the number of charter school graduates who go on to earn four-year college degrees. Of the nine charter networks I was profiling, three were California based — and all three ended up on the bottom […]

Q&A With UNCF CEO Michael Lomax: We’ve Got to Garner More Resources for Low-Income Kids for This Journey “To and Through” College

Federal decision-makers who support charters are not seeing the connection between supporting charters and enhancing the K-12 opportunities for low-income kids and understanding what it’s going to take to get them college degrees.

IDEA Public Schools: ‘Proving the Impossible Is Possible in South Texas’ by Striving for Both Bigger and Better

“We have to remember that if IDEA had not opened its doors, a lot of our students who are now committing to going to the local college would not have even applied, much less gotten in, much less committed to attending the local college."

Gilchrist: My Charter School Saved My Life

As I write this story I am not attributing my friend’s life and death circumstances to the fact that we made different educational choices. Rather, I hope I am illustrating how a school that is intentional in its approach to investing in its students can make all the difference.

‘The Alumni’ in the New York Daily News: What Some NYC Charter Schools Do Better Than Any in the Nation

A proud distinction for Uncommon, KIPP and Achievement First

Achievement First: Where Just Doing Better Than Its Peers Isn’t Enough, Network Sets Its Sights on Lofty 75% College Success Rate

“We hope to raise our college graduation rate to 60 percent in the next three to five years.” Long term, the goal is 75 percent — a rate that matches students from high-income families.

Mark DiBella: Track Students Beginning in Ninth, Rather Than 12th, Grade for Clearer Picture of Long-Term College Success

In 2010, only 34 percent of our founding sixth grade class went on to graduate from our campus. This unacceptably low persistence rate, a symptom of a “no-excuses” culture, needed to be addressed to align with our mission of increasing the number of students from underserved communities who graduate prepared to lead.

‘The Alumni’ in the WSJ: Charter Grads Get a Leg Up In College

The NAACP and NEA have chosen the wrong time to double down on failing traditional schools.

LOOK — Picturing Success: Student Artwork Captures Vivid College Dreams

Student artists from IDEA Public Schools illustrate their futures

Uncommon Schools: Against Common Schools of Thought, a Focus on GPA, SAT Scores, and One ‘Dirty Little Secret’ Boosts Network’s College Success Rates to 50%

What happens early on in grades 5–12 is far more likely to boost college graduation rates than any after-the-fact outreach initiative to monitor students in college.

WATCH: At Newark’s North Star Academy, 100% of the Class of 2017 Is Going to College

“Our students are evidence that Newark students can and will go on to college and graduate.”

Barth, Feinberg, Levin — Measuring Outcomes Beyond High School: Why Schools Must Raise the Bar in Helping Students Attain Choice-Filled Lives

While there is much public debate around the merits of a college education, we do believe that in America today, young people with college degrees have better odds at leading choice-filled lives

WATCH – The Alumni Tell Their Stories: College Gave Jadah Quick Upward Mobility

“As a black woman I need to be 10 times better than the next person.”

Emilio Pack — Not All College Degrees Are Created Equal: How STEM Prep Is Preparing Its High Schoolers for the 21st-Century Economy

Looking beyond college graduation, these Los Angeles charter schools stress STEM majors as pathways to success.