Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013
This policy brief is the fourth in a series of in-depth case studies exploring how top-performing charter schools have incorporated civic learning in their school curriculum and school culture. For more information about AEI’s Program on American Citizenship, visit www.citizenship-aei.org.
The “YES” in the name of YES Prep Public Schools stands for Youth Engaged in Service. From its start as a program at Rusk Elementary School in the Houston Independent School District (HISD) in 1995 to its opening as a single independent charter school in 1998 to its current network of 10 grade 6–12 campuses with some 600 teachers serving 6,400 students, YES Prep has emphasized citizenship through service to the community.
YES Prep is often compared to another “no-excuses” network of charter schools: the much touted Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP). Like KIPP, YES Prep began in the 1990s in Houston before chartering with the support of then-HISD Superintendent Rod Paige. Both networks were founded by and are still largely staffed by Teach for America (TFA) corps members. (In a survey of YES Prep social studies teachers I conducted, 61 percent reported being trained by an alternative program such as TFA, compared to 17 percent of traditional public school social studies teachers. Both charter networks are highly successful academically; YES Prep boasts a 100 percent college placement rate and high college completion rates for low-income students. Seventy-two percent of YES Prep alumni have completed college or are making progress toward that goal, compared to around 10 percent of disadvantaged students generally. Like KIPP, YES Prep serves a predominantly minority student population (86 percent Hispanic), 78 percent of whom are economically disadvantaged.
The most systematic comparison of charter school student achievement to date ranks YES Prep among the top charter organizations nationally. In short, YES Prep can be counted as one of the premier high-poverty/high-achievement charter schools.