In Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea and the Charter School That Beat the Odds, I wrote about a San Jose school that recruits low-achieving students and tries to prepare them to succeed in four-year colleges. “To and Through College” is the motto. With six graduating classes, Downtown College Prep has released a college success report.
While only 10% of low-income students complete college within six years nationwide, DCP graduates earn their degrees at the rate of 47%. We are encouraged by the results we have achieved thus far but remain determined to close the college achievement gap that exists in our community and our nation.
Nationwide, 57 percent of four-year college students complete a degree in six years.
Since 2004, DCP has graduated nearly 400 students. Ninety percent come from low-income families, 97 percent are Latino and 92 percent are first-generation college students.
Some 94 percent are eligible for the University of California and the California State University system; 82 percent enroll in college. DCP’s college counselor stays in touch with graduates through college to help them cope with academic, financial and personal problems. That improves the odds students will make it through.
It’s not possible to quantify the difference DCP makes for its students, but most of these kids were not succeeding in elementary or middle school. The average ninth grader enters with fifth-grade reading and math skills — and the belief that homework is optional. Many are not on track to complete high school, much less qualify for college.
As one comparison, only 29 percent of Latino graduates are UC/CSU eligible in San Jose Unified, even though the district made the college-prep sequence a graduation requirement years ago. Graduates aren’t eligible because they earned D’s in some classes.
The Silva family took a chance on DCP in its first year. His older son, Jose, is now a Chico State graduate; Elizabeth is a junior at UC Davis and Benny Jr. is a freshman at San Francisco State. At an event honoring teachers and staff, Benny Silva Sr., who works for Roto-Rooter, was asked to speak:
“Every day I go into other people’s homes to repair their toilets. What they don’t know about me is that my children are college graduates.”
Or on their way. Below is Elizabeth Silva’s graduation photo, which includes her grandmother. Including family members in the picture is a DCP tradition.
Elizabeth Silva, Class of 2008, with her abuelita