In service of citizenship: YES Prep Public Schools and civic education

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Article Highlights

  • YES Prep schools emphasize citizenship through service to the community.

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  • YES Prep serves a predominantly minority student population (86 percent Hispanic), 78 percent of whom are economically disadvantaged.

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  • YES Prep is one of the premier high-poverty/high-achievement charter schools.

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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.[1] (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.[2] 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.[3] Like KIPP, YES Prep serves a predominantly minority student population (86 percent Hispanic), 78 percent of whom are economically disadvantaged.[4]

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.[5]

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Notes

 1. Robert Maranto, “These Charter Schools Thrive on Competition,” Houston Chronicle, February 20, 2011, www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/editorial/outlook/7437274.html.
 2. The author surveyed YES Prep middle and high school social studies teachers using the online SurveyMonkey program from January 13 to 24, 2013. Thirty-one of 57 (54 percent) teachers responded. The national comparisons are taken from a 2010 survey by the AEI Program on American Citizenship, High Schools, Civics, and Citizenship: What Social Studies Teachers Think and Do (Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute, 2010), www.aei.org/papers/society-and-culture/citizenship/high-schools-civics-and-citizenship/.
 3. KIPP Foundation, “Student Attainment,” www.kipp.org/about-kipp/students?gclid=CJXfubys3LUCFQwFnQodA38ANQ (accessed March 1, 2013).
 4. These figures resemble those for Houston’s KIPP charter schools (99 percent minority and 91 percent disadvantaged) and for the HISD (89 percent and 80 percent).
 5. Of the seven YES Prep schools old enough to be rated by the Texas Education Agency in 2010, six were rated “exemplary” (the highest status), and the seventh earned the second highest status (“recognized”). See Texas Education Agency, Lone Star Report Summary, January 2011, http://loving1.tea.state.tx.us/lonestar/Reports/Summary2010/District/AAG1-DIST-SchoolDist-PDF-en-us-101845.pdf. See also Robert Maranto, “Boot Camps versus Triads: A Comparison of the KIPP and Harmony Charter School Networks,” American Political Science Association 2011 Annual Meeting Paper, August 1, 2011, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1902252; and Janet L. Woodworth and Margaret E. Raymond, Charter School Growth and Replication (Stanford, CA: CREDO, January 30, 2012), 57, 63, http://credo.stanford.edu/pdfs/CGAR%20Growth%20Volume%20II.pdf.

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