Do YES Prep Public Schools Really Make a Difference?
Located throughout the Houston metro area, YES prep public schools attempt to prepare low-income students for higher education in an effort to ultimately increase the number of four-year college graduates among groups with historically low numbers.
Launched in 1995 as “Project YES” in a school in Houston’s East End, the program began operating its first school in 1998, educating students from the 6th through 12th grades. The school has been designated a charter school by the State of Texas.
How does YES Prep operate?
Started as a collaboration between teachers, community leaders and parents, YES Prep still relies upon involvement from all sides to successfully operate, providing students with opportunities both within the school and outside in the community. The schools run on state funding and have open enrollment, ensuring any student who wants to go to college has an opportunity to get the education he or she needs to get there.
Yes Prep has extended school years, longer schools days, and offers after-school, weekend, and parental-involvement programs. Teachers who wish to teach at Yes Prep also undergo a thorough evaluation and must meet higher standards than at other area schools.
To accomplish their goal of preparing students for college, YES Prep schools rely on a model of education that the creators are encouraging other school systems to adopt. The facets of this model are:
- Small, integrated schools
- College prep curriculum
- Student support
- Enrichment opportunities
- Service Learning
- Support Through College
Small, integrated schools
In order to keep the student-to-teacher ratio at a workable level, each school has a maximum capacity of 825 students and accepts only 140 sixth-graders each year.
College prep curriculum
Although most students accepted at YES Prep are behind in Math and Reading, the first two years catch students up so that they can begin taking high school courses in 8th grade, leaving higher grades for advanced classes, including dual-enrollment courses that earn students college credits.
YES Prep uses parent outreach to encourage parental involvement in student schooling, and provides teachers with cellphones to ensure that students and parents can reach teachers when they need additional help.
YES Prep educators take students on yearly trips, providing many students with their first opportunity to travel outside of the city of Houston. Educators at YES Prep also work with businesses, colleges and non-profit organizations to find summer learning programs or internships at which college-bound YES Prep juniors and seniors can gain work and life experience.
Students at YES Prep are required to volunteer within their communities. Volunteer service is integrated into the school’s curriculum.
Support through college
Yes Prep teachers attempt to provide college-bound students with all of the resources and support they need as they apply for colleges. Counseling may include help with applications, help with researching and choosing schools, assistance in finding scholarships for which students qualify and help filling out financial aid paperwork.
Once students leave YES Prep, they are not abandoned to the college system. Yes Prep provides continuing support to alumni to help ensure college success.
Does YES Prep work?
The best intentions in the world have little impact without successful implementation, but YES Prep’s system has a proven track record. The school system has been voted the best in Houston multiple times, as well as one of the Top 100 Public Schools in the country.
YES Prep students have higher passing rates in all subjects on the mandatory Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test, and, since college acceptance is a graduation requirement, all YES Prep graduates have at least one college acceptance. The graduation rate at YES Prep also comes in at 90 percent, nearly 10 percent higher than the state average and 20 percent higher than the city average.
Putting those statistics together, 90 percent of YES Prep students graduate with a college acceptance. So, if the question is, how successful is YES Prep at meeting its main goal of preparing low-income students for college, the answer is about “90 percent” successful, a striking statistic when compared with the success rates of other schools across Houston and the U.S.Learn More: Click to view related resources.
- "YES Prep"
- Barry Newstead, Amy Saxton and Susan J. Colby, "Going for the gold: Secrets of successful schools," Education Next