Three Things You didn’t know about ACE Graduates

posted on October 19, 2018 by Tony Monfiletto

It’s graduation time and last week 72 students got a diploma from ACE Leadership High School.  The students completed their studies by doing a capstone project that proved they were ready for college and a career. It’s a huge deal for these young people because nearly all of them had dropped out or were far behind in their credits before arriving at the school.  It’s also a big deal because the school gets such little credit from the state for the phenomenal work that it does with these young people who have re-claimed their lives.

I like numbers because they can illustrate a point— specifically the importance of a second chance for kids who have foreclosed on their futures:

  1. More than 90 percent of the students at ACE Leadership transfer to the school after a bad experience at another high school.
  2. In 2014-15, there were about 350 students in the school, with 66 percent enrolled during the day and 33 percent enrolled at night because they work during the day.
  3. 71 of the 350 students enrolled graduated (20 percent of the total).

According to the state, the four-year cohort graduation rate for the school was a pitiful 22 percent. This meant that only 22 percent of the students who started school four years ago graduated. That’s bad—really bad—and one would think that ACE deserved the F it received on its school report card. However, there are very few students who started the school four years ago fresh from middle school. They all transferred in after failing their 9th grade year, got behind in credits later in high school, or dropped out. My guess is that it’s not possible for the state to capture the effect of students who transfer to a new school after being so far behind and the four-year cohort idea just doesn’t fit this school.

Also, when you compare it to a “high performing” 2,000-student comprehensive high school that graduates about 400 students each year, it’s actually a pretty good success rate. Twenty percent of their students graduate which is the same as ACE.  The state gives them an A or a B on their report cards. Meanwhile, ACE gets an F.

Maybe we’re comparing apples to oranges and we should grade the schools according to their mission—re-engagement in the case of ACE Leadership. Giving ACE an F defies logic because the school doesn’t, and isn’t supposed to, have a four-year graduation rate. In fact, it does a spectacular job of graduating students once they’ve enrolled. This begs the question of how we can call a school a failure when it does so much good for so many young people.

I used to work at a comprehensive high school. Every year at graduation time I would ask myself, “what happened to all those kids that were in the freshman class four years ago?” I know what happens to them now, they graduate from ACE Leadership High School.


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