At Public Prep, Girls Prep and Boys Prep scholars are challenged to think and work hard every day.
We start early with the end of college completion in mind. We create a warm and joyful culture of rigor in which scholars build strong character by adopting the core values of community, merit, responsibility, and scholarship. Our scholars master the ability to read, write, listen, speak, create, and think deeply across disciplines, with a particular focus on science, the arts, and math. They work independently and in teams to solve problems collaboratively.
Girls Prep or Boys Prep alumni will be resilient young scholars of bold intellect. They will be empathetic leaders, knowledgeable and curious about the world. They will be goal-oriented decision-makers empowered to make choices that will lead to life success.
Public Prep is the nation’s oldest non-profit network that exclusively develops exceptional, tuition-free PreK and single-sex elementary and middle public schools. We are determined to graduate 8th grade scholars who thrive in “right-fit,” high-performing public, private, or parochial high schools, and ultimately earn a degree, on-time, from a four-year college or university.
NORTH STAR TO COLLEGE COMPLETION
Public Prep has defined its North Star to College Completion as its organizational framework to regularly measure progress; a standard that is superior to, and inclusive of, any district, city, state, or national standard.
NORTH STAR TO COLLEGE COMPLETION
- Character Development
- College Knowledge
- Academic Achievement
- Organizational Stability & Staff Engagement
- Family & Scholar Satisfaction
Since our inception, Public Prep has prioritized cultivating what is now popularly called a “growth mindset” within our students. Character Development builds character-based strengths such as resilience, determination, initiative, perseverance, gratitude, empathy, and optimism to help our scholars overcome the inevitable hurdles encountered in life.
- Core Values: Public Prep scholars and staff members are guided by our four core values of Community (Brotherhood and Sisterhood), Scholarship, Responsibility, and Merit. Schools recognize scholars who demonstrate our core values and community expectations by naming them Big Brother/Big Sister of the Week, and celebrating them at bi-weekly unity meetings.
- Namesakes: Each classroom is named after inspirational individuals who scholars identify with, look up to, and study throughout the year. Our Namesakes wear many hats and many are known for accomplishments across sectors.
Public Prep’s commitment to college graduation for every scholar goes beyond a caring, supportive school environment and rigorous academic preparation; our network of schools is preparing scholars, starting in PreK, with the skills and knowledge they must harness along the path to college completion. Learn more about our College Completion Initiative here.
Academic Achievement comprises the cognitive abilities and content knowledge students develop across disciplines, including science, the arts, music, math, foreign language, and other courses of study that help them become well-rounded, educated, and culturally literate citizens. See our curriculum approach here.
Beyond students, Organizational Stability & Staff Engagement is another integral component of reaching the North Star to College Completion, including critical measures such as retention of quality staff and financial self-sustainability. Increasing the career longevity of school leadership and faculty who effectively improve adult and student learning is critical to the future of all Public Prep schools and our scholars.
Public Prep Academies believe that strong, regular and respectful communication with parents and guardians is critical to our schools’ short- and long-term success. This connection begins and is reinforced through annual home visits, weekly newsletters, family events, family-teacher conferences and through our active Community Councils.
- Community Council: The Community Council (CC) is an association run by the families of Public Prep students, and is intended to support the school to meet the educational and social needs of the students. The CC, via their executive board, provides feedback and direction to the school leadership team on how to best serve the students.
- Family Newsletters (Blossom and Tangram): The weekly Blossom or Tangram newsletter provides a platform for our schools to share upcoming events, celebrate school successes, and share resources.
- Home Visits: The purpose of a home visit is to strengthen the family-school partnership, ensure that proper supports are in place for the family and the student, review school systems and expectations, and hear from families and the student about anything important they want to share.
Rather than celebrate performance versus low external standards, Public Prep is determined to deeply understand the full array of skills, knowledge, behavior, and habits of mind that reliably predict whether or not a Public Prep scholar will ultimately complete a post-secondary degree.
Through this process, we have identified four priority areas:
Early Catastrophe research identified two important facts: (1) children from lower-income families had heard thirty million fewer words and lower quality vocabulary by their fourth birthdays than children from higher-income families; and (2) test performance in third grade could be reliably predicted from vocabulary at age three.
Key Insight: Unless this 30 Million Word Gap is addressed in the earliest ages, prior to Kindergarten, we are destined to continue to have the same mediocre outcomes years later and produce another generation of students who will not be able to fulfill their potential.
- PrePrep: the Joan Ganz Cooney Early Learning Program launched in 2014 to provide the integral first component of a content-rich, vertically-aligned Pre-K through 8th grade curriculum. Learn more about our PreK program.
- Parent Child Home Program: We are piloting the Parent-Child Home Program in 2018, an evidence-based early literacy, parenting, and school readiness model that is committed to closing the achievement gap by providing low-income families the skills and materials they need to prepare their children for school and life success. Sponsor a family today.
In a national study titled Learning Less, in response to ELA & Math state test requirements, 81% of elementary school teachers reported they believe schools have narrowed curriculum, shifting instructional time and resources toward math and English Language Arts and away from subjects such as art, music, foreign language, science, and social studies.
This focus on skill acquisition only versus skill and knowledge acquisition has consequences, most notably in exacerbating the knowledge deficits already identified in the first priority area. In essence, regardless of a student’s traditional reading skills (e.g. predicting, summarizing, and decoding), their understanding will be severely impeded by a lack of understanding of relevant background knowledge.
With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards in New York State, this idea of building literacy skills through a knowledge-rich curriculum is finally taking hold. While the Common Core State Standards are focusing attention on the importance of content, it is still incumbent upon the school system to develop the exact curriculum that will meet those standards.
Key Insight: The absence of a coherent, vertically-aligned, knowledge-based curriculum across a balanced schedule and range of disciplines, especially in elementary school, led to Public Prep students not acquiring the requisite vocabulary, background knowledge and comprehension skills necessary for future growth. See how we are focusing on content in our academic approach.
As critical as early learning and a broad-based, content-rich curriculum are to student success, they are but two rungs on the ladder to college completion (versus college or career readiness). This is especially true for students from low-income backgrounds. Accomplishment in ELA and math is necessary but not sufficient in ensuring students ultimately enroll in and graduate from college.
In his breakthrough 2012 book How Children Succeed - Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, author Paul Tough challenges the conventional wisdom that success in academics and life is dependent solely on a student’s cognitive abilities or intelligence. Rather he argues that a set of non-cognitive skills or character-based strengths – like grit, curiosity, perseverance, resiliency, self-control, gratitude, and optimism – are equally or more crucial to success than other factors. Moreover, these strengths are not just innate; they can be developed through deliberate means.
Since our inception, Public Prep has prioritized cultivating what is now popularly called a “growth mindset” within our students. Our core values of scholarship, merit, sisterhood or brotherhood, and responsibility are embodied in all of our work with students and families, who we consider to be invaluable partners in their child’s academic and socio-emotional development.
Key Insight: These two ideas – the need to develop cognitive as well as character-based strengths – are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, they are mutually reinforcing. Students who believe that they can improve their own life outcomes through hard work, a positive outlook, and relentless effort deal better with adversity and apply themselves more fervently to difficult academic tasks. See our approach to character development in our North Star above.
While more students from all backgrounds are finishing college, the difference in graduation rates between the top and bottom income groups has widened by nearly 50% over two decades.
Moreover, there is ample evidence that even the majority of high-achieving low-income students do not apply to any selective colleges because they lack college knowledge. Low-income students are often poorly informed about their college-going opportunities, or have financial, cultural, social, or family issues that make them unwilling to apply to strong post-secondary institutions, even if they are well-qualified for admission.
Key Insight: Although Public Prep only serves PrePrep-8th grade, we must: (1) incorporate deliberate instruction that demystifies college for our students into our core curriculum, and (2) build formal partnerships with high schools and colleges and universities that will enable our alumni to find the right “fit” school and keep them on a path to college completion.
- Our Path to College Completion provides supports and experiences, starting in PrePrep, targeted to provide college knowledge in various channels.
- Public Prep has secured exclusive partnerships with colleges and universities to guarantee multi-day or multi-week, on-campus experiences for Girls Prep alumnae to take summer classes, live in dorms and experience college life.
WELCOME FROM OUR CEO
2017-18 WAS AN EXTRAORDINARY YEAR FOR PUBLIC PREP.
We are nearly complete in fully transforming a dilapidated South Bronx building into what will become the 85,000 sq ft permanent home for Boys Prep Bronx. As a network, Public Prep far surpassed the rates of growth by the district, city and state on the New York State English Language Arts and Math exams. And surpassing the performance of the Class of 2013, a stunning
ninety-one percent of the Class of 2014 - four years after graduating from Girls Prep as 8th graders - were accepted into some of the finest colleges and universities in the country.
Since Girls Prep opened in 2005 with just 90 girls in the first all-girls public charter school in NYC, Public Prep now educates nearly 2,000 scholars PreK through 8th grade on its five Girls Prep Lower East Side, Girls Prep Bronx and Boys Prep Bronx campuses. Girls Prep has nearly 500 alumnae from six graduating classes of exiting 8th graders, the oldest of whom are now enrolled as freshman or sophomores at prestigious colleges such as Yale, Howard, Skidmore, Tufts, Cornell and Brandeis.
Yet we know there is more that Public Prep can and must do to ensure our youngest scholars are better prepared socially and academically for school, even before they enter Kindergarten. And learning from more senior charter school networks that have surprisingly low, six-year college completion rates, there is more Public Prep can and must do to graduate 8th grade scholars who will thrive in “right-fit,” high-performing public, private, or parochial high schools, and ultimately earn a degree, on-time from a four-year college or university.
This is why moving forward, we are framing our work as “18 to 18," describing our commitment to engage learners as young as 18 months old, all the way through supporting our alumni through age 18, to help them attain 30 credits in the first year of college, a key predictor of on-time, college completion.
On the front-end, these new initiatives include partnering with Sesame Workshop to open PrePrep II: The Joan Ganz Cooney Early Learning Program in 2018-19, as our second, co-ed UPK program for four-year olds. It also includes a first-of-its-kind partnership with the Parent-Child Home Program. This initiative will allow siblings — as young as 18 months old — of current Boys Prep and Girls Prep Bronx scholars to receive nearly one hundred home visits by an early literacy specialist over a two-year period to build the capacity of the child and the child’s caregiver around vocabulary and school readiness.
On the back-end, this means Public Prep has hired its first-ever Director of Alumni Engagement and College Completion to provide experiential opportunities and build systems to support our 500 alumni in high school and college. It also means creating a new course, Pathways to Power, designed to empower our graduating 8th grade scholars to build personal agency by developing an economic, social and academic framework for making decisions. This is crucial as our graduating 8th graders embark upon the next twelve years of their lives in high school, college and young adulthood, when critical choices are made that will have lifelong rewards or consequences.
As we enter a new year, our leadership team is even more determined to ensure Public Prep is a lasting institution that will educate generations of young women and men to become resilient and empathetic leaders with bold intellect, knowledgeable and curious about the world.
Thank you for helping us fulfill this mission.