Achievement Gap & Mission
Curriculum & Instruction
FAQ About Charter Schools
Achievement Gap & Mission
Propel's mission is to catalyze the transformation of public education so that all children have access to high performing public schools.
Despite the promise of equal educational opportunity, our public education system has struggled to provide many children with access to the high-quality education that they need to compete in the 21st century. The difference in academic achievement that often separates children along lines of race and class is known as the achievement gap. This gap has serious implications for the futures of our children and for our nation at large.
Consider the following national statistics:
- According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the average African American 12th grader has lower basic skills than the average white eighth grader.
- In 2004, African Americans were 54 percent more likely to drop out of high school than white students.
- Our country as a whole is falling farther behind our international peers. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 15-year-olds in the U.S. rank 24th out of 29 industrialized countries in math performance, and 15th out of 29 countries in reading.
Locally, it's still grim:
- In Allegheny County, despite improvements over the past six years, 23% of K-8 students are still not proficient on state tests.
- The situation among students eligible for free and reduced price lunches is much worse; only 60% reach proficiency compared to 86% in the more advantaged group.
- Improvements in K-8 do not seem to be following through to high school. For instance, in 2006-2007, Pittsburgh Public Schools issued 1,744 diplomas; four years earlier there were 3,501 ninth grade students-a four year high school completion rate of just 55%.
- The problems locally mirror those across the nation: scores are low, gaps are high, and too many children drop out.
Fortunately, neither families nor employers are satisfied with the status quo:
- 84% of employers say that K-12 schools are not doing a good job preparing students for the workplace (National Association of Manufacturers, 2005);
- Charter schools are maintaining waiting lists;
- Even in low income communities with a scarcity of affordable alternative options, district run public schools are attracting less than 80% of the school aged population.
And Propel is delivering on the promise of equal educational opportunity for all children:
Propel's mission is to catalyze the transformation of public education so that all children have access to high performing public schools. This mission is pursued by opening and operating high performance schools of choice in educationally underserved communities. We generally serve children from high-poverty, resource poor communities throughout the Pittsburgh region. Across all its schools, 75% of students qualify for the federal free/reduced cost lunch program, 65% are a minority and 13% have special needs. Propel does not accept the premise that poverty or family structure determines education performance or life outcome. The following data is based on 2008-2009 state tests.
- Propel is dramatically outperforming the district run schools where most of its students live. Students are 22% more likely to be at grade level than their peers in these districts - up from a 14% advantage in the prior year.
- Propel students are on track to outperform students in more affluent Allegheny County districts within a year or two.
- Propel's African American and economically disadvantaged students performed significantly better than the typical student (regardless of race or family affluence) in Pittsburgh, Woodland Hills, and other school districts where Propel students live. Compared to the seven school districts from which Propel draws most of its students:
- African-American students were 32% more likely to be at grade level if attending Propel;
- Economically disadvantaged students were 28% more likely to be at grade level if attending Propel.
- Propel is filling a community need for a high performing school option where there otherwise may be little or no choice. Over 92% of Propel parents are satisfied with their school, compared to just 74% of parents in national public school surveys.
Read more about our results here. |