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Saying YES to college

In the seven schools run by Chris Barbic, 100 percent of students are accepted into a four-year college – it’s a graduation requirement.

Barbic, an alumnus of Teach for America, founded the first YES Prep charter school in Houston in 1998. By 2013, his network is slated to include 13 schools serving 10,000 students in grades 6-12 in the nation’s fourth largest city.

If his record holds, 100 percent of his mostly poor, mostly minority students will be accepted into four-year colleges and only 5 percent will need remediation. That compares to a Texas state remediation rate of 50 percent.

And, if his record holds, more than 75 percent of YES Prep alumni will return to live and work in Houston after graduating from college.

“It’s not rocket science,” Barbic said in a talk Friday in Denver. “It’s just hard, hard work.”

Barbic taught six years in Houston schools, earning the district’s Outstanding Young Educator award in 1995. He is a former roommate of the founders of that other Texas charter network success story, KIPP.

In Denver, Barbic talked about the rigorous academics at his schools, how he selects teachers and why he seeks parental support rather than parental involvement. He also said he’s never been more optimistic about the future of public education.

In addition, Barbic answered questions about his school’s retention rate – he loses about 5 percent of students a year – and the reality of attaining a 100 percent graduation rate. Every student has graduated, he said, though some have needed an extra semester or another year to complete classes and win approval from a four-year college.

Click here to listen to an audio podcast of Barbic’s 28-minute presentation.