As Breakthrough fellows at the Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO), experiences in the community provide unique insights and personal touches to the research they lead. Recently Michael, Yenipher and Aundrea had the opportunity to visit Ivy Preparatory Academy, an all- girl charter school in our backyard here in Norcross, GA.
From the moment we arrived I could tell Ivy Prep is devoted to one powerful mission – developing college-ready scholars. And not just for any college – this school strives to prepare its students to be scholars at our nation’s most prestigious colleges and universities.
Touring the campus, friendly student ambassadors directed us from classroom to classroom where we noticed that each time a teacher asked a question, instead of raising their hand or avoiding eye contact with the teacher, students would raise one or two fingers indicating that they either knew the answer (“ones”) or were unsure of it (“twos”). This method of student participation was just one unique aspect of the Ivy Prep culture we became familiar with during our tour.
Culture is a critical component in creating the unique setting at Ivy Prep. A week prior to starting sixth grade students learn to raise one or two fingers when responding to a question, what to wear and what not to wear, how they are to behave transitioning between classes, and so forth. This week of training, known as “Culture Week”, sets the tempo for the remainder of their educational experience at Ivy Prep. Additionally, the culture prepares students to thrive in alternative classroom settings. For high schoolers at Ivy Prep, an integrated technological approach– or blended learning model– allows students to complete all of their courses online with the exception of math and language arts providing more freedom to work at their own pace.
While Touring Ivy Prep, there were posters of different colleges and universities, motivational quotes and pictures of role models everywhere. Interacting with a group of girls waiting outside a classroom, they spoke well of their school experience, were well disciplined, educated and motivated to go to college.
The visit solidified the importance of educational attainment. Parents sometimes underestimate the large percentage of time children spend in school, the importance of the quality of their education and the environment that shapes their development. It can take extra steps to find the right school for your child, but it can make a difference of a lifetime.
Through the example of Ivy Prep, it seemed many more students in Georgia can benefit from opportunities such as these. Many parents are just not aware of Ivy Prep or similar schools and how it can transform a child for the better. Parents need to value educational attainment in order for their child to do so. One values educational attainment by making sure that the school their child attends produces quality results and instills principles the parent believes in.
Within the beautiful facilities of Ivy Preparatory Academy, it touched me as a woman of color to see such a diverse group of young ladies being directed to “Believe. Achieve. Succeed”–the school’s foundational motto. Likewise, the evident culture of college at Ivy Prep, attentive participation within the classrooms, and stylishly uniformed students bustling about all served as a great introduction to charter schools for me.
More than 2.3 million students now attend charter schools across the U.S., and these innovative models are quickly becoming staple education options in communities all around Georgia. For parents exploring alternatives to a traditional public schools, theses charter school settings can be positive learning environments for kids. Additional time in the classroom, blended learning models, and the single gender setting–which was adopted to give girls a chance to just be themselves–are some of the ways Ivy Prep aids their students in becoming successful scholars. And all without steep tuition costs!
Still, it is important to remember charter schools face obstacles similar to traditional public schools–such as constricted funding and surpassing state academic standards. If you are considering alternatives to traditional school settings it is important to be thorough in your search for finding the right learning environment for your child. There are many charter schools in the Metro Atlanta Area, so look for schools that fit your child’s interest or offer special programs. Take a tour of a school you are interested in to see the learning model in action. Investigate what success the school has had by checking out testing scores and college placement results. Or ask others in your community about their experience with charter schools. These were all important lessons from our day with the Ivies.