Aspire Public Schools: Changing the Odds for Low-Income Students

October 4, 2011

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From their first day of kindergarten, all Aspire Public School students know one thing: they are going to college. Aspire's "College for Certain" philosophy is woven into every aspect of students' school day. Morning assembly starts each day with college cheers . All classrooms are college-themed; Fridays are college tee shirt days. students take regular field trips to universities; and most importantly, day in and day out, they receive a high-quality education designed to prepare them for success in college.

And because all Aspire schools are concentrated in high-poverty urban neighborhoods, Aspire is changing the odds for low-income students. In 2010 and 2011, 100% of Aspire seniors were accepted into 4-year colleges. Virtually all of these students are the first in their families to go to college.

Aspire has achieved these remarkable results on an unprecedented scale. Over their 12 year history, they have opened 34 schools across California, and currently serve over 12,000 students. When compared to large school districts that serve two-thirds or more low-income students, Aspire is the top performing district in the state. Even when compared to districts serving high-income communities, Aspire,with 75% of their students qualifying for free and reduced lunch, still ranks in the top 5% of school systems.

"Moving my children to Aspire is the best thing I've done in my life," said Aspire parent Maria Franquez. But Aspire is doing more than changing the odds for families; they are also changing communities.

Their success in Huntington Park was so respected that in 2010, neighboring South Gate City council members invited Aspire into their community. Aspire worked with community leaders to bring two Aspire schools to South Gate, so that students there would also have access to Aspire's College for Certain school model and rigorous academics.

Aspire participated in LAUSD's reform initiative "Public School Choice," and their first year of student test scores show the success of their model.

"With schools in nine communities across the state, Aspire is determined to change the odds for low-income students. We want to make college the expectation - not the exception - for underserved students." - James Willcox, CEO of Aspire

Aspire Public Schools
Web site:
Founded: 1999
Number of Schools: 34
Number of Students: 12,000

This is one of a series of profiles about high-performing charter schools in Los Angeles that are participating in the latest round of Public School Choice (PSC). The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) board passed this historic initiative in 2009 to reform the operation of new schools and turn around the lowest performing schools in the district. PSC allows non-district school operators - like charter schools, teacher teams, and community groups - the opportunity to run these schools. More than 30 schools have gone through this process to date. Find out more about Public School Choice and read profiles on the other charter applicants.

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