For Students at Hardy Brown College Prep, College is Not a Dream; It's a Destination

April 18, 2016

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At Hardy Brown College Prep, every student is a scholar.

When the San Bernardino charter school opened its doors in 2010, it was the first of six schools in the Rex and Margaret Fortune School of Education, a portfolio of charter schools named after prominent and active African American community members. Through a steadfast commitment to personal development and academic achievement, Hardy Brown strives to close the achievement gap where African Americans students have been historically indexed as the lowest-performing group.

What sets Hardy Brown apart is the time devoted to attendance and study. Composed primarily of African American (85%) and Latino and/or other (15%) students, the 347 students enrolled in grades K-8 commit to an extended year-round schedule. Unlike area schools, kindergarten is a full-day program. And while most schools require the completion of 36,000 minutes in a school year, Hardy Brown indexes at a remarkable 58,000 minutes. Scholars start their day at 7:45 a.m., an hour earlier compared to other schools.

The students are principally driven to succeed by adopting five key pillars:

  1. High Expectations: Set the bar high and surpass it. Scholars arrive to school on time, in uniform, and strive to make honor roll.
  2. Choice and Commitment: Success is a choice and scholars commit to excellence contracts, reinforcing their devotion to achievement.
  3. More Time: The academic year is comprised of three trimesters and scholars who don't perform at 80% are required to attend classes from 8-12 during intersessions. An intensive program for smaller groups of students has proven successful with elevated grades and test scores.
  4. Focus on Results: The students and teachers collaborate on the path to success. From professional development training to weekly data-driven performance analysis and interactions with other Fortune schools, the Hardy Brown staff is just as accountable as scholars.
  5. Citizenship: A direct result of setting the bar high is cultivating proud and achieving citizens. Scholars at Hardy Brown work hard and come to school ready to learn.

College is Not a Dream. It's a Destination.
Hardy Brown prepares African American students for higher education and employment, and their model is working. "Starting in kindergarten, scholars are groomed for a path to a four-year university," said Toiya Allen, principal of Hardy Brown College Prep. "Each student receives their college class year; a year that leaves an indelible mark on students who believe college is an inevitable destination."

Classrooms are named after the university the teacher attended. It's not uncommon to walk past classroom doors that read Howard; San Diego State University; University of California, Berkeley; Virginia State; Sacramento State; University of North Carolina; and more. The rooms are also adorned with college memorabilia.

Whenever a visitor arrives on campus, students deliver a greeting about their college and year of graduation. Each year scholars visit universities such as San Diego State, UC Riverside, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in an effort to reinforce the result of their commitment to excellence.

A Commitment to Excellence Drives Accelerated Test Scores
When Hardy Brown opened, they had a goal of 800 API in five years; they achieved this goal in three. However, test scores are only one signifier of personal development.

"Grades don't drive honor roll; rather scholars obtain honor through study, attendance, participation, leadership, and community involvement," said Allen "Paying it forward is a core attribute of personal development." Students collect canned goods and toiletries for shelters or penned letters to patients at Loma Linda or local area hospitals.

Hardy Brown's rigorous, structured environment has earned its place as the #1 charter in San Bernardino, ranked 8th in San Bernardino City overall. However, more importantly, it's cultivated a sense of community pride and the desire to enjoy a bright future.