Kalamazoo high school grads win celebrity speaker: President Obama
Kalamazoo Central High School beat out more than 1,000 schools to win the Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge.
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President Obama announced his intent to address the students there on Tuesday, choosing Kalamazoo as the winner of more than 1,000 applicants to the Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge.
Last week, the public voted on the six schools chosen as finalists in the challenge – all selected based on their commitment to academic excellence and their success in graduating students prepared for college or a career. The public vote narrowed the finalists down to three schools: Kalamazoo, Clark Montessori Junior High and High School in Cincinnati, and the Denver School of Science and Technology.
Of those three, Kalamazoo was the only traditional public high school of the three – an urban school that serves an underprivileged population and has made big strides in changing its culture and improving the academic performance of its students.
The Kalamazoo Promise
The changes have been largely due to the Kalamazoo Promise – a program founded by anonymous donors that guarantees four years of college tuition to any student who graduates and is accepted to a state college or university.
“The results thus far show that it’s possible to have systemic change in high schools,’ says Gary Miron, an education professor at Western Michigan University who has been studying the effect of the Kalamazoo Promise.
In some ways, Kalamazoo has less impressive statistics than the other finalists.
At the Denver School of Science and Technology, a charter school, 100 percent of its first three graduating classes have been accepted to four-year colleges, and students take advanced math and five science courses in high school. At Clark Montessori, a public magnet program, the school also boasts a 100 percent college acceptance rate for its 2010 class, and students perform 200 hours of community service and must complete a 30- to 40-page research paper as a senior project.