Foundation for Education Reform and Accountability

“What’s Next?” Establishing High School Preparatory Programs at Charter Middle Schools

By the end of eighth grade, many students at charter schools find themselves asking: “What’s next?”

While most charter schools provide high-quality academic programs that prepare students for continued academic success, many families lack the information and guidance that could give their children the best possible chance to access competitive high schools.  Public exam schools, elite private high schools, and boarding schools – even some charter high schools – typically require a keen understanding of the high school application process, adequate emotional and social support for students often unfamiliar with such settings, and access to sufficient financial resources.

That’s where high school preparatory programs at charter middle schools come in.  “What’s Next?” Establishing High School Preparatory Programs at Charter Middle Schools, a new paper from the New York Charter Schools Association and the Foundation for Education Reform & Accountability, outlines how charter schools can operate high school preparatory programs that effectively prepare and assist students in the move to a competitive high school environment.

The paper identifies several key design elements for establishing and operating a successful high school prep program, including:

  • Creating an enhanced awareness of high school options through a high school prep class, advising students and families about their options, arranging tips to high schools and high school fairs, holding parent workshops, and offering high school admissions test prep.
  • Leading students and their families thorough the high school application process by assisting with the completion and submission of applications and financial aid documents, coaching students in ways that allow them to write effective application essays, working with teachers to generate quality recommendations, and building good relationships with high school admissions staff.
  • Preparing students for the academic expectations and the personal and social issues they will face in high school and maintaining contact with alumni to prevent them from potentially falling through the cracks at their high schools and colleges.
  • Arranging student participation in extracurricular activities at the charter middle school and enrichment and off-site programs to help them become well-rounded individuals, develop new interests, and make them attractive candidates to high schools.

Charter middle school students that pursue admissions to selective high schools typically find themselves in direct competition for admission with more affluent students.  Properly designed high school prep programs provide charter middle school students with the same knowledge and opportunities that their more advantaged peers at other schools have at their disposal, and help charter schools ensure that students who exit their doors have continued success.

Download What’s Next?” Establishing High School Preparatory Programs at Charter Middle Schools (PDF)

Foundation for Education Reform & Accountability is an independent, nonprofit, research organization dedicated to improving education in New York State by promoting accountability, stimulating innovation, and supporting school-choice efforts across the state.

New York Charter Schools Association is the statewide membership organization of New York’s public charter schools. NYCSA is the leading statewide advocate for individual charter schools and the charter-school movement as a whole, and its services help schools operate more effectively, emphasizing academic achievement and responsible governance.