Crimson Academy nets promising results
Kenneth J. Cooper | 11/1/2011, 7:53 p.m.
By those standards, the programs have been a noteworthy success, based on a 2009 evaluation by the Educational Testing Service.
Students who have completed the prep program have gone on to attend more than 100 selective colleges including all of the Ivy League colleges and the Seven Sisters.
Other students have enrolled at black colleges, including Howard University, Hampton University, Spelman College, Morehouse College and Florida A and M University.
The rates of elite college aspiration for the programs’ graduates were much higher than those of a somewhat similar national sample of African American or Hispanic high school students whose families earned less than $35,000 a year.
Ninety percent of students who start the programs complete them. Through June 2009, 90 percent of graduates had applied to selective schools, 82 percent were accepted and 70 percent had enrolled in one.
For the national sample, 31 percent applied to selective colleges, 25 percent were accepted and 15 percent enrolled.
The Goldman Sachs Foundation has provided nearly $27 million in funding for the seven programs, one of which is conducted on four campuses. Two programs are not connected to a college.
The seven programs are not identical, but share several components. Each has academic preparation that lasts three to seven weeks during the summer, and all but one have enrichment activities on weekends and after school throughout the year. All seven provide mentoring and guidance on high school curriculums, academics, college admissions, financial aid and life skills.
Catherine Millett, a senior research scientist at ETS and co-author along with Nettles of the evaluation, says program directors and faculty members send the low-income students a common message: “You can do it, and we’re here to help you.”
The programs go beyond academic preparation for an elite college. “It isn’t just about academics,” Millett says. “It’s thinking about social issues — How will this play out in your family?”
Those are important considerations, especially for the 60 percent of the programs’ graduates who are in line to become first-generation college graduates. Of the total 1,200 graduates, 39 percent are Hispanic and 37 percent are African American. The female-male ratio is 54 percent to 46 percent. About 23 percent of graduates are from impoverished families.
Several studies have shown that most students of color at Harvard — as well as Princeton University, Yale University and other elite schools — come from upper-income families.
“My concern is to continue the effort to recruit and admit students from the inner city — African American students. There needs to be a stronger effort to reach out to them, like there was when I was a student at Mount Holyoke in 1969,” says Shirley Wilcher, executive director of the American Association for Affirmative Action. She is a 1979 graduate of Harvard Law School and a 1973 graduate of Mount Holyoke College, one of the Seven Sisters.
Wilcher commended Harvard and the other host colleges for their summer programs.
During Harvard’s program, which lasts from five to seven weeks, students learn writing, critical reading, public speaking, digital photography, mathematics and science from “master teachers” recruited from the Boston area, Rodburg says.
Crimson Academy is the program richest in resources, according to Millett. The high school students live on campus during the week for the summer coursework, receive laptops and $200 weekly stipends, and upon graduation are awarded another $3,000 to help with college costs.
“We just feel that our kids are entitled to the same things that upper-class kids have,” Millett explains.
After receiving grants for two years from the Goldman Sachs Foundation, the Academy is entirely funded by the office of Harvard’s president.
Besides Harvard, the programs are based at Bank Street College of Education in New York, Princeton, Johns Hopkins University, Duke University, the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and the University of Southern California.