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Should Charter Schools Be Pushing College as End Goal?

As academics debate the value of higher education for parts of the American population, charter schools all around the country are making the goal of going to college a central tenet of their curricula. The cover story in Forbes this month discusses the expansion of charters and celebrates the data-driven nature of the schools, likening what school administrators do to the work of money managers.

One of the sidebars discusses an elementary school in Oakland, which is actually called Think College Now, which is dedicated to getting its students—fewer of 10 percent of which were proficient in English in 2003, and barely more than 23 percent were proficient in math—zeroed in on college very early on.

Hallways, notebooks and T-shirts bear emblems of various colleges. In one fourth-grade classroom students are divided into groups named after Ivy League schools. A sign on the wall reads: "Am I making college-bound choices today?"

They are definitely not the only ones. At KIPP schools, each teacher has a pennant in their classroom representing the college he or she attended. The SEED School in Washington, D.C., takes students to visit nearby colleges, such as American University, in the 8th grade, in order to plant the, err, seed of higher education in their minds.

In this 60 Minutes video excerpt, a SEED School administrator discusses the pros of putting a keen focus on getting ready for college:

So, if college isn't for everyone, should these schools be pushing it so hard as an end goal? Are they, in effect, telling kids that there's only one way to be a success? Or is getting ready for higher education, whether a student decides to go to college (or finish it), just a fundamental aspect of preparing children for the real world?

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