General Education

Notable Charter Schools By Region: Big Cities

Notable Charter Schools By Region: Big Cities
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Yolanda Baruch January 20, 2015

Many charter schools are making excellent education more accessible. Noodle highlights charter schools whose methodology and outcomes make them stand out.

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“Why are academically gifted students from poor families less likely to attend top-ranked colleges and universities than equally smart kids from wealthy families?”

This is the question that Alexandria Walton Radford poses in her new book, “Top Student, Top School? How Social Class Shapes Where Valedictorians Go to College.” She explains that some of the reasons behind this disparity are lack of opportunities, absence of guidance towards college, and a minimum of access to resources.

Charter schools help facilitate access to excellent education. While sometimes charter schools can be controversial, they can often provide underserved communities with affordable schooling opportunities where children can excel.

In this series, Noodle highlights some of the most successful charter schools across the nation. The following charter schools have proven to be excellent choices due to their emphasis on:

  • Teacher feedback
  • Data-driven instruction
  • Robust academic training
  • Increased instructional time
  • High expectations for each student

Big Cities

Here are some outstanding charter schools that academically prepare underserved communities for college in big cities across the country.

# Mastery Charter Schools — Philadelphia

Mastery Charter Schools is a nonprofit charter school network. Launched by a group of business and civic leaders, MCS currently operates 17 Philadelphia schools, serving more than 10,000 K–12 students who are selected through a lottery system.

The school’s mission statement is: “All students learn the academic and personal skills they need to succeed in higher education, compete in the global economy, and pursue their dreams.”

The Mastery Charter High School Lenfest Campus have seen violence decrease by 80 percent, and 71 percent of students reached or exceeded the state reading level.

Two additional Mastery Charter School campuses recently opened in Camden, NJ and Cramer Hill Elementary.

# Success Academy — New York City

Success Academy’s mission is two-fold: “Build exceptional, world-class public schools that prove that all children from all backgrounds can succeed in college and life; and serve as a catalyst and national model for education reform and help change public policies that prevent so many children from having access to opportunity.”

Students receive only 80 minutes of classroom instruction from a teacher every day; for the rest of the school day, learners are engaged in small-group instruction and hands-on learning.

The Success Academy schools develop dynamic curricula in all subjects. SA’s science program begins in kindergarten, with students receiving inquiry-based science instruction five days a week. The math program is centered on activity-based investigations, which encourage students to think creatively and develop their approaches to problem-solving and team work. The THINK literacy curriculum introduces students to great literature and emphasizes critical thinking and thoughtful discussion.

Success Academy also uses Project Based Learning, which is a focused, intensive, multidisciplinary study of one topic. For example, for the Academy’s Brooklyn Bridge study, second-grade students managed trials and tests to study the engineering principles utilized for bridge construction.

Success Academy campuses were recognized as one the top 25 highest-performing schools in New York State.

# Urban Prep Academy — Chicago

Urban Prep’s mission is “to provide a comprehensive, high-quality college preparatory education to young men that results in graduates succeeding in college.”

The Urban Prep motto is “We Believe,” and it serves as a steady reminder that Urban Prep students will overcome negative stereotypes and low expectations by believing in their own potential and ability to succeed.

Urban Prep Academy is the only all-boys public school association in the state of Illinois. The schools provides guidance to at-risk youth and encourage them to seek higher-education opportunities.

Students at Urban Prep come from economically disadvantaged environments and are behind in many subjects. A random lottery is used to select students. Those chosen undertake a rigorous college-prep curriculum, an extended school day and year, a language arts and math focus, extracurricular activities, community-service requirements, parental-engagement expectations, positive school culture, and regular professional development for teachers.

The schools’ website notes for many years, 100 percent of the seniors from Urban Prep Acadmy have been accepted to four-year colleges and universities. Additionally, students have successfully amassed millions of dollars in scholarships and grants for higher education.

To learn more about outstanding charter schools in other regions, check out the other articles in our series:


Landrieu, M. (2014, May 16). Charter Schools: Let Every Child Have Access. Retrieved October 29, 2014.

Mastery Charter Schools – Mastery / Making A Difference. Retrieved August 5, 2014, from Mastery Charter School.

Success Academy. Retrieved August 5, 2014, from Success Academy.

Urban Prep Academies. Retrieved August 5, 2014, from Urban Prep.


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