This is Vassar: The newsletter for Vassar College Alumnae/i and Families

Members of Crocker's 6th grade class proudly display their Vassar t-shirts. Photo courtesy Hope Crocker.

Hudson to Harlem: Middle Schoolers Attend “Vassar”

Hope Crocker ’07 wasn’t sure she wanted to become a teacher. After two years in Teach for America, however, she was sold on the idea. “I realized that I did, in fact, love teaching,” she says emphatically. That's how she ended up teaching at KIPP:STAR College Prep Charter School in Harlem.

KIPP is short for “Knowledge Is Power Program,” a non-profit network of free, open-enrollment college preparatory public schools. Currently, there are 109 schools in 20 states and Washington, DC, serving more than 32,000 students nationwide. The New York City arm of KIPP began with a single school in the Bronx in 1995. Today KIPP:NYC serves 1,700 students, some 83 percent of them from low-income families, 97 percent of African-American or Latino descent, all of them selected by lottery.

Exactly 25 of those 1,700 students were in Crocker’s sixth grade class this past school year. At Crocker’s KIPP school in Harlem, each classroom is named and themed for a college. Hers, fittingly, was Vassar. A Vassar College banner hung on the classroom wall.

But Crocker wanted to do more with the Vassar theme. “Every Friday, our students are allowed to wear college T-shirts instead of their uniform shirt,” she explains. Crocker worked with the college to outfit the kids with tongue-in-cheek shirts that read, “Vassar Football: Undefeated Since 1861.” The sixth graders loved their college threads. “The kids were over the moon with excitement,” Crocker says, adding that they got a good chuckle out of the football team joke.

Crocker is inspiring her students and making a difference. And making a difference is what she and the KIPP system seem to do best. According to KIPP:NYC, the national college completion rate in low-income communities is 10 percent. Currently, KIPP:NYC boasts a 31 percent bachelor’s degree rate, and it’s on track to hit 50 percent in the next two years. Some 95 percent of KIPP:NYC students graduate high school, more than twice the New York City average for their demographic. At Crocker’s KIPP:Star College Prep in particular, 98 percent of eighth graders rate proficient in math; 90 percent in English language arts.

Earlier this year Crocker’s class earned the STAR Cup, awarded to the highest-achieving homeroom in the school, measured by both academic performance and student character. What Crocker calls “KIPP’s little Vassar” is poised to accomplish big things … in the classroom, and in life. –Peter Bronski

September 2011

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