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43 entrepreneurs who are changing the world
2007 Social Capitalist Winner

Aspire Public Schools

Oakland, CA
Year founded: 1998
CEO: Don Shalvey

Just as the U.S. Postal Service improved over time with the emergence of new competition from FedEx and UPS, charter public schools are improving public education in California. Aspire Public Schools, according to TV journalist Charlie Rose, is the FedEx of the charter school movement.

Aspire Public Schools, a non-profit organization that builds and operates high-quality charter schools throughout California, is showing that there is more than one way to educate young people, create change in the public school system, and send a generation of young kids to college who did not previously have that opportunity.

As a national leader in the charter school movement, Aspire is catalyzing change in public education. Aspire's ultimate goal is to improve the achievement of all students in California by growing to 50 schools--as measured by academic performance, increased college matriculation and graduation rates.

With its network of high-performing schools, Aspire seeks to have broader impact using three levels. First, Aspire seeks to create district change within its selected geographies, by influencing change at the school district level. And it's working: Lodi Unified School District Superintendent Bill Huyett recently said, "We could learn from each other. Some good, friendly competition can be good for the system." In addition, Aspire seeks to build capacity among other educators and charter organizations, which collectively will create hundreds of high-performing schools statewide. Finally, Aspire will advocate for changes in educational policies, practices and institutions in California. Together, these three activities will create the changes necessary for improved achievement for all California students.

In its first seven years, Aspire has developed a rigorous and effective education model; joined forces with local districts to serve all students in the community; and created 18 high-performing campuses in Sacramento, Oakland, East Palo Alto, Modesto, Stockton and Los Angeles. Today, Aspire serves nearly 5,000 students in grades K-12, making the organization larger than 740 of the 1,000 existing public school districts in the state. Aspire has established itself as a premier provider of public school choice in California: Aspire schools have had strong academic results, and parents and teachers are highly satisfied.

This year, every single Aspire school exceeded its state target on California's state testing program for the second straight year--a 100% achievement rate compared to the state rate of 65% last year and 63% the previous year. The average Aspire school improved scores by 45 points while the state average improvement was 11 points. Five Aspire schools have now exceeded the state performance target of 800 and the others are well on their way.

In addition, Aspire's secondary school Lionel Wilson Prep saw its second class of seniors graduate with a 100% four-year college acceptance rate--46 students attending schools such as UNLV, Oregon State, and UC Berkeley. The class received over $1 million in scholarship money to help them realize their dreams of college.

Aspire's philosophy of "College for Certain" is the cornerstone of its work. As it continues to emphasize quality while adding schools and grade levels, Aspire will produce more students who are college ready and college bound. Aspire expects to produce over 1,200 graduates per year and in doing so, spark an educational and economic renaissance in some of California's toughest and most challenged communities--not only igniting the neighborhood vitality but sparking a revolution for a new generation of college-bound students.

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