The larger questions raised by Urban Prep's success have to to do with test scores, the cornerstone of Arne Duncan's school closing and turnaround policies under RTTT. Urban Prep's are nothing to write home about (I don't think test score in general are anything to write home about, but that's me). According to the Sun-Times:The average ACT score of Urban Prep's all-black male student body -- 16.1 -- is below the Chicago Public Schools average of 17 but above the CPS black male average of 15.4. On state tests, Urban Prep kids fell below even the CPS black male average, with only 15.3 percent of juniors passing last year.It's interesting that the school's entire graduating class has been accepted to four-year universities even though only 12% of them met the college readiness benchmark in reading and on 36% met the benchmark in English on the ACT exam. And while UP's composite ACT score is a few (3) points higher than nearby high schools, it's important to remember that UP ISN'T a neighborhood school. It draws its students from 31 different zip-codes in the city.
If Urban Prep was a neighborhood school with scores like these, instead of being heralded by the mayor, Arne Duncan, and CEO Huberman, the school would likely be facing sanctions under NCLB or worse ones under RTTP. It's possible that King would be fired along with his entire dedicated faculty, and the school hit with turnaround, since current policy relies almost entirely on standardized test scores as an indicator of school success. And you can forget about so-called merit pay which is tied directly to student test scores.
If we ever achieve data nirvana where everyone is using the same "college and career ready standards" and aligned assessments, I'm afraid cross-school comparisons will be get even crazier as people try to explain and legislate away the inconsistencies (here's an idea: sanctioning colleges who don't retain officially "college ready" students, then using college retention rates to demonstrate the efficacy of "college ready" strategies).