Watch: "Creating college students | Ewing Marion Kauffman School" | 2:47
This week, the Ewing Marion Kauffman School celebrates the graduation of its first class – 38 seniors who joined the school in fifth grade, each of whom were challenged academically and personally to persevere against the odds. While the students have not only made it through high school, and all of them have been admitted to college, that’s just the start of the expectations for this pioneering group.
The Kauffman School opened in August of 2011, with the ambition of offering an entirely new type of college preparatory educational opportunity for students living within the Kansas City Public School District. Not only would this tuition-free charter public school have a mission to prepare students to excel academically and get accepted to college, but students were told to have a longer vision for themselves: to go on to graduate from college, and apply their unique talents in the world.
In an essay prior to the school opening, Hannah Loftus, founder and CEO for the school wrote, "If, after one year, I have students who tell me – through big grins – that this was the hardest year they have ever been through, but that they were pushed and learned more than they ever have, then I will know we have been successful. After 10 years, we will see our first graduates succeeding in college and well on their way to productive and fulfilling lives."
Indeed, that first year was difficult. When they entered the school as fifth graders, many of the 11-year-olds were reading books meant for 7-year-olds. However, in direct contradiction to the commonly accepted narrative about the under-performance of urban students, the graduating class worked long hours to not only get to grade level, but to ultimately exceed the performance of all Missouri students. So, while their parents and staff at the school may expect the students to go on to do great things, this week is for celebrating what they have already achieved.