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College Prep For Tykes 

When longtime educator David Silver began making plans for an elementary school, he asked parents in the Oakland, Calif., neighborhood what mattered most to them. They told him, quite clearly, that they wanted to make sure their children had the opportunity to go to college.

Opened in 2003, the school, Think College Now, lives up to its name and parents’ expectations by focusing on getting kids into college. From kindergarten, the students use college language, take field trips to college campuses and receive tutoring from minority students at the University of California, Berkeley.

Although less than one Oakland high school student in 20 is qualified to attend a University of California school, Silver lets his students — 73 percent of whom are Hispanic, 68 percent are English-language learners and 90 percent live at or below the poverty line — know they can make it. The school uses terms like upper and lower division for the classes and students can choose “electives,” as the art or music extracurricular activities are called.

The school, which graduated its first fifth-grade class this spring, has gotten results.

Last year, test scores increased 109 points over the previous year — the highest rate of improvement in the Oakland district.

Silver says the school’s success is because of the teachers. “We have a very clear focus,” he says. “We are all about data and results.”

— By Emily Wilson

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