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The little class that could

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SEED's Class of 2004, like the rest of the school's 300 Grade 7-12 students, is fairly typical of the public school population of southeast D.C.

Ninety-eight percent are African-American, 2 percent are Hispanic. Ninety percent come from homes below the poverty line; 88 percent come from single parent or no parent households, and 93 percent are the first generation in their families to go to college.

All students were selected by a lottery system, and most were two grade levels behind in academic performance when they began seventh grade, says John Ciccone, assistant head of the school. Typically, some 30 percent of each class has to repeat a "growth year" before moving into high school.

But these days, SEED's upper-class students are scoring higher on standardized tests than their counterparts at other public schools in DC, staying in school (the national public high school graduation rate is 63 percent, here it is almost 100 percent) and getting into colleges across the country.

They are also better behaved than the rest of the kids on the block. According to a Ford Foundation study, 5 percent of SEED students were in a physical fight last year - compared with 35.7 percent of students from other D.C. public schools; and 12.1 percent of SEED students had tried drugs - compared with 47.2 percent students elsewhere.

So, in this age filled with sorry news about failing students, the question is: What went right at SEED?

The School(s) for Educational Evolution and Development (SEED) is the brainchild of Eric Adler and Raj Vinnakota, two young management consultants who went searching for something more meaningful to do with their time. Their idea was to establish a new model for an urban charter school that would prepare children, both academically and socially, for success in college and life.

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