A group of Newark Public Schools guidance counselors will travel to Texas next week to learn how to help high school students pick the right college. KIPP, the national charter school network, will lead the training.

The so-called “College Counseling Institute,” which will take place in San Antonio, marks the first formal partnership between the district and KIPP, which operates eight schools in Newark and 224 across the country. It signals that Newark’s new superintendent, Roger León, intends to follow through on his promise to foster collaboration between the two sectors — despite a vocal group of critics who see charter schools as siphoning students and resources from Newark’s traditional public schools.

“We are always looking to learn from innovative approaches with a track record of success,” León stated in a press release KIPP sent on Wednesday. “We have a talented, dedicated group of guidance counselors, and look forward to them receiving additional tools and training through the College Counseling Institute to help students select a college and career path that fits their needs.”

Staffers from three Newark high schools — American History, Central, and University — will attend the three-day training, alongside guidance counselors from the Miami-Dade County and New York City public school systems. Counselors from KIPP and another charter network, Aspire Public Schools, will also be at the free training, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (Chalkbeat also receives funding from Gates.)

They will learn about a KIPP program called “College Match,” which the network says it hopes to spread to other charter and traditional schools. The idea is for high school counselors to help students make smart decisions about where to apply to college, based on how likely they are to be admitted, the schools’ graduation rates, available financial aid, and other “fit” factors, such as where the college is located and what majors it offers.

After next week’s training, the participants will reconvene several times throughout the school year and receive support from KIPP college counselors, the network said. According to KIPP, after its counselors in San Antonio supported their counterparts at a local traditional high school during the 2016–17 school year, the number of students at the traditional school who were accepted into four-year colleges more than doubled.

Typically, school districts track how many students graduate high school and apply to college. But increasingly they are monitoring how well their students fare further down the line.

In Newark Public Schools, the high-school graduation rate reached a record 78 percent in 2017. This year, more than 70 percent of graduating seniors are expected to attend two- or four-year colleges, according to the district.

Yet only a fraction of Newark’s graduates will complete college.

Among students who graduated from Newark’s traditional high schools in 2011, only about 13 percent earned a college degree or certificate within six years, according to a forthcoming report from the Newark City of Learning Collaborative
and the School of Public Affairs and Administration at Rutgers University-Newark. Students who graduated from one of the district’s magnet schools, which admit students based on their academic records, had a much higher six-year college completion rate of 42 percent.

Among KIPP’s Newark students, about 38 percent of those who graduated high school in 2011 had earned a college degree within six years, the report found.

KIPP officials believe that one way to improve college completion among their former students is to steer them to colleges with track records of getting first-generation college students to graduate.

“How you go about the college application process can be worth 5 to 10 points in college graduation rates,” KIPP Foundation CEO Richard Barth told Education Post last year.

Newark’s counselors, however, will face serious constraints as they try to replicate KIPP’s college-match program.

At KIPP’s Newark high school, Newark Collegiate Academy, there are about 75 students for every counselor. In Newark Public Schools, according to state data, there are 600 students per counselor.

Update: This story was updated to reflect that the forthcoming college-outcomes report was a joint project of the Newark City of Learning Collaborative and Rutgers University-Newark.