Busted Halo

In Virtue/Vice, Dr. Christine B. Whelan blogs about news, books, scientific and psychological research and her general musings about virtue and vice in our everyday lives.


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December 23rd, 2010

A Gold-Striped Tie


urbanprep-goldtie-flashUrban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men, Chicago’s only all-male charter school, graduated its first senior class this year–and sending every young man to a four-year college. NPR’s Allison Keyes interviewed Tim King, the founder and CEO of Urban Prep and told the inspirational story. For a school that draws its students via lottery from underprivileged communities, this is a major accomplishment: More than half of black male students drop out of Chicago Public Schools. At his academy, things are
different. Why? Says King,

People ask all the time, how do we do it? And I always go back to the point of creating a positive
school culture that is laser-focused on preparing our students to go to college. And a piece of creating that positive school culture – obviously, we want to create a supportive environment where the students feel like they are supported and they are being nurtured. We want to create a rigorous curriculum and a rigorous program.

But in addition to that, we need to create an environment in which students feel safe and they feel respected. And part of the way we do that is through our code of conduct and that embodies or
includes our dress code policy, so all of our students wear a black Urban Prep blazer, khaki pants, white buttoned-down collar shirt and an Urban Prep school-issued tie. And you know, one of the great things about this time of year is for our seniors, once they’re admitted to a four-year college, they get to trade in their standard issue red tie for a red and gold striped tie.

Phrases like “code of conduct” and uniforms may not be cool, but they certainly seem to be working to instill a sense of pride and focus in the student body. And research has shown that clear, tangible rewards – like wearing a tie that recognizes your success – is a more significant incentive than we’d tend to think.

Congratulations to all these young men — and here’s hoping more schools will learn from Urban Prep’s success.

The Author : Christine B. Whelan
Dr. Christine B. Whelan is an author, professor and speaker. She and her husband, Peter, and their dictator cats, Chairman Meow and Evita Purron, live in Pittsburgh. Her book "Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women" is available in stores or at the Halo Store.
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