"Making Waves sets the gold standard in best practices for educating young people from low-income backgrounds. It is a model for raising achievement and attainment for less advantaged students that needs to be implemented in hundreds of communities nationwide."
Providing The Educational Opportunities That Change Lives
Launched more than 20 years ago by SPO Partners founder John H. Scully and the late Rev. Eugene Farlough, Making Waves is an educational preparation program that has seen unparalleled success in propelling children in underserved communities through the entire educational process to college graduation. The Making Waves Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Richmond, Calif., currently operates two large-scale, comprehensive after-school programs at the Making Waves Education Centers in Richmond and San Francisco and, in 2007, established in Richmond the first Making Waves Academy, a public charter school for students in grades five through eight. Making Waves to date has changed the lives of more than 1,000 students and plans to broaden its reach substantially through development of new education centers and charter schools in California and around the nation.
Making Waves focuses on what research says works in helping low-income students succeed in school and college. Making Waves Academy and the Making Waves Education Program set high standards; extend learning time; provide significant ongoing academic enrichment and developmental support; customize the learning experience to meet the needs of diverse students; address core academic deficiencies and accelerate learning after learning problems are solved; bond teachers to students and schools to families; and help students and their families navigate the educational process.
Making Waves has one of the highest success rates of any educational program in the nation, graduating virtually all of its students (99 percent) and placing 94 percent in college. What is truly remarkable, however, is that the students don’t just get into college - they graduate. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of its earliest cohorts of fifth graders have completed their postsecondary education, increasingly at the nation’s most prestigious colleges. Twenty-nine percent of the first cohort of graduates have completed or are completing graduate work at such institutions as Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, the University of California at Berkeley, UCLA's Anderson School of Management, and several medical schools. A number of Making Waves graduates have returned to the Making Waves program on a full-time basis to help the next generation of students. In 2008, 85 percent of graduating Wave-Makers attended four-year institutions. Forty-two percent of the graduating class were accepted to campuses in the highly selective University of California system, which accepts the top 12 percent of students in the state, even though Wave-Makers are in the bottom 15 percent of family income.
Educational attainment continues to be the great equalizer, an engine of opportunity, and the balance wheel of our society. Within our public school system, funding for education is supported primarily by the local property tax base. Schools serving low-income communities most often lack the resources and supports necessary to ensure that all students have the opportunity to graduate from high school, much less live a productive life as workers and citizens. Too many schools in our poorest neighborhoods are characterized by limited resources, underqualified teachers, low morale and expectations, and the limited involvement of parents and the community. Making Waves changes the odds for young people by providing the kind of academic enrichment and network of services virtually unheard of in high-poverty communities.
Making Waves serves students from grade five through college, graduate school, and beyond.
- The Middle School Program serves students in grades five through eight.
- The High School Program serves students in grades nine through 12.
- The College and Alumni Program assists students with the transition to college and, later, to the workplace.
While schools today have raised standards and expectations for student performance, they have largely ignored social factors and academic supports that are crucial for the success of underserved youth. In the words of Pedro Noguera of New York University, “If we want to ensure that all students have the opportunity to learn, we must ensure that their basic needs are met. This means that students who are hungry should be fed, that children who need coats in the winter should receive them, and that those who have been abused or neglected receive the counseling and care they deserve. If the commitment to raise achievement is genuine, there are a variety of measures that can be taken outside of school that will produce this result.”
Research shows that interventions that minister to such a comprehensive set of needs work, but are typically not available. Out-of-school-tutoring programs have a particularly positive effect on academic achievement among at-risk youth. Children with higher protein intake have higher achievement scores. Students who have support going through college selection, the application process, and the financial aid process are more likely to apply to college. Making Waves brings all of these activities under one roof at the Making Waves Education Program sites and the Making Waves Academy. Learn more about the services we provide.
Students who become Wave-Makers are from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds and are fully representative of the lowest-income learners in the communities we serve, including young people with behavioral difficulties and special needs and English Language Learners. Admission to the Making Waves Academy is conducted through a lottery system that gives siblings of current Wave-Makers first preference but that is open to all. Students are African American (23 percent); Latino (72 percent); Asian (3 percent), and Pacific Islander (1 percent); and white (fewer than 1 percent). By gender, students at our school are 50 percent male and 50 percent female.
For over 20 years, Making Waves has proven that our success is predicated on delivering a full array of services for our students. Delivering those services is not an inexpensive proposition. The annual per pupil expenditure at Making Waves Education Program is $22,000. Included in that cost is $9,000 per pupil per year for tuition and fees at parochial and independent high schools and colleges. The annual per pupil expenditure at Making Waves Academy is $14,500. This amount is offset by the $6,000 per pupil the Academy receives in funding from the State of California and the federal government (thus, the cost per pupil to Making Waves is $8,500). The numbers make it very clear: A major reason for transitioning from the Making Waves Education Program grades five to 12 model to the Making Waves Academy model is the ability to serve more students in a much more efficient and sustainable manner.
Making Waves is fortunate enough to attract multiple streams of public, private citizen, foundation, and corporate sponsors. Because the need is so great, Making Waves is looking for new investors to develop the tools and training necessary to replicate the model in new communities.