Program overview

  • College-preparatory boarding secondary school: SEED charter schools are public, urban, boarding schools designed to improve academic outcomes for students from low-income and underserved communities. The model takes a holistic approach to student achievement, with a focus on college preparation and social and behavioral development.

  • Serving students on-site five days a week: SEED schools serve students in grades six through twelve. Students at SEED schools arrive on campus on Sunday evening and return home on Friday afternoon each week. Students are selected to attend SEED through a lottery system. There are no specialized criteria for admission.

  • Focusing on college preparation: SEED schools aim to prepare students for college through rigorous coursework and an extensive college counseling program. Students at SEED schools have opportunities to enroll in Advanced Placement (AP) courses or dual enrollment courses at local colleges. The SEED College Counseling program also provides support to students throughout their college search, application, and selection process; provides standardized test-taking opportunities and preparation materials; and leads college visits for students starting when they are in middle school.

  • Offering holistic support beyond the classroom: The SEED boarding school model is designed to provide students with an environment conducive to learning, and to address non-academic barriers to student success. SEED students are given a safe place to live, regular healthy meals, and access to other resources such as a library and safe outdoor space. In addition, SEED aims to provide each student with a network of supportive adults to serve as role models, including teachers, school administrators, and residence hall staff.

  • Developing students’ behavioral, social, and life skills: Students at SEED participate in an in-depth Student Life program, administered by the Student Life Department. Student Life staff members lead residential life programming and provide structured activities for students outside of the academic day. All students participate in a Habits for Achieving Life-Long Success (HALLS) seminar once a week, in which facilitators focus on life skills such as decision making and communication and topics such as bullying or romantic relationships.

One study with a rigorous design provides some evidence for the SEED school model as a strategy for improving student academic outcomes.

  • A 2015 randomized controlled trial found that attending a SEED school increased students’ standardized math test scores by the equivalent of one and a half years of typical learning growth and their reading scores by the equivalent of one year of typical learning growth, as compared to members of the control group. However, the size of these impacts may not justify the high cost of the boarding school model.
  • Address questions and concerns about the boarding school model during recruitment: Parents and students may be uncertain about SEED’s unique boarding school structure. As such, recruitment efforts should address common concerns, highlight the model’s intended benefits, and emphasize the availability of staff to answer questions. In addition, opportunities such as tours or over-night stays should be made available to prospective students, and prospective parents should have the opportunity to talk with current SEED parents about their experience with the school.

  • Create a sequential educational experience: As students progress through the developmental stages of middle and high school, it is important that expectations and content shift accordingly. For example, in SEED schools, Student Life programming for middle schoolers aims to develop foundational social skills necessary for students to meet behavioral expectations. These skills serve as the basis for later learning, such as when the curriculum shifts to focus on planning, anger control, and self-esteem in high school.

  • Use data to inform instruction: SEED students take formative assessments in English and math four times per year, and Academic and Student Life staff then meet to discuss the results and identify opportunities to support each student. Teachers can also use these assessments to develop lesson plans to reteach skills that students have not mastered yet.

  • Supporting students’ transition into college: In order to increase students’ likelihood of not just being accepted to, but actually attending college, SEED takes a hands-on and comprehensive approach to college counseling. For example, during students’ senior year, SEED offers a series of college transition workshops for seniors and their parents and provides individualized assistance for students as they file their college enrollment paperwork.