Good news: It can be done, with high efficacy: 85% of those who complete one such program (called “Prep for Prep“)go on to “most selective” colleges. (Of course, “completers” are a biased subsample of a biased sample: not everyone volunteers, and about a quarter drop out.)

Bad news: It’s backbreaking work for the kids: two summers in residential programs, plus eight hours every Saturday for the school year between them.

More bad news: It costs real money, about $35,000 per student.

More bad news: The usual idiots are against it. “These are kids who would have made it anyway; they’re high fliers,” said Jacqueline Ancess, co-director of the National Center for Restructuring Education, at Columbia’s Teachers College. “How does it change the culture from business as usual? Schools are supposed to be the great equalizer.”

Good news (if you’re a Bush fan): The interest of suburban high schools in the program stems from the “No Child Left Behind” legislation, which requires student-achievement breakdowns by race. As a result, a place like Greenwich High can’t use the stellar performance of its white kids to hide poor minority peformance. (That ought to, but won’t, discourage people like Ward Connerly, who’s pushing a proposal to abolish all collection of racial data by the California government.)

Yes, I know that lots of programs work at pilot scale and then crash at production scale. So far, though, this looks like a winner. Let’s see, with 600,000 blacks in an age cohort, if we put 5% of them through such a program at $35,000 a copy, that’s about $1 billion a year. Sounds like a bargain to me.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: