Aspire’s founders were responding to the reality that in California, getting a quality education depended upon your zip code. The likelihood that students who lived in less affluent neighborhoods would attend college was extremely low.
Aspire Public Schools is one of the nation’s first charter management organizations. It was founded in 1998 by a public school educator, Don Shalvey, and a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Reed Hastings. It now serves almost 15,000 students in California and Memphis, Tennessee, in 38 schools, including Aspire Benjamin Holt College Preparatory Academy, founded in 2003. All Ben Holt graduates complete at least five college courses at the high school and gain admission into at least one four-year college.
Ben Holt's charter was originally approved in 2003. In the past 13 years, an important change that has taken place is an emphasis on extra-curricular activities. Originally, Ben Holt almost solely emphasized academics and, through feedback from parents, has gradually created a full-fledged, diverse extracurricular culture. As a result of the staffing and time needed to support this culture, Aspire has decided to break Ben Holt up into a middle school and high school to better serve each group of students.
The school has a 95.3% four-year graduation rate, and 93.6% of graduates complete all course requirements for University of California/California State University admission.
In 2014-15, the first year of Smarter Balanced Assessments, 64% of 11th-graders scored at or above standards in math and 83% scored at or above standards in English. In the last year the California High School Exit Examination was administered, 85% of Ben Holt 10th-graders scored proficient or advanced in ELA as compared to 58% in the state and 43% in the district. Also, 88% scored proficient or advanced in math as compared to 59% in the district and 45% in the state.