A profile of HOPE Christian Schools
By: Libby Sobic and Cori Petersen
Not only is HOPE Christian Schools one of the largest networks of private schools in Wisconsin, it’s one of the largest school systems in Milwaukee next to the archdiocese and Milwaukee Public Schools. That in itself deserves special recognition during National School Choice Week. But even as HOPE has grown, it has remained committed to providing a high-quality education through the “Three C’s” — Christ, College, and Character.
As a result, for seven years straight, HOPE has had 100 percent of its high-school seniors accepted into college. None of this would be possible without the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.
The HOPE network includes eight schools in both Milwaukee and Racine. HOPE provides a high-quality education that is centered on the goal of a college readiness for all students. Since opening its first school in 2004, HOPE now serves nearly 3,000 students at the K-8 and high-school levels.
Low-income and minority students exclusively attend HOPE schools, with 100 percent of students participating in one of the state’s parental choice programs and 99 percent of HOPE students identifying as a person of color.
“At HOPE we believe we are able to offer an incredibly full and lasting education that speaks to the heart, mind and soul,” said Zachary Verriden, HOPE schools Executive Director. “We share the unconditional love of Christ with our scholars and support them in developing a deepening relationship with their Savior. College is talked about from early grades on. Character formation is critical to academic excellence, because it forms the internal motivation for good decision making and a fulfilling life beyond the classroom.”
HOPE’s focus on college readiness starts early — teachers discuss goals of college with students in early grades to help them envision themselves as lifelong learners. “Not simply lifelong learners in the classroom, but also lifelong learners as servant leaders in their community,” said Verriden.
HOPE’s college-ready focus culminates each year with Senior Signing Day. This emotional and exciting day celebrates each student’s acceptance into college and their commitment to a college education. “It means the world for our scholars to be celebrated for their academic perseverance and accomplishments on the same level and stage as college athletes across our country.”
HOPE’s strong academic model includes meeting children where they are and helping each child reach their full academic potential. A recent WILL study, found that HOPE Christian High school is in the top 20 of academic achievement for private schools in the parental choice program in Milwaukee. The HOPE K-8 schools are succeeding at helping students close gaps in both reading and math with which they entered the schools.
HOPE’s college-readiness successes are largely in-line with academic research showing how children in the Milwaukee parental choice program were 6 percentage points more likely to enroll in a four-year college than their peers at Milwaukee Public Schools.
Verriden and other leaders at HOPE don’t take any of this success lightly. “Parents place a lot of trust in the school they choose to help them educate their child. Parents should have many options to make the decision that suits their family and some can make this incredibly personal choice by the neighborhood they choose to live in or by what local options the educational landscape provides. It is a privilege and honor knowing that parents in Milwaukee have so many choices of where they could send their child to receive the type of education that aligns with their family values, and nearly 3,000 of them have chosen HOPE.”
Can HOPE continue to expand to provide even more children with an education in Christ, college, and character? “We have some work to do to make that a reality and seeing all of the parental choice champions of National School Choice Week reminds us that we have to make that a reality together for parents in Wisconsin.”
Libby Sobic is a Director and Legal Counsel for Education at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.
Cori Petersen is a writer and research analyst at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.