The browser or device you are using is out of date. It has known security flaws and a limited feature set. You will not see all the features of some websites. Please update your browser. A list of the most popular browsers can be found below.
NCAA Eligibility Center
Thomas, a rising senior in Lancaster, Texas, said the attention Prime Prep was receiving over its academics did play a part in him transferring. Though he only speaks highly of his time at the school, Thomas said he saw firsthand the scrutiny that his cousin endured to become eligible to play at the next level. His cousin is Jordan Mickey, who along with Karviar Shepherd, were originally declared ineligible last year from playing on the men’s basketball teams for LSU and TCU, respectively. They were later cleared to play after the NCAA reportedly granted them a waiver for having spent just one year studying at Prime Prep, according to a CBSSports.com report.
“It was a hot scene for the NCAA,” Thomas said. “I don’t want to say it was an issue, but it was a thought like, ‘Wow, we may not get to play in college.’”
Charles Hibbler coaches football in a part of Fort Worth where even buying a full set of equipment is a stretch for many families. His son, also named Charles, is just 6, but his father has big hopes for him and often allows his son practice with the 7- and 8-year-olds. That’s why Hibbler was excited when he heard Sanders was starting Prime Prep.
“I thought it was going to be amazing,” he said. “It was going to have the prep school dealing with athletes and education, making sure the kids get everything they need in their education and their sports.”
Those high hopes soon evaporated. Hibbler and his wife decided to pull little Charles out of Prime Prep midway through kindergarten, saying the school offered no curriculum or parent-teacher conferences.
The Hibblers’ concerns about their son’s education were justified. During the 2013–14 school year, Prime Prep’s elementary school in Fort Worth was ranked the worst in North Texas and the second worst among 4,358 elementary schools in the entire state. The rankings, compiled by Children at Risk, found that just 1 percent of Prime Prep’s 306 elementary school students, from kindergarten through fifth grade, were proficient in the math portion of the state’s annual standardized tests. In reading, just 2 percent of students were proficient. And the school wasn’t making any gains from year to year, according to the data.
“What’s very clear is no one is really learning at Prime Prep Academy,” Sanborn said. “Anyone with scores this bad — I don’t think there’s a turnaround potential here.”
The issues at Prime Prep’s elementary school went beyond the test scores. According to TEA data from the 2012–13 school year, the elementary teachers had an average of four months of teaching experience, compared with elementary teachers throughout the state, who average 11 1/2 years of experience.
While there weren’t enough data for a comprehensive review of the high school’s academics, Sanborn said there’s a strong indication from the data that are available that the standards for those students remain “pretty poor.” Meanwhile, Sanders and Prime Prep officials tout the high school’s 100-percent graduation rate in its two years, as well as the 15 college athletic scholarships that have been awarded in that time.
Even with the controversy surrounding Prime Prep’s academic standards, students and their families say the academic standards are much better than what has been reported. Standing 6 foot 3 and weighing about 300 pounds, John Perkins is a promising offensive tackle, already receiving looks from several Division I programs. Before going to Prime Prep, he was unhappy and struggling academically at his old school. Knowing their son wanted to play football in high school and potentially in college, his parents enrolled him at Prime Prep in December after a meeting with Sanders.
“We asked him if he could grow our son, and that was academically and athletically,” said Lisa Perkins, John’s mother. “And he told us he will grow our son.”
Lisa and her husband, also named John, said their son, a rising sophomore, is already doing better in school, specifically on his standardized tests. And with his academic improvement also came a noticeable turnaround in his self-confidence.
“I said thank you to Deion Sanders after [our son] had been there three or four months, because he’d brought my son’s smile back,” said Perkins’ father. “He’d brought his passion back.”
Added Lisa Perkins, “I’m very confident with our decision to send him to Prime Prep Academy.”
The Prime Prep coaches’ lounge was casual and nondescript, smelling like a typical Texas football locker room in the summertime: the stench of sweat, grass and more sweat emanating from helmets, pads and cleats.
Sanders sat on a black leather couch, staring back at us. He was respectful and occasionally funny. When our cameraman told him it would take an hour to set up for the interview, Sanders asked us if we were shooting “Thriller,” referring to the Michael Jackson music video. But he was always cautious. Sanders’ need for a tighter grip on the situation at Prime Prep has only increased in the months since Wallace’s resignation.
Minutes later, the interview was called off. Sanders, despite his initial consent to the interview, said he wouldn’t do it unless his reality show was there taping it — something “America Tonight” couldn’t agree to do. We respectfully went our separate ways, with Sanders driving off in his black SUV.
Whether the school is spared by the state remains unclear. But Sanders — no matter what his supporters or critics believe he should do — will be involved in the efforts to rehabilitate the public image of Prime Prep, his vision.
“The school is called Prime Prep Academy,” Sanders told Roland Martin, referring to his nickname being a part of the school’s name. “That’s like Ronald and McDonald. They’re never separating.”
David Martin and Michael Okwu contributed to this report.
Deion Sanders spoke to Al Jazeera America about the culture of gun safety among NFL players
Should charter schools be the answer to improving education, or do they lead to another problem, creating racially segregated public schools?