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Mon, 08.31.1936

Marva Collins, Educator born

Marva Collins

*Marva Collins was born on this date in 1936. She was a Black educator and administrator.

Marva Nettles Collins received her early education in Atmore, Alabama, from Monroeville, Alabama. This environment had a segregated school system with few resources for Black students.  Eventually, Collins attended Clark College in Atlanta and, after graduation, returned to Alabama. She taught in the Alabama school system for two years before moving to Chicago.  There, she worked in the public school system for fourteen years.

Upset by the Chicago public schools' low standards, Collins opened Westside Preparatory School in 1975 on the second floor of her home. The first students included her son, daughter, and several neighborhood children, some of who were considered to be learning disabled. At the end of the first year, every student scored at least five grades higher on their standardized tests. Westside Preparatory School’s success attracted national attention and was profiled on 60 Minutes, Good Morning America, in Time and Newsweek magazines, and in a television movie entitled The Marva Collins Story. Ronald Reagan offered her the post of Secretary of Education, but she declined to continue the development of Westside Preparatory School.

In 1996, Collins returned to the Chicago Public School system to supervise three of the schools that had been placed on probation. She specifically requested those schools with the worst academic records and lowest parental involvement rate and improved the rating of two of the three schools by eighty-five percent in only half a year. During the following year, the Marva Collins Preparatory School of Wisconsin opened its doors to its first class of students, and other schools have since opened in Cincinnati, Ohio, and throughout Florida. Marva Collins has trained over 100,000 teachers since the opening of the Westside Preparatory School. She traveled to Africa with the Young Presidents' Organization to spread her methodology to educators worldwide.

She received over forty honorary doctoral degrees from universities, including Dartmouth and Notre Dame. In 1982, she was honored, along with Barbara Walters, as one of the 'Legendary Women of the World.' Now located on Chicago's South Side, Collins' daughter Cynthia, one of the school's first students, is heading to Westside Preparatory School.

Collins married Clarence Collins from September 1960 until he died in 1995.   Together, they had three children; Patrick, Eric, and Cynthia.  Marva Collins died on June 24, 2015, in Beaufort County, South Carolina, aged 78, while in hospice care.

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