Monday, April 20, 2009

They are talking about unionizing the NY KIPP schools ...
For KIPP, the fundamental question is one at the heart of much modern education reform: do schools operate for the kids who attend them or the adults who staff them?
Basing the schools solely on what teachers want is not effective. Ignoring the reasonable desires of those teachers to have a life outside the school is a recipe for disaster, too. I can't imagine why anyone over 26, or who had a significant other or a family, who would want to be in that situation. It's not education, it's a concentration camp with a new interpretation of the word "concentration."

I'm pretty sure that schools that are based on what the students want and need will do well. I don't think KIPP is that answer. Students should not be in school from 7 to 5. The uniform is cute but it isn't necessary. I don't think that what students want and need includes teachers who work 9-10 hours a day, plus some weekends, plus homework help in the evenings and then their grading, for a longer school year and extra summer time. Quality and quantity, you know.

It has been shown that KIPP does well with students who start below the baseline but this is a meaningless statistic. KIPP has none of the restrictions that the public schools have and can and will do things the rest of us can't.

Things like:
demand that students be active and involved or be dumped.
demand parents be active and involved or the kid gets dumped.
demand the students toe a very stringent line or be dumped.
demand hours of repetitive drills or be dumped.
demand twice the time and effort from a kid or be dumped.
demand the students test well and often or be dumped.

I won't even get into the California abuse problems.

The bottom line is that KIPP, while pretending to have an open admission, has some of the most selective policies in the country. This "dump everyone who brings down your score or who might display the 'wrong' behavior" policy quite naturally leads to good scores from those left behind.


It does not mean, however, that any other students would do well if forced into this type of regime.
Those who can learn in a 6 hour school day.
Those who got it the first time without endless drills.
Those who like to dress in camoflage or fashionable clothes.
Those who appreciate teachers who don't run around like over-caffeinated chihuahuas.

Those others are still getting a decent education in the mainstream schools. The testing doesn't show it because the testing has no teeth and isn't measuring much of importance. The fact that KIPP caters to it shows a lot about the mentality of the place.

Our testing is a cooperative thing between us, Vermont, and Rhode Island. 70% failed the math in each of the last three years. Go ahead, tell me this is a good test. You get the same results with private schools who take it. Tell me I should change my curriculum to suit this thing, just like the previous math teacher changed the curriculum to suit the last type of testing that came through.

One of our students wrote a three page essay on the evils of state testing instead of the prompt - who cares? She passed the essay anyway. Tell me this is a good test.


"The fundamental question is: do schools operate for the kids who attend them or the adults who staff them?" Both, but not like that.


  1. They'll also do things like lose half their entering class, not replace any of the departures, and base their statistics on the kids that remain.

    Neat trick, huh?

  2. Only if you're David Copperfield.