I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hey KIPP: Take the Camden Challenge!

The terrific Paul Thomas summarizes the ongoing KIPP charter school controversy. The sad fact is that KIPP and other "successful" charters cannot replicate their "success" on a large scale, because they do not serve the same students as public schools and they are spending more money per pupil. Paul nicely summarizes the research, and you can read Bruce Baker and Ed Fuller for more.

Given this truth, Diane Ravitch has issued a standing challenge to KIPP: take over an entire district. If KIPP really has the "secret sauce," they ought to share it with the rest of the nation and prove that every child can benefit from their techniques.

May I suggest the perfect place for KIPP to take up this challenge? Camden, NJ.

The road has been paved for KIPP's entrance to Camden anyway, what with the NJDOE threatening to disenfranchise local citizens from having control over their schools. KIPP has the backing of NJ Democratic boss George Norcross (a Chris Christie ally), so they have all the money and political muscle they'd ever need. Hell, the NJDOE is even willing to bend the rules to get the folks they want into Camden; it should be easy to firmly ensconce KIPP in the city.

Of course, there is the slight problem of KIPP's previous failure in Camden, where they turned tail and ran out of the place after they couldn't get the job done. I think the good people of Camden might be reluctant to give these folks another chance when they blew it once before.

But the NJDOE really doesn't care what Camden's citizens think about their schools (they prefer to turn them over to the cronies of California billionaires), and the state has been breaking promises to the people of Camden for years. So it would still be simple in this reformy political climate to turn the entire system over to KIPP; it's very easy to see Mayor Dana Redd going along with the idea.

KIPPsters, you'll never have a better chance to prove you've got what it takes. Camden is a "failing" district that's primed for state control. Politicians at all levels are eager for a white knight to come in and "save" the schools. A wealthy Democratic boss with his own newspaper is ready to sell the entire idea. And you're already set to build a brand new school there.

Camden is the perfect place for you to put up or shut up. Take the challenge, if you dare.

What's that? You say you won't?

Gosh, what a shock...

ADDING: Once again, KatieO cuts through the crap (via Diane Ravitch):
I am sick of hearing the same old KIPP talking points. The issue about KIPP, as well as other “no excuses” charter schools, is that regardless of incoming scores, the kids with the toughest behaviors and often lowest scores are getting pushed out. And peer effects matter. As the “tough kids”, even a handful of them, are pushed out through inappropriate expectations and ridiculous zero tolerance codes of conduct, the class culture changes as the higher-performing students are left behind. And as for attrition rates, it matters whether or not or with whom the outgoing students are replaced. (And please don’t get me started on those disgusting “zero tolerance” policies. I do not understand how it is OK for any school to treat children like inmates in prison. I can’t even imagine the KIPP behavior system being implemented in an affluent school for the children of the elite. I do not understand how it is acceptable for low-income children of color. But that’s another long conversation.) [emphasis mine]
It is, and we need to have it. Because what Paul Thomas says is absolutely correct:
KIPP's "no excuses" ideology is racist and classist.

KIPP is primarily a mechanism for isolating "other people's children" and "fixing" them, creating a compliant class of children unlike the middle-class and affluent children who have experienced and certified teachers and rich academic programs while sitting in low student/teacher ratio classrooms.

KIPP's primary focus on authoritarian discipline creates a police state in schools; KIPP's test-prep focus reduces the learning opportunities for some children.
The parents living in the affluent suburbs (yes, I am one of them) would never, ever put up with the segregating of their community's children and narrowing of instruction that are the hallmarks of the urban charter movement. Charters, despite their prep school pretensions, are not replicating the education of the upper-middle class; instead, they are "educating" poor, minority children in ways that the 'burbs would never accept - ways from which the reformy elite isolate their own children.

We shouldn't fool ourselves: "separate but equal" is alive and well in many of America's charter schools.


Stuart Buck said...

Have you ever been in a KIPP school for a day or so?

Duke said...


What's your point?

Duke said...



Duke said...


Farah said...
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Stuart Buck said...

I tried to read the first Schools Matter post, but the first paragraph was so histrionic that I wasn't motivated to keep reading. Anyway, the point is that you're making claims about narrowing instruction for which you have no personal evidence or rationale.

Stuart Buck said...

Note: here's why I don't trust a thing that Jim Horn says -- he hates KIPP so much that he lies even about easily checkable facts.


Anyway, I'd love to have my kids in a KIPP school. The whole reason they have extra time is so that they can spend some time on reading and math without giving up on music/art/etc.

Check this out, for example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNBhtks_5M4 Sure, from a certain point of view, it's horribly oppressive and prison-like to see black kids actually learning the alphabet, but they also are seen doing dance and yoga.

Duke said...

Stuart, I also make the claim that the moon has a lot of rocks and craters, even though I have no personal experience there either. I go with what I read and hear. There's been plenty of writing to confirm what Paul is saying; start with Jon Kozol if you don't like my links.

Stuart Buck said...

Relying on what you read and hear is fine, but only if you seek out reliable sources of information, not those that say things about KIPP that are indisputably untrue.

I've heard Kozol speak, and he is a bit of a batty demagogue. The time I saw him, he gave his usual tirade against Teach for America for spending just a couple of years teaching in urban settings even though their privileged backgrounds don't prepare them for that, etc. Then an audience member stumped Kozol by making the point: "Isn't that exactly what you yourself did?"

He actually said that no one had ever asked him that before! Rather stunning example of isolation, that no one would have asked him such an obvious question before.

Duke said...

And on the basis of your personal opinion of the man, I should discount Kozol's "Shame of the Nation," which documents exactly what Paul is talking about?

No thanks.

Stuart Buck said...

What does he say about KIPP specifically, and how do you know he's telling the full truth rather than exaggerating in service of his polemical style?