Stories & Grievances
Parents Report Harassment and Abuse By Administrators at the KIPP Charter Schools
A review er of the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) charter schools says that "... unlike paternalistic institutions from the past - say, juvenile reform schools- these schools are neither harsh nor forbidding. Teachers are both authoritative and caring figures, and students often call their schools a "second home." This may not be true, say parents at a KIPP charter school in Brooklyn, NY.
The secret to charter schools' success might come as a surprise
By David Whitman, NY DAILY NEWS, Tuesday, September 2nd 2008, 4:00 AM
Even as New Yorkers bemoan the continuing achievement gap between minority and white students, a growing number of charter schools in the city are quietly proving that the gap can be eliminated. Yet the lessons of these outstanding schools have been largely ignored in the city's efforts to reform its lagging secondary schools.
During the past school year, more than 90% of the students at KIPP's (Knowledge Is Power Program) four middle schools in New York scored at or above grade level in math on state tests; three in four KIPP NYC students scored at or above grade level in English. Students at KIPP Academy in the Bronx, selected in a random lottery, are overwhelmingly black, Hispanic and poor - yet they outperform white students on average, both in New York State and nationally.
In Brooklyn, Achievement First, another charter operator that selects students by lottery, is compiling a similarly impressive record of eliminating the achievement gap at its six middle and elementary schools.
What is the secret of these schools? Dedicated teachers, a rigorous curriculum, additional time spent on task, an extended school day and year and small size all help.
Yet what most distinguishes them is this: a philosophy of benevolent paternalism. These schools are highly prescriptive institutions that aim not only to build students' academic skills but to shape their character. They seek to instill values in minority adolescents like discipline, politeness, perseverance and respect. These schools carefully supervise students' behavior - rightdown to the smallest details - penalizing bad behavior and celebrating good character and academic achievement.
I know because I spent a year visiting these "new paternalist" schools, witnessing the actual dynamics in the classrooms, lunch rooms, playgrounds and hallways.
At KIPP schools, teachers regularly correct students' posture, urging them to SLANT - an acronym for Sit Up, Listen, Ask and Answer Questions, Nod your head to show you are listening, and Track the speaker. At Achievement First schools, teachers drill into students that they are supposed to "sweat the small stuff," right down to tucking in their shirts and never rolling their eyes at a teacher.
And unlike paternalistic institutions from the past - say, juvenile reform schools- these schools are neither harsh nor forbidding. Teachers are both authoritative and caring figures, and students often call their schools a "second home."
This new paternalism - not often thrown aroundconcepts like "accountability" - is the single most promisinginnovation in inner-city schooling in the last decade. To date,however, the city's public schools and Chancellor Joel Klein have aspotty record in expanding the no-excuses instructional model.
Yes,Klein is to be commended for encouraging charter operators like KIPPand Achievement First to proliferate. But he and Mayor Bloomberg havefailed to broadly incorporate this teacher-directed paternalisticmethod of instruction in middle schools and high schools.
Paternalistic schools generally do not track students by ability, and they provide little or no bilingual education, multicultural courses, vocational education or breakout classes for special ed students. Instead, they assume that virtually all students - even those who will require tutoring - can handle a college-prep curriculum and ultimately gain admission to college. By contrast, Klein and Bloomberg's early embrace of progressive, feel-good teaching methods helped to perpetuate the ineffective instructional status quo in the city's high schools.
Half-steps won't transform inner-city secondary schools. If the New York education establishment continues to support ineffective instructional techniques and permissive school cultures, the poor will continue to languish in schools that fail to close the city's shameful achievement gap.
Whitman is author of the new book "Sweating the Small Stuff," published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Excerpts are available atwww.edexcellence.net
lionel j Sep 2, 2008 6:05:28 AM Report Offensive Post
The key point is the decision to expect and demand a positive attitude toward learning and a high level of self-respect. NY public schools and teachers work in the opposite direction. There, learning is seen as a "white thing", a sign of weakness. Non-white students, their communities, and all of us pay a price in terms of crime, economic failure and lifelong dependence on government funding. The vast majority of victims of minority crime are black and/or Latino youth. What a tragedy!
Principal, Achievement First Crown Heights - New York City
Metro D.C. '98
Orpheus Williams is a New Leader principal at Achievement First Crown Heights, the first Achievement First middle school in New York City.
After earning his undergraduate degree from Cornell University, Orpheus joined Teach For America and spent two years teaching high school chemistry, biology, and physics in a Washington, D.C. public high school. During this time, he also earned an M.A. in science education from Trinity College. He went on to assume a position as assistant principal in charge of instruction at Clay Elementary School in Mableton, Ga., followed by his appointment as project manager for a non-profit alternative certification program in Atlanta. Orpheus moved to New York City in 2002 after being accepted to the New Leaders for New Schools program. During his residency year, he served on the leadership team at IS 62 Ditmas Middle School in Brooklyn.
From parents at Achievement First Charter School, Brooklyn, NY:
"One of the students did something wrong and the teachers were not sure who did it so the entire class got in trouble. When a student does something wrong, he or she most probably be sent immediately to the Dean's office where he/she will sit for the rest of the day. Sometimes even the next day as well, without even a lunch break, due to "damage to the community".
When the children are sent to the Dean's office they do not receive instruction and are given a work packet to complete for the entire day or length of time in his office.
Children then must "earn their way back into the community". When the child goes back to the classroom, his/her desk will be moved to the back of the class with no children on either side, due to his being a "bad" member of the community.
These children are then not allowed to participate in "Centers" (Centers are fun filled activities.) During centers they reflect on what they did by writing daily for the length of time they were out of the community.
They are not allowed to participate in "Specials" (Specials are Art class, Dance and Social Studies). During specials they sit on a bench and watch the other children.
THey are not allowed to sit with their classmates for breakfast or lunch, and sit at a table alone. This may go one for a week or two.
Students that have met all the school's behavioral criteria are allowed to participate in what is called Funtastic Friday those who do not have to attend what is called a Bummer party.
At the Bummer party you have to answer 5 questions "What did I do to not participate in Funtastic Friday?
"What was I supposed to be doing instead?"
"What school rules did you not follow this week?"
"What would have been better choices?"
"List all the school rules that must be followed"
The students have to complete their answers to the questions and if they don't they have to complete this during PE (Physical Education.) PE is also taken away from them when they are out of the community. The older children are told if they place their chins on their desks their paper will be ripped up and they will have to begin again.
Parents who feel that the discipline is excessive are shown two books, "Teaching children to Care" by Ruth Charney and "Yardsticks" by the Northeast Research Foundation for Children. The Foundation Directors were taken aback and said that this was not the purpose of both books and that Ruth Charney is the founder of the foundation and that was not the intent behind her book.
When a middle school student slipped and fell on the ice in the school yard at dismissal, not one of the ten teachers in the yard responded to her screaming and howling in pain. They all looked at her writhing on the ground in thawed out ice and turned their backs. A driver of private van that transports students from school came to her aid, carried her (she could not walk) into the school and she was later carried away by ambulance.
Children are punished and targeted if their parents stand up to the school administration. The punishment is punitive and not corrective. In the past children have been placed in rooms by themselves all day long. One parent's child was left in a room all day without lunch. When you enter the school on any given day you can hear teachers screaming at students for the tiniest infractions like not standing in line properly or talking when on the line.
If a child has completed all their homework assignment and has been a model student but their parent did not sign their reading or behavior log they are then relegated to the Bummer party and disqualified from a REACH award (This is a monthly award given to students who have met the Respect, Enthusiasm, Achievement, Citizenship & Hard Work values.)
As part of their citizenship values, children are told to pick up used paper towels and tissues left by other students in the bathrooms regardless of content."
Below is a few comments on KIPP charter schools in San Francisco, California:
The Chronicle's Chip Johnson wrote yesterday about the leaky roof at Oakland's KIPP Bridge College Preparatory, a serious problem with no easy solution. The building can't be reroofed during the rainy season.
Johnson repeats the usual praise of KIPP:
"... considered a model for education reform ..." "... its 450 students in fifth through eighth grades achieve higher scores than their counterparts ..." "... most of the students at KIPP Bridge School are academically beyond their peers in the public schools."
And he gives a rather soft-pedaled account of KIPP's disciplinary system:
"...students are required to walk single-file, candy is not allowed, and students and parents are asked to sign a contract and stick to it."
Johnson obviously didn't intend that column to take a close look at the KIPP school itself. But it would be useful if he has more background before he writes about it again, because the facts about KIPP and especially about that particular school are pretty startling. This blog post, which I'll send to Johnson, restates some points that I've posted here previously. For the record, I'm an amateur volunteer San Francisco public-school parent, volunteer and advocate, and I study charter schools and other "it's a miracle!" education reforms with a skeptical eye.
KIPP issue No. 1: Stratospheric attrition, especially of the most academically challenged subgroup
The most startling KIPP attrition statistic I've seen comes from KIPP Bridge, where 77% of the African-American boys in one class (the class that would finish 8th grade in 2006) left KIPP Bridge between 5th grade and the fall of 8th grade. It's not publicly known how many of the remaining 23% finished 8th grade and moved on to high school.
I've followed enrollment figures for all nine of California's KIPP schools. Six of them show the same pattern: very high attrition, far higher for the most academically challenged subgroup. (This is usually African-American males, but it's Latino males in some schools with small African-American enrollment. KIPP schools tend to be very segregated.) Oakland's KIPP Bridge shows the highest attrition of all.
Here are the figures for KIPP Bridge's class that finished 8th grade in 2006:
Total enrollment, all demographics:
87 students started 5th grade in 02-03;
60 continued to 6th grade in 03-04;
50 continued to 7th grade in 04-05;
36 continued to 8th grade in 05-06.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Those are fall statistics, so we don't know how many actually finished 8th grade and were promoted to high school.
Similar pattern for the class that is to finish 8th grade in 2007:
82 started 5th grade in 03-04;
78 continued to 6th grade in 04-05;
47 continued to 7th grade in 05-06;
number who finished 8th grade unknown.
35 started 5th grade in 02-03;
19 continued to 6th grade in 03-04;
15 continued to 7th grade in 04-05;
8 continued to 8th grade in 05-06.
Again, those are fall figures, so we don't know how many finished 8th grade and were promoted to high school. This means 77% of the African-American boys who started at this KIPP school either left or were retained to repeat a grade (this is unknowable unless KIPP chooses to tell us) by the FALL of 8th grade. We also don't know, unless KIPP chooses to tell us, how many of those eight finished 8th grade and went on to high school.
38 started 5th grade in 03-04;
31 continued to 6th grade in 04-05;
17 continued to 7th grade in 05-06.
38 started 5th grade in 02-03;
30 continuted to 6th in 03-04;
22 continued to 7th in 04-05;
15 continued to 8th in 05-06;
number who finished 8th grade unknown.
31 started 5th grade in 03-04;
33 were in 6th grade in 04-05 (this bump could reflect some retained from the grade ahead to repeat 6th, or newcomers);
17 continued to 7th grade in 05-06.
As an amateur doing this on my own unpaid time, I haven't researched attrition for non-KIPP schools serving comparable demographics. Boatloads of money have been poured into studying KIPP schools (too bad some of those megabucks couldn't pay to fix the leaky roof). One would presume that some of that money would pay for someone to do those comparisons. If so, I haven't seen the results anywhere.
KIPP supporters have defended this attrition by pointing out that low-income families often have unstable living situations and move frequently, a sadly valid point. But it's not clear why 56 percent of African-American girls would move away as compared with 77 percent of African-American boys.
To point out the obvious: any school that loses 77 percent of its most academically challenged subgroup, its true target students, is not solving the problems of public education. And any school that could keep 23 percent of a subgroup and disappear the rest could easily see that subgroup's achievement soar, no matter what pedagogical methods it used.
Again, six of California's nine KIPP schools show a similar attrition pattern.
KIPP issue No. 2: Discipline procedures
Candy bans and walking single file are the least of it (why do I suspect that KIPP tries to make that sound like the full extent?). KIPP's discipline system relies on shunning and public humiliation.
The punishment system, called The Bench, is for violations from physical aggression and vandalism to untucked shirt, chewing gum or talking to a benched student. It lasts for two days if the benched miscreant does everything right.
My information comes from the KIPP San Francisco Bay Academy handbook. I understand that this is fairly standard in KIPP schools.
Transcribed from the KIPP San Francisco Bay Academy handbook [bracketed sections are my inserts]:
If a student makes one of the poor choices [listed infractions], he or she must be "off the team" and is subjected to the following until earning his/her way off:
* No talking, except to staff (freshmen and sophomores) [KIPP refers to its students, who are in grades 5-8, as freshmen through seniors, and the student body as a team].
* Wearing a bench sticker
* Loss of all privileges
* Silent lunch away from the team
* Detention from 5-5:30
* Grade level appropriate letter explaining why s/he should be accepted back to the team
* Participation in a family meeting [it's not clear whether this means the student's family or is referring to the school community as a family] (in all cases except talking to bench student, gum, and untucked shirt)
* One or more logical consequences as decided by teacher/admin...
* Public apology at Grade Level Team and Family (juniors and seniors)
Meeting with Student Discipline Committee (SDC) where they review the student's apology letter and decide whether s/he should be off the bench...
(If the SDC and/or asst. principal so decide, the student is benched until another review the following week.)
(There are also time-outs, with a time-out space in each classroom.)
Needless to say, this discipline system is controversial among those who are aware of it (given that KIPP doesn't exactly trumpet it far and wide as a secret to success). Some view it as oppressive and racist that middle-class observers would admire a disciplinary system used on low-income children of color that most would never tolerate for their own kids. Others say kids from different cultures need and expect different types of discipline.
KIPP issue No. 3: Grade retention
It's clear to anyone who follows news and discussion about KIPP schools that they are very aggressive about requiring that students repeat a grade. All KIPP schools that I know of are grades 5-8, and all that I know of are in districts where all or most of the feeder schools are grades K-5. This would imply that KIPP schools are set up to expect many incoming students to repeat grade 5, and to weed out those who refuse.
Various reports and enrollment figures also hint that many kids are retained to repeat grades.
I took my 7th-grader to visit KIPP San Francisco Bay Academy last September. We were curious because of its high test scores, and also because a KIPP parent had posted proudly on the sfschools listserve that his child had "tested into" the KIPP school. KIPP is not supposed to be requiring students to test into its schools.
What the KIPP staff told me immediately was not to assume that my daughter would remain in 7th grade if she enrolled there; she would be in the grade they assigned her, based on testing. In our all-choice district, I checked out several schools when we first started looking at middle schools, and I NEVER got a comment like that. The attitude outside KIPP is that it's assumed that your child remains at grade level except under specific, unusual circumstances.
So, this raises many questions, few of which I've seen addressed.
How many students does KIPP require to repeat a grade, compared with non-KIPP schools (including students who completed 5th grade elsewhere and are required to repeat it at the KIPP school)? Does requiring students to repeat a grade weed out challenging students, and if so, how many? Is repeating a grade likely to improve a student's test scores? Does that extend to long-term improved academic — and life — success?
I would hope that the researchers who are paid to study KIPP schools know to examine all those questions. But media covering KIPP schools should also be aware of all these issues and be asking those questions too — though not necessarily in a story about leaky roofs.
By the way, though, aside from the money poured into studies of KIPP, it appears to be showered with private funding — Bill Gates, Don Fisher, Eli Broad, the Wal-Mart folks — everyone loves KIPP. Isn't there any way to direct a little of that money to fixing the roof at KIPP Bridge?
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