What DO they need? Part III


Continuing the discussion about what (poor) African American kids need (but this could apply to any kid in the “have-not” group), I started with this video from Bloggingheads.tv where Debra Dickerson (Mother Jones) shares that she wants to have schools in the black community become so good that whites want to go there.

I think this would be a great an laudable achievement, but I want us all to think about what the best known successful school in African American neighborhoods are, and what they are like. In case you forgot, here is a tape of the KIPP academies from You Tube:

YouTube – KIPP Academy video (part 1 of 2)

I want you to think, would middle class parents of any race want their children to go there? I think the answer would be heck no! “All that chanting, and call and response, what are you preparing my kid to go into the military or something?” is how most college educated parents would view this. This is the same point where the whole discussion started a year ago, when I started writing “What DO they need?” It all started with an article in the Portland Oregonian about inner-city schools in Portland where middle/upper-middle class parents were opting for private and alternative schools because they didn’t want their children doing school work to teach decoding (which many had already learned by kindergarten). Look at how early those differences start. It’s kindergarten, and these kids are already behind.

Ira Socal continues the interesting back and forth we have going on this subject with the post Changing Education, where he start with this quote:

“It didn’t take me very long after I started teaching to become aware (nobody at [Teachers College] ever helped me to become aware) that there were plenty of students who could learn, but not necessarily what I wanted them to learn and how I wanted them to learn it, that there were cultural differences that I didn’t understand but needed to and then figure out what to do with those new understandings–not a simple matter in the 19th century schoolroom.”

Ira continues with that theme. The strange thing for me, is that even though many of these methods fail to teach, most people (even those who fail the system) come away with one lesson from the experience, which is this is what school should be like.  As I’ve said before, one of the bits of wisdom from my credentialing program was that we tend to teach as we were taught because that’s what we know, even when we learn different methods for delivery of instruction (sorry Ira, it’s a convenient term). I think this also informs how many parents make their “buying” decisions in education. They have a vision of education, from tv/media, from and from their experiences, and they think that is what school is.

What’s to be done? I don’t think there are any magic bullets, but I have some ideas in the next post.

30 Comments to

“What DO they need? Part III”

  1. May 10th, 2008 at 10:46 am      Reply speedchange Says:

    I got into a rather large battle with people regarding an Inside Higher Ed article about KIPP and I asked, if its so great, why aren’t the children or grandchildren of the board members of the organization which pushes these schools going to schools like this?

    The answer is that these “leaders” are as racist as anyone else, and they believe that minority children are less important and less capable, and they believe that minority kids are all-the-same (thus the single method behind KIPP), and so they can use training methods they’d never allow to be used on kids of theirs.

    Just as they believe that Teach for America with its untrained, uncertified teachers modelling rich, white behaviors is “good enough” for poor kids. Just don’t think you’d slip an uncertified teacher into their Connecticut school district.

    In the end KIPP is really Kipling. It is a colonial education concept. “We will use our rules to teach ‘these kind’ of kids to act just like us – even if they’ll never be our equals.”

    And it is preserved because it ensures that “the right (white) people” will always remain in power.

    – Ira Socol

  2. May 10th, 2008 at 11:03 am      Reply alicemercer Says:

    The sad thing is that they think they are being enlightened. Let’s not forget that these schools are answering a need. I’m not a great fan of “A Nation at Risk” or other fear-mongering about education, but I saw what happened in an inner-city district where it wasn’t just that students didn’t want to learn, they weren’t being taught (the argument I made in the earlier post about Muhammad Ali). I do think that kids need to be taught to read, write, maybe not an essay, but if they can’t construct a sentence or paragraph, unless they have a massive case of dyslexia, that is just wrong.

    KIPP works for some kids and families. I guess I just wonder why it seems to be the only answer? I wonder why we want one solution for a place as diverse as this country is? I wonder why folks think there is one size for all black children too?

    Anyway, thanks as always for your willingness to share your opinion.

  3. May 10th, 2008 at 12:30 pm      Reply Socrates Says:

    No speedchange, the answer is that board members can afford to send their kids to other good schools, so why would they take seats away from kids who need a good free education?

    Alice Mercer hits the nail on the head. I’d add that no parent is required to put their children in KIPP schools, so if it’s so bad, why are their waiting lists so long? I haven’t heard anyone saying KIPP is the one size that fits all, but it seems to fit for a lot more kids in the neighborhoods they serve than any other approach does.

    Have any of you actually visited a KIPP school? I have, and it changed a lot of the misperceptions I had walking in.

  4. May 10th, 2008 at 1:25 pm      Reply alicemercer Says:


    I think that is reading a lot more into it when you ascribe those motivations. Also, do inner-city parents know what their kids are missing by not having say, a Waldorf experience? They know they are missing something, but do they have some ideas about what is it they should have.?

    I have not visited a KIPP school, but looking at that video (I’ve read articles, etc.) but this is what most Americans know about KIPP and I can tell you most college educated parents (esp. non-black) would not have their kids there for two reasons…

    1. There is a classroom full of black students there so they would perceive it is “not a place for my child” for whatever reasons. I’ll point out what happens in neighborhoods that are white, and the percentage of blacks increases beyond 10%.

    2. The call and response, chant teaching style is not a delivery of instruction model that folks in that demographic perceive of as desirable. They wanted their children treated as individuals, and whole-class response doesn’t fit that model in their head.

    So, I’m going to ask Ira to consider something…how does this bias among the college educated hurt their children? What if a college educated types have a kinesthetic learner, who loves that verbal response, but mom and dad don’t want to send junior to a good school that provides that (and other wonderful methods of instructional delivery) because it’s in the hood?

  5. May 10th, 2008 at 1:27 pm      Reply alicemercer Says:

    Oh, thanks for your thoughts Socrates!

  6. May 10th, 2008 at 5:56 pm      Reply speedchange Says:

    Hang on Socrates:

    First, yes, I have been in three KIPP schools. I was horrified. And I also know the stunning failure rate of KIPP students attempting college. (“KIPP is helping all students climb the mountain to college” – they don’t mention that they offer no training which would be relevant to succeeding in college.) That does not mean that I think they shouldn’t exist. Military academy-type schools have existed for 150 years, I presume that they do work for certain students. What i object to is the sales pitch that these schools are “the solution” for a certain population (or as you put it – “neighborhoods they serve”). Why not try treating those students to the same education offered to the kids at St. Bernard’s in Manhattan, or Choate? – to mention two schools attended by KIPP Foundation member grandchildren. Or why not switch St. Bernard’s or Choate to KIPP-style education? – surely they could afford that without “tak[ing] seats away from kids who need a good free education.”

    The question is not whether the rich white elite can afford to send their kids to good schools, the question is why good schools are not available to everyone else.

    Because the issue is this – rich kids often get the accommodations they need. If nothing else, they can switch schools (those classic private military academies have long offered KIPP-like experiences to rich kids who either needed that or were otherwise sent there). If not military academies, then Montessori, or the differing kinds of programs wealthy school districts offer. Rich kids have mobility and access and advocates on their side. Yes, schools fail many of them as well, but these advantages shift the odds dramatically.

    Kids in poor districts receive a completely false (and colonial) choice. Kids can either get virtually nothing from the basic public school (complete with its TFA teaching staff), or they can be trained in compliance by their KIPP academy. Why colonial? Obviously – “you can stay in your jungle or you can learn to act and think as we expect you to.”

    If every community which had a KIPP academy also offered Montessori education, and top-level schools like the best suburbs, and well-designed open schools, and high-level exploratory schools, then we’d see what the actual demand for KIPP was, and we might be able to judge effectiveness. And then I wouldn’t object to them at all. Parents who want their kids to be trained to chant in unison would have that option.

    – Ira Socol

  7. May 11th, 2008 at 7:12 am      Reply alicemercer Says:

    Ira, I’m going to ask if you are a social justice-type educator, cause I’m hearing some of that in your comments. I was educated in that and it informs my teaching as well, so this isn’t a let me pigeon-hole this guy who is making very strong passionate statements on my blog thing.

    There is one thing I had to unlearn as I became a teacher and that was a silent classroom is a good classroom, and that some chaos in the classroom is a GOOD thing. To steal from Brian Crosby, learning is messy. I think part of what we value in a classroom is the order, and it can be hard to let go.

    The problem I struggle with is the balance between teaching students skills they need, with the higher order thinking. I’m out of the loop on that a little more being in the lab. The kids need the skills (reading, writing) to succeed in college, but without analytical thought, they will die in the environment too. IMHO, the balance between these two does not have a clear roadmap, but I’m sure there are folks out there who have found the way to do it (I remember seeing the teaching manual for a fellow credential candidate who worked at an Edison school).

  8. May 11th, 2008 at 7:53 am      Reply speedchange Says:


    Let me put it this way, I believe that you are either teaching social justice or you are teaching something else. I do not think there is any such thing as “values neutral” education. And I think that schools are primarily designed as a means of social reproduction, so it is very, very hard within schools to work counter to that, to prepare kids for a changed society or to prepare kids to change society.

    (The most important book I know on the “intent” of American schools is Kliebard’s “The Struggle for the American Curriculum: 1893-1958” – worth some summer reading time – it is remarkably readable – unless 😉 you’re dedicated to reading “The Drool Room” first.)

    A few things:

    First, we’re always walking a tightrope. Kids (or really almost anyone) need motivations to learn skills. If I say to the average teacher, “you really need to learn to build properly adapting xhtml CSS,” they will stare at me blankly and pay attention somewhere else. If I show them that many people cannot access their existing websites, or if I can demonstrate to them what it is like to not be able to access important information because the information provider hasn’t “bothered,” then, I might get them to understand what CSS is, and I might get them to attend to the conversation to a point where they have a shot at learning the skill. Of course it still won’t work unless I acknowledge that the teachers in the room will come with vastly different computer skill levels, and I differentiate my instruction accordingly, and I have the technology (say DreamWeaver properly set up) on hand for those who find straight xhtml coding just too difficult.

    There’s another step. If I just make them practice writing xhtml code for even two hours, without letting them work on this with their own websites – with things important to them – they will almost all give up. (based on watching hundreds of actual teachers in in-service training over the years)

    But (second), school – well, I don’t have to point out the obvious. I’ll just say that US schools continue to move away from integrated and differentiated learning. We now treat reading as nothing more than a skill (see Success for All, or KIPP), completely disconnected from why anyone would read (“there’s stuff I want in those books”). We do the same with math, with history, etc. I think we’re a bit better in sciences, though not at all good (as the classic “middle school science fair” proves year after year). We also stick to the industrial stamping station philosophy, grade after grade, often literally lying to students in the name of “age appropriate” curriculum. And it is important to know that’s a choice. Prior to the 1880s the model of US education was largely ungraded – students worked at their ability levels, and mixed with a wide variety of ages. Multi-age classrooms do exist and usually “outperform” classically graded classrooms by every measure. In the end, students have no reason to learn what we are trying to teach them, and perhaps 75% are not ready, or are past ready, to learn whatever we are teaching at the moment. It is a structure designed to fail.

    Third, I’ve lived other models. I was lucky to be sent to an alternative high school, way back when, designed by Neil Postman and Alan Shapiro. No grades (as in “academic years”), no grades (as in “A-B-C-F”). No fixed schedule. No required courses. No requirement that you take courses (projects in the community, independent study, group efforts could be used instead). Lots of “special ed” types (LD, EBD, what we’d now call ADHD, primarily). And – this was NY State – you still needed to pass the Regents exams for each “subject.” Well, urban/inner suburban high school and: 99+% graduation rate over 15 years, 95+% college attendance rate, over 80% four-year college attendance rate. And let’s see, colleges? Brown, MIT, Columbia, U of Michigan, Yale, NYU, all the SUNY schools, California, Boston College, Wesleyan (CT), Sarah Lawrence, Fordham, just off the top of my head, plus, obviously, Hampshire, New, Antioch, Kenyon, St. John’s (MD). Then, of course, closed down as “unimportant.” A similar school in Great Neck, NY (The Village School) continues, and continues to have the best success rate for students with “special needs” of any school on Long Island despite having no explicit “special ed” services.

    And I’ve seen the messiest 1-5 multi-age 125 student (5 teacher) classroom in western Michigan produce the best test results of any public elementary classroom in the state.

    And I’ve seen dozens of LD-EBD-ADHD students lose all their labels simply by switching to Montessori classrooms.

    Anyway – the thing for me is to divide the hard stuff this way – stuff there’s an alternative to and stuff there isn’t. If a student is struggling with both reading decoding and reading comprehension, the comprehension is far more important to work on. Technology makes it possible to read perfectly well without being able to decode the alphabet at all. So, it’s a nice skill, but it isn’t important in the way building comprehension skills are. Technology can not fix problems with comprehension. So, focusing on decoding is giving up on the student, leaving them so far behind on the comprehension skills that you have (fairly deliberately) determined that he/she will never get to compete with “your” kids. The same is true with handwriting, with math formula (or times tables) memorization, and often with arithmetic as well. Kids need those higher order skills, and they need either the traditional functional skill set or ways to get around not having those skills, and they need a reason to actually come to school, but they do not need to learn to do things “our way.”

  9. May 11th, 2008 at 1:53 pm      Reply alicemercer Says:

    CRUD, my last sentence on that last comment left out a critical word.

    IMHO, the balance between these two does not have a clear roadmap, but I’m sure there are folks out there who think they have found the way to do it (I remember seeing the teaching manual for a fellow credential candidate who worked at an Edison school).

  10. May 11th, 2008 at 3:19 pm      Reply Socrates Says:


    There’s no way you’ve actually visited a KIPP school, not if you think it’s all drill-and-kill, military-style education. And I agree that it would be great to send kids from KIPP’s neighborhoods to schools like Choate – but wait, THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT KIPP DOES! KIPP sends a lot of their alumni to schools like (and including) Choate, and they do quite well there. If the KIPP education was doing such a poor job preparing them for a real education, they would never do well at top boarding schools.

    But Speed, you must love KIPP if you’re a social justice teacher. KIPP is all about that.

  11. May 11th, 2008 at 4:35 pm      Reply speedchange Says:


    No. First, I never said KIPP was all drill-and-kill, though clearly, most of their reading program is just that. That wasn’t what horrified me anyway. Most US schools for lower SES students are drill-and-kill – or worse. What bothered me was the training in compliance, in group-think. The evangelical missionary function of the school to convert “these poor heathens” to “the light.” KIPP thinks of itself as a missionary program, with a “single path to the truth.” The KIPP board doesn’t want that for their kids because they believe their kids are from a superior culture, and do not need conversion.

    Second, yes, the top 1% of KIPP kids do well. I’ve got news for you. The top 10% do well. So do the top 10% of almost every school I have seen. This means nothing. Those are the kids who will be fine anywhere. And lying educators always use that group to prove that if all their kids were just sufficiently good, everything would be fine. But I measure schools by the 20-80th percentiles. And in that zone your typical KIPP graduate drops out of a Texas community college after 1.5 semesters.

  12. May 11th, 2008 at 4:36 pm      Reply speedchange Says:

    And KIPP is not about social justice at all. Social justice would mean kids from “KIPP neighborhoods” have the same choices kids in the neighborhoods of the KIPP board have. What you are describing as social justice is just colonialism.

  13. May 11th, 2008 at 9:47 pm      Reply Socrates Says:

    The KIPP kids go to the same high schools (Choate, et al) that the board members send their kids to. How is that not having the same choices?

    Does this mean you’re a voucher supporter?

  14. May 11th, 2008 at 9:53 pm      Reply Socrates Says:

    As far as I know, most KIPP schools use Reading/Writing workshop as their “reading program”. Not sure how you classify that as “drill and kill”. Seems like the very opposite to me.

    What evidence do you have that KIPP schools are all about enforced compliance? I agree that their classrooms are well-managed and their students become highly disciplined, but discipline is not an antonym for creativity or critical thinking; it is rather a prerequisite.

    Actually, every single KIPP school outperforms their district sending schools on state tests. And I would estimate that more like 90% of KIPP schools “do well”, as in, knock the cover off the ball, and are in the top 5% of their district. You’re flatly wrong about the typical KIPP student dropping out of community college after 1.5 semesters. As you cite no sources, I imagine you made that up. What is the reason you choose to invent statistics? Do you feel your point is that poorly supported by actual facts?

    It’s clearly a falsehood that you’ve visited 3 KIPP schools if your knowledge base is this shallow.

  15. May 12th, 2008 at 12:10 am      Reply speedchange Says:

    I had to visit your blog Socrates, to begin to understand your tactics. I see, a New York Sun reading, union-bashing, anti-public-school agenda who “screams” “can’t be true!.”

    Lets see. Why don’t we start with this. Just as with any school reading program which dramatically expands the amount of hours each day devoted to reading instruction will show short term gains in certain reading measures, surely the simple combination of longer school days and longer school years and higher parental involvement could account for the improved math scores of KIPP students, no matter what other methods were involved. – at least for a couple of years which, until recently, was all KIPP worked with.

    But I like how you pick your competition. You won’t compare KIPP to “good” schools, only to some of the worst in the nation. How nice. “Those Rhodesian colonial subjects sure have it better than those in the Belgian Congo.” It is really sad – but not an unexpected attitude unfortunately in a society dedicated to keeping most students away from actual success..

    So, let’s be clear. You decide what is important about poor and minority child behavior, you decide the measurements, you decide the discipline system, and then you decide that you are doing good things for the kids. And then you troll the web, screaming about the integrity of anyone who doubts your mission. (“You’re lying!” “You’re writing a book!”)

    But let me suggest an argument form that might serve you better. “With only evidence from a few years of actual KIPP high schools it is impossible to say much about the KIPP graduate success rate in college.’ This is true, because despite all the “KIPP kids get into Choate!” claims, that, by KIPP’s own reports, represents less than 1/2 a percent of KIPP students. Most have gone to the standard “college prep” high school (which is what almost every high school in the US is since NCLB) so, you could argue that the KIPP effect gets diluted, and as KIPP high school grads begin to more fully appear, these 1.5 semester results, collected by the Texas state university system, will change. You could also point out, because you have such low expectations for the children of “these” neighborhoods, that 1.5 semesters in post-secondary education is better than the typical (mean) result for most of the other schools they have an option to attend.

    But then, you continue to intentionally miss the point. The question was never should KIPP schools exist, or are they “better” in some ways than terrible schools. The question is, if this is some sort of ideal system, if its results with student achievement and getting students ready for college are so impressive, why doesn’t Scarsdale adopt this system? Why not St. Bernard’s? Why not Palo Alto? Why not – of course – Bellevue, WA? Why is it only appropriate for low-income children and children of color?

    As soon as you show me demand for this type of education for the children of the kind of people who fund and promote KIPP academies, I will still see it as colonialism. Not colonialism at its worst, but colonialism, and leaving-children-behind, none-the-less.

    – Ira Socol

    – and just a voucher note. I believe that any non-public school which accepts every student equally (by lottery only if more apply than can be seated – no religious preferences, no parenting requirements), which hires without regard to race, religion, or political/social belief, which follows state curriculum, which provides transportation equal to local public schools (and I’ll cut some slack there, for secondary schools in places with effective mass transit systems), and which is fully accessible to every kind of student both in terms of physical access and ICT, should be able to tap into per-student state funding. No problem with that at all.

  16. May 13th, 2008 at 7:09 am      Reply Socrates Says:

    Cool, we’re in agreement on vouchers. Most KIPP students go to private high schools after their KIPP experience, NOT to comprehensive public high schools where most of their neighborhood peers go. You are incorrect about that assumption from the wording of their press materials, another indicator that you lied when you said you’ve actually visited a KIPP school.

  17. May 13th, 2008 at 7:31 am      Reply speedchange Says:

    Socrates: Do you work for KIPP? Or are you just against poor kids as a political position? And did you train with Fox News? Or do you just shout “liar” whenever someone challenges you because you have no actual response.

    So, please: Show me the data that indicates that “most” KIPP 8th graders go to private schools. And show me the college completion statistics you have for KIPP graduates. I’ll be happy to read both reports.

    And just for details. The schools I have been in are in Gary, Indiana (a new Middle School), Indianapolis (an older Middle School), and Chicago (another Middle School, and the longest running of the three). My TFA-alumni friends were quite happy to bring me for visits.

    The Gary school is too new to judge any results. Indianapolis has tests results which prove progress but still leave their students significantly behind both the state and the local district. The Chicago school has great math results and by teaching the test (almost exclusively from what I saw) in reading, does really bring up scores from 7th to 8th grades. All three surely indicate that discipline is in place. And the teachers sure seem – across the board – excited, committed, really hard-working (and quite young, overall).

    Compared to general public middle schools in the same neighborhoods they are cleaner, quieter, attendance is MUCH better. There is less student-to-student bullying as well. There also seem to be fewer special ed services in place. This might be because they are doing a better job or it might be because they have a far lower percentage of identified special needs students than do other area schools. (About 10% vs about 30%).

    That said, I met not one child at any of the three who was planning on going to a private prep school in Connecticut, which doesn’t mean they weren’t, just that I did not not meet any.

  18. May 13th, 2008 at 8:31 am      Reply speedchange Says:

    I need to add, to get back to where Alice began this (for anyone who might read), that the gulf between where I stand on this and where “Socrates” stands on this is that vast chasm between “liberal rationalism” and “post-colonial postmodernism.”

    Socrates (I’ll be unfair here, but it is generally true) sees a single path to success and the future. This is a protestant-modernist idea that, if we simply apply the right pressures, we can change those who are outside the system into people who will fit into the system. This theory has given us “liberal colonialism” (“we’ll teach everyone in India English! We’ll teach them parliamentary procedure! We’ll teach them to wear frock coats and wigs in court!”), it has given us the “Indian Schools” of the United States, and it gives us KIPP academies. This theory is certainly appealing, it suggests that “we are right” and “they are wrong” – and if we can just teach them, or show them, or force them to be right, poverty and ignorance and the problems of the world will vanish and we’ll all sit down at Starbucks and have a good talk.

    I come from a different angle. I believe that diversity doesn’t mean that people look different, it means that they are different. It means that they may act differently, operate differently, believe differently, and that – here’s the big thing – we can live with that. That’s post-modernism, it is – indeed – relativism. It suggests that, for example, sending poor minority kids to Choate would be (mostly) wrong, just as sending Sioux kids to English-only “Indian Schools” was wrong. And that the path to building communities or nations lies in indigenous-originated paths.

    I think Socrates acts like the British Empire, and will be proved as wrong in the end as Disraeli was. He thinks that I wish to doom all poor students to being outside forever.

    It’s an irreconcilable philosophical split.

  19. May 13th, 2008 at 8:49 am      Reply Socrates Says:

    Here are some data for you: http://www.kipp.org/01/list_schools.cfm

    No, I don’t work for KIPP. I’m an NYC DOE teacher who doesn’t just fall into lock-step with the union shills who hate good charters because they show up the district schools. I’m also a dyed-in-the-wool liberal who hates the fact that our unions have co-opted the Democratic party.

    So by your description of the 3 KIPP schools, they’re doing quite well, though the data on these particular schools are insufficient to get a true sense of how well they’re doing. Fine, but why were you horrified?

  20. May 13th, 2008 at 10:19 am      Reply Ira Socol Says:


    I’m not at all sure why that list would be relevant. As I said earlier, all sorts of schools could list the best results of their education – and typically do. The questions are, where are the other students? how have they done?

    But you ask why I was horrified, and you identify yourself as a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, a title that has scared me all of my life, so I am not at all sure if I would ever be able to explain this to you, but I will try a story.

    A Pakistani friend of mine tells of going east from his home town to an Indian/Pakistani border crossing. There, he tells us, every dusk the armies of the respective countries compete in the elaborateness and precision of their flag-lowering ceremonies. Each trying to out do the other and thus somehow prove their national superiority. Of course, neither army is dressed in the garb of their respective cultures. Neither is re-creating any culturally significant ceremony of the Indian sub-continent. And neither is speaking in Hindi/Urdu. On both sides of this artificial boundary the “credentials of accomplishment” are those of the British Empire. The soldiers speak English, dress as English occupiers, and re-enact ancient English traditions.

    That is what is horrifying. That people like you have decided that the only possible path to success is to learn to conform to your ideas of how “proper subordinates” should behave, speak, learn, and think.

    I have never been a “liberal” and never will be. “Liberal” requires a belief in protestant redemption, and a belief that those born “flawed” can be fixed by being “born again.” Liberal requires a belief in the absolute progressive superiority of northern European history. Liberal is the British Empire in India and Iraq. It is Teddy Roosevelt in the Philippines. It is Rudy Giuliani with his “one city” crap. It is Mike Bloomberg’s reading programs. It is George W. Bush enforcing democracy in Iraq. It is KIPP academies.

    I, as I noted above, have a radically different world view.

  21. May 13th, 2008 at 7:35 pm      Reply alicemercer Says:

    Darn, I go away for the weekend, and I missed all of this. Part of me feels like I should be contributing to this since I started the whole ball o’ wax, but then I’m sorta enjoying letting you two battle it out.

    Two quick notes:
    1. I think that Socrates’s point about the instruction in reading and writing is not scripted, and does include higher level thinking skills has not been directly challenged;

    2. Ira’s larger point is that the whole concept is flawed has some

    I would take a different tack on that argument. For a kid to go to a KIPP school, their parents have to sign them up, and agree to volunteer/participate to some degree. Even charters that only require sign-up will tend to “weed” out many students/families in that SES bracket. The population in KIPPs and any other charter will always differ from public schools in the same neighborhood, just based on that. As you add more layers (like signing agreements, requiring volunteering, etc.) you “weed” out more families. This could be great for poor, but hard-working family types, but it will NEVER solve the whole problem of school reform. I’m not opposed to charters myself, I’m just opposed to them as “the” answer. It will not solve the reform, and change issues we have in our public schools.

    I’m sensing both of you may not agree what needs to be reformed, or even how, but that you both feel that things need to change.

    Thank you for taking the time to make my blog a better place by sharing your comments.

  22. May 13th, 2008 at 7:37 pm      Reply alicemercer Says:

    I’d like to ask both of you Socrates, and Ira, to hop over to In Practice and think about commenting on a piece about GATE services in Title One schools. I think it has some relationship to what’s being discussed here.

  23. May 13th, 2008 at 8:53 pm      Reply speedchange Says:

    Just a note: Reading sure looked scripted to me, and sounds scripted when the teachers talk about it. KIPP has made a decision, not unlike that made by the NYC schools, that reading is a skill independent of content. Their goal seems to be remediation through basic word skills and very basic grammar skills. There is no embrace of the technologies which could improve access to more sophisticated, meaningful, and/or relevant texts. Time is focused on decoding rather than comprehension, and when they work on comprehension, it is surface, short-answer stuff. Again, not much different than your typical NYC middle school, or any other school operating with the lowest expectations.

    As for your thoughts re: parent requirements. This is what’s wrong – essentially – with charters. Now, Socrates will assume that oppose charters, which is absolutely untrue. My son graduated from a Charter high school, and I coached there. But it was an urban, largely “walking distance” charter, a non-profit, with lottery admissions. But the majority of charters I see in the Midwest are none of those. They require parent transportation, they divert money to corporate profit and management fees, they strongly discourage special education students. In other words, they sub-divide the student population once more. Now, among those with no cultural capital, schools such as KIPP Academies move to block those children who lack “parental capital.”

    Is it progress to divide the underclass and create an American “untouchable” class? KIPP’s backers think so.

  24. May 13th, 2008 at 9:09 pm      Reply speedchange Says:

    oops, assume that I oppose charters

  25. May 14th, 2008 at 5:16 am      Reply speedchange Says:

    worth reading as we consider this…

  26. May 14th, 2008 at 6:48 am      Reply speedchange Says:

    re: the “In Practice” blog – comment moderation sort of eliminates the possibilities of conversation. A bit too much control over there.

  27. May 14th, 2008 at 7:37 am      Reply alicemercer Says:

    Ira, I do moderation to prevent SPAM. Once you comment on a blog I’ve set up, you will automatically be “approved”. That’s why your comments here are going up automatically. Sorry if that is too controlling. I’ve approved your comment there, thanks!

  28. May 14th, 2008 at 10:58 am      Reply Ira Socol Says:

    sorry for being cranky. I’m an impatient sort.

  29. May 14th, 2008 at 2:46 pm      Reply Socrates Says:

    That’s the problem with making broad statements about “inputs” at KIPP. There is no “KIPP way” of teaching any subject. There are some schools that use traditional reading programs, probably, and there are some that use workshop. What KIPP “mandates” is results, not inputs.

    I’ve observed reading classes at some KIPP schools that were, to my mind, perhaps even “over-focused” on comprehension, and that you would probably love.

    KIPP schools are non-profit. They have special education students – in some cases, more than the district has – they have their parents sign an agreement but they have no consequence if the parent doesn’t follow it. It’s just another tool to help parents understand their expectations.

  30. May 19th, 2008 at 2:41 pm      Reply andthebrain Says:

    Question: When are we, as a society, going to work on empowering minority communities so that they don’t need elitist reporters, public officials, and entrepreneurs like Wendy Kopp to talk about what they think that minorities need? It’s bizarre and insulting.


  1. Preparing the KIPPsters | The Chancellor's New Clothes

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