Archives for category: KIPP Charter Schools

The Walton Family Foundation released its list of grantees in the education world, and once again, the foundation put its huge resources into privatizing American public education.

The billions that hard-working families spend at Walmart are used to support privately managed charters and vouchers and to undermine democratic local control and traditional public schools.

Some of the biggest recipients of the Walton family’s largesse are Teach for America (nearly $20 million), which staffs non-union charters; KIPP charter schools ($8.8 million); the Charter Fund, Inc. ($14.5 million); The Children’s Scholarship Fund (which gives our school vouchers) $8.56 million; and the California Charter School Association, $5 million. Parent Revolution got almost $2 million, the Black Alliance for Educational Options got $1.3 million.

Read the list and see who favors the privatization of public schools. Aside from a few dollars tossed to the Bentonville, Arkansas, public schools, it is a rogues’ gallery of privatization and teacher-bashing.

The Walton Family Foundation helped to underwrite the attack ads against New York City’s progressive mayor, Bill de Blasio, because he dared to turn down three charter school proposals. Two of the three schools did not exist, so no child was evicted. The third rejection was meant to stop the expansion of Eva Moskowitz’s charter school inside PS 149 in Harlem, which required the eviction of severely disabled students to make room for her desired new middle school. Apparently the theory of the billionaires is that students with high test scores deserve public space more than profoundly disabled students, who have lesser rights.

As a result of pressure by the billionaires, the legislature passed a budget that gutted mayoral control by saying that the mayor was not allowed to reject any charter approved by Bloomberg’s school board; that the mayor was not allowed to charge rent to charters, even though they had just won a lawsuit declaring that they could not be audited by the State Comptroller because they are not “a unit of the state”; giving charters the right to expand in any public school where they are now co-located, without regard to the needs of the children already enrolled in that school; and requiring that the city pay the rent of any charter that rents private space. So, with the help of the Walton Family Foundation, the charter schools, which are not public schools and are not subject to public audit, get free space and may kick public school students out of their buildings.

This was a shameful law, purchased by people of vast wealth. They are intent on busting unions, crushing the teaching profession, and harming one of our democratic institutions. Their maleficent influence is unchecked. The money they spend each year is meant to transfer public funds to private hands. They use their power to hurt the very people who have made them wealthy, destroying their communities at the same time.

The age of the robber barons is back.

In this post, Rebecca Radding explains why she was asked to leave at the end of her third year as a Teach for America teacher in a KIPP school in Néw Orleans.

She could not teach like a champion.

She writes:

“I was never much of a champion, to be honest. KIPP defines a successful teacher as someone who keeps children quiet, teaches children how to answer each question on a test composed of arbitrary questions, and then produces high scores on this test. Mind you, I was teaching Pre-K and then kindergarten at a KIPP school in New Orleans—and these were still the metrics by which I was being evaluated. Since my definition of a successful early childhood classroom looked very different from silence and test prep, I had to figure out how to survive. I lasted three years.”

“By year three it had become very, very difficult for me to hide my disdain for the way the school was managed. In the previous two years, I’d fought hard for the adoption of a play-based early childhood curriculum, only to see it systematically dismantled by our 25-year old assistant principal. When this administrator told us that our student test scores would be higher if we used direct instruction, worksheets and exit tickets to check for their understanding, I lost my shit. I’m sorry, but five year olds don’t learn that way.

“I was fired a week later. Well, to be fair, I was told that I *wasn’t a good fit*—most likely because I talked about things like poverty and trauma and brain development, and also because at that point I knew significantly more about early childhood education and what young children actually needed to grow and develop than the administrators who ran the school. And that made me a threat.”

She goes on to explain what it means to “teach like a champion” and why she found it increasingly impossible to comply.

Schools in Texas have been forced to absorb huge budget cuts in recent years.

One casualty was the two KIPP schools in Galveston, Texas, which could not afford to continue. They will close.

“Galveston ISD paid KIPP $5.5 million this year – about $1.5 million more than it would have spent on those students in district-run schools….

KIPP, which operates 141 campuses that serve 50,000 students nationally, has closed or returned schools to local districts eight times nationally, but this is the first time it is to happen in Texas, where KIPP started 20 years ago….

“The Costal Village elementary and middle schools opened in the months following Hurricane Ike in 2008 to help draw families back to the island. After the contract was negotiated, the 6,800-student Galveston ISD lost $7.4 million in state funding for the biennium in 2011. About $1.7 million was restored by the Legislature last year, Nichols said.

“The original agreement was no longer workable after GISD had to live with quite a bit less money,” the superintendent said.

“KIPP leaders said they couldn’t maintain their model, which includes a longer school day and year, for less money. The charter chain spends about $6,200 per student in Galveston, compared to Galveson ISD’s $4,623. And KIPP’s costs were higher earlier in the contract, officials said.”

John Savage, a freelance journalist and former teacher, reviewed “Reign of Error” in the “Texas Observer.”

I liked the review for many reasons.

First, because Savage liked the book. That pleases every author.

Second, because the first article I ever published appeared in the “Texas Observer,” a gritty liberal journal that covers Texas politics. The article was called “My Ghetto and Yours,” and it was about growing up Jewish in Houston. It appeared, I think, in 1961. I think I was lamenting how little I knew of the big world outside Houston. I haven’t read it since 1961, so I can’t be certain what I wrote but I feel pretty sure I launched my writing career by stepping on toes. I think that it would be called “juvenalia” if it ever appeared in a collection.

EduShyster notes the convergence of three happenings:

1. The New York Daily News breaks the story of KIPP’s “padded cell” for disruptive children. KIPP officials declare they will continue using the padded cell–actually, a closet with a window–as a “calming” space.

2. Simultaneously, the New York Times writes an editorial praising KIPP for its successful methods in educating black and Hispanic children.

3. A new study from researchers at MIT and other universities concludes that higher scores on standardized tests do not predict the development of “fluid” intelligence, the higher-order thinking needed for the thinkers and innovators of the future.

This is one of EduShyster’s most powerful posts. Humorous, of course, but containing valuable information.

Moi Naturale is a new blogger. She is Evan Seymour, who worked for KIPP in New Orleans until she learned that had a disability and was unceremoniously abandoned, including losing her health insurance. This is her report on her disenchantment with charter schools.

I will be perfectly frank here. I have seldom criticized KIPP. In part, it is because I like Mike Feinberg, one of the founders. I was very impressed when Mike invited me to speak in Houston a few years ago, knowing that I was a critic of charters. That is the kind of open-mindedness that I admire. And I feel I don’t know enough about how KIPP schools operate, so I have hesitated to make any generalizations.

For those who credit KIPP with having cracked the code of urban education, I have issued what I called the KIPP Challenge: Take over an entire district, no exceptions, no excuses, including the children with disabilities, the ones who don’t speak English, the ones who don’t want to go to school. All of them. I hit a hornet’s nest when I suggested it, and received many vituperative responses.

Evan Seymour knows more about KIPP than I do. She has a personal issue with KIPP, because of the shabby treatment she received, but she has other issues.

She writes:

This is the truth when it comes to charter schools — they aren’t working like society has been led to believe they are.  There are a variety of problems with the country’s charter schools, including these:

  • a lack of oversight
  • exploitation of teachers
  • non-compliance with Federal Law as it pertains to students with disabilities
  • fiscal irresponsibility
  • hiring practices (see: inexperienced teachers, teachers who aren’t interested in remaining in the classroom, teachers who do not at all represent the demographic make-up of the student population they serve)

Evan Seymour was born in Pasadena, California, earned her BA at Spelman College, and studied journalism at the University of Southern California. She currently lives in New Orleans.

Sara Mosle reviewed
my book
in The Atlantic, which is unusual because it
won’t be published for another month. I have read Sara’s work over
the years and always found her thoughtful. She is now teaching in a
charter school. There are a few things I don’t agree with here,
starting with the claim that I was the “architect” of the corporate
reform movement. I had nothing to do with the writing of No Child
Left Behind or Race to the Top. At worst, I was a cheerleader for NCLB on
the sidelines, but that doesn’t make me the “architect.” And I publicly recanted my support three years ago.

I also question her implied suggestion that I am far too energetic for a
woman my age, that I blog too much, tweet too much, am too active
altogether. Maybe I should retire to a rocker and take up knitting.

You can’t really evaluate what she writes because no one except the
publisher and a few advance readers has actually read the book. But
clearly she was not happy about my criticism of charter schools.
She is fond of KIPP. It gets high test scores. I don’t like the
idea of charter chains, it is true. I think they destroy
communities and some get their high scores by excluding the most
needy students.

KIPP may be a wonderful chain, but it has yet to
accept the challenge of managing an entire district, leaving no
child behind. KIPP is one charter chain of 100-plus schools, but there are more than 6,000 charters, some good, some mediocre, some run by incompetents some run to take advantage of tax breaks. Typically, research concludes that charters get the same results when they enroll the same demographic. What, exactly, is the rationale for having a dual system, one that can push out kids it doesn’t want, the other required to take them all?

I was disappointed that Sara did not directly address
the central theme of the book, which is my criticism of
privatization and the danger it poses to the very survival of
public education. I think that deserved discussion.

Despite my reservations, I am grateful to have received a relatively even-handed review
from a knowledgeable journalist whose work I have respected over
the years.

Rafe Esquith teaches fifth grade at Hobart Elementary
School in Los Angeles and has achieved considerable fame for his
methods. Every year his students put on a play by Shakespeare.
Esquith is noted for emphasizing the arts and the love of learning.

He is also recognized as a model by the founders of the KIPP
charter chain. In
this post
, Andrea Gabor reviews Esquith’s latest
book–”Real Talk for Real Teachers”–and notes what KIPP learned
from Esquith, but more importantly, what it did not learn. Esquith
believes in teaching as a career, not a temporary way-station. He
believes that the journey is more important than the end result. He
knows he will not succeed with every single child. He looks askance
at KIPP’s behavioral techniques.

Gary Rubinstein has a well established reputation as a careful investigator of miracle schools. On many occasions, he has debunked miracle claims. See his wiki site here.

In this post, he takes a close look at the scores of Success Academy on the new Common Core tests.

I don’t think Gary would classify the Success Academy schools as “miracle schools,” because they don’t have the same demographic profile of nearby public schools, but their scores on the recent Common Core were nonetheless impressive.

Gary notes that some of the schools are K-3 and tested only third grade. Some of the newspapers printed misleading stories about the success of the school based only on one grade.

He also notes a high attrition rate among students and teachers.

But with all those caveats, Success Academy has succeeded in outpacing most of the city schools.

He speculates that this might set off a civil war among the charters because some of the others that boast of their success–notably, KIPP and Democracy Prep–got low scores and performed below the average for public schools.

He writes:

In general, these good test scores, I think, should make the ‘reformers’ more nervous than elated.  From my perspective, I don’t think that the scores are devastating to my cause.  I don’t think they really prove that there are super teachers out there who can get the ‘same kids’ to excel, even if it is just on standardized tests, since I’m not convinced they are truly the ‘same kids.’  But the ‘reformers’ should be very careful about this.  They already had Success as a big success story, as well as a bunch of others like KIPP and Democracy Prep.  Now they still have Success, but they have lost some of their schools they used to take credit for.  I’m not sure how they can reconcile their idea that test scores are an accurate measure of school quality with the fact that many of the schools they have been touting have lost their luster by that measure.

And what ‘excuse’ is there for these other schools.  Surely behind closed doors they are accusing Success of some kind of manipulation, either by extensive test prep or by booting even more kids than they do.  I wonder if this could start some kind of charter civil war.


Stephanie Simon reports that some of NYC’s most celebrated charter schools were outperformed by the city’s much maligned traditional public schools. KIPP and Democracy Prep had lower scores than the public schools with less funding. Only Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charters aced the tests.

“Just 23 percent of charter students scored proficient in language arts, compared with 31 percent in public schools overall. That’s a greater gap than had shown up in last year’s exams.
In math, charter schools beat the public school average in each of the past two years — but not this year. On the new tests, just 31 percent of charter students scored proficient, the same as in public schools overall.”

Earlier this year, Secretary Duncan gave $9.1 million to Democracy Prep to expand its chain because it was so much better than public schools.

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