Katie Osgood blogs as Ms. Katie.

Check out her blog. It’s terrific.

She is fearless and articulate.

In one of my earliest posts, I reprinted a great piece she wrote.

Open it up here and read it.

She wrote this comment in response to Jonathan Schorr’s defense of KIPP:

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.)

I work as a teacher at a psychiatric hospital in Chicago and before that I worked in a Chicago Public School. KIPP hides behind statistics about the kids which do not describe the realities of the school. For example, it is disingenuous to simply quote percentage numbers of students with special needs but rather you need to acknowledge the types of disabilities. My experience with students from the charters (I’ve worked with many) is that in the two years I’ve taught at the hospital, not one-NOT ONE-of the current charter school students had a disruptive behavior problem or a serious cognitive disability. The charter kids were the ones with mild learning difficulties or suffered from inward-focused anxiety or depression. They were the kids who needed just a little push to improve academically. On the other hand, I met plenty of kids with behavioral disabilities who were kicked out of the charters. And the toughest kids of all—such as the kids in foster care with truly debilitating disabilities and trauma—they were always at the neighborhood school. Only a small number made it to the limited spaces at the therapeutic day schools. Too many neighborhood schools are overwhelmed with the toughest kids with insufficient resources to help them.

The schools which do take in the toughest kids, those who suffer from the worst effects of poverty, are concentrated in the schools with the least resources. I worked in one of those schools and the lack of staff, supplies, access to books or even a library was criminal. And we had really tough kids thrown into classes of 32-37 kids with no books, science labs, and only enough money for one aide for the entire K-8 school. The neighborhood high schools in Chicago have only one counselor for up to 1,200 children. There are a total of 200 social workers for the entire 400,000 Chicago public school students (see more statistics here:http://www.ctunet.com/blog/text/SCSD_Report-02-16-2012-1.pdf) Meanwhile, in the last budget, neighborhood school budgets were cut even further while charters all received more funding than ever before. Compared to neighborhood schools, KIPP schools have so much more money available especially if you include real estate deals, tax exemptions, philanthropic giving, the Gates Compact, plus whatever else you raise. (See more here:http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/no-excuses-really-another-look-at-our-nepc-charter-spending-figures/ ) And still you take fewer of the toughest kids. Stop lying about having more funding, just be up front and honest. Why is that so hard??

KIPP schools further the very un-American idea that only the deserving should get quality education. The answer cannot be to just give better-funded schools to the kids who “want to learn” because all kids want to learn. But too many of our children living in poverty are suffering from major mental health and subsequent learning and behavioral difficulties as a result of the conditions into which they were born. This is what we mean when we say poverty matters. (See Anthony Cody’s excellent overview:http://www.impatientoptimists.org/Posts/2012/08/Can-Schools-Defeat-Poverty-by-Ignoring-It ) And then, to add insult to injury, kids are being punished for having the mental health issues that come from growing up in unabated poverty (what we now call the school-to-prison-pipeline). KIPP and other “no excuses” charters place the full burden of not living up to the codes of conduct on the child and the family. KIPP is not the answer. It is part of the problem. It diverts money away from REAL equitable solutions we should be investing in. We need inclusive integrated fully-funded schools where every child is welcome while simultaneously seriously combating poverty to prevent the mental health and health conditions holding too many kids back.

The call from Diane Ravitch to take over a district or even one struggling school is to call KIPP on its bluff. KIPP is not impressive. And there is nothing miraculous about teaching an easier group of kids. Nothing. And the real damage of KIPP is that policy makers listen to your miracle rhetoric and then punish the struggling, underfunded, over-burdened neighborhood schools. Stop it. Your schools, and the charter movement as a whole, are seriously hurting my students with significant behavioral and mental health needs. Tell the truth about the kids you work with and then let’s have a real conversation minus your marketing talking points.