John Thompson, teacher and historian, writes here about KIPP in Oklahoma City. Will Oklahoma City surrender its public school to corporate charter chains?

Thompson writes:

A deeply emotional battle has erupted in Oklahoma City after its KIPP Reach Middle School attempted to take over the Martin Luther King Elementary School building, while promising to serve the entire neighborhood. OKC’s KIPP has no experience with pre-school through 4th grade instruction, but it promised to send its school leaders to Success Academy for guidance!?!? The charter not only has a much lower percentage of low-income students than OKC’s neighborhood middle schools, (76% vs 90+%) but it serves about 40% as many special education students as MLK. It co-locates with Moon Elementary where 21% of the students are homeless, and it would take over MLK where 17.2% are homeless. Only 1% of KIPP’s students are homeless.

After 15 years, KIPP has not been able to expand its student population beyond 300, but it now wants to quadruple its student body to 1200. It cites its 2012 Blue Ribbon School award as evidence that the No Excuses middle school could become a neighborhood pre-k to 8th grade school without pushing out excessive numbers of high-challenge students. Ironically, KIPP’s Blue Ribbon School application offers an overwhelming case against their attempt to take over an entire feed group.

2014-2015 STATISTICAL PROFILE 1-28-16 (2).pdf

Click to access 2011-2012%20STATISTICAL%20PROFILE%20pdf.pdf

Click to access ok2-kipp-reach-college-preparatory-school.pdf

In August, 2010, 285 students enrolled in KIPP. In October, 81% of its students were low-income, and 11.6% were on special education IEPs. By the spring, however, only 226 remained to be tested, which represented the loss of 1/5th of the students. Ten students, or 10% of the tested students, were alternatively assessed, meaning that they were on special education IEPs. So, at first glance, KIPP’s claim to accept the “same” students would seem to be an exaggeration, but it could not be seen as irrational. But, what did the other grades look like?

By 8th grade in 2011, however only 32 students were tested, and only 22 of them were eligible for free and reduced lunch! Only three special education students remained to be tested. And this was not an unusual year. The Blue Ribbon application provides data for 2006 through 2011, and it reveals a clear pattern. During those years, on average of nine 5th graders were on IEPs. By 8th grade the average number of tested IEP students was 1.4%! From FY2007 to FY2011, KIPP did not report a single 7th or 8th grade student on an IEP who passed an end-of-the-year math or reading test.

The next year, however, this attrition story got even worse. Using data from the Office of Civil Rights on FY 2011-2012, the Center for Civil Rights Remedies’ “Charter Schools, Civil Rights, and School Discipline” listed OKC’s KIPP as the charter school with the nation’s 3rd highest percentage of black suspensions. KIPP now claims that it made a reporting error, and that it actually suspended 45%, not 71% of its black students. However, KIPP has not questioned the OCR’s report that 100% of KIPP’s special education students were suspended that year (for a 126% suspension rate), as six of that small cohort was expelled; half of the students who were arrested were on IEPs.

Charter Schools, Civil Rights and School Discipline: A Comprehensive Review — The Civil Rights Project at UCLA

By the way, there is an interesting epilogue to those two years. In 2012, KIPP’s normative attrition rate of 15% to 18% rose to 26%. Given the secrecy of KIPP’s effort to expand dramatically and to participate in a mass charterization campaign in Oklahoma City, the chronology is confusing, but at some point KIPP set a goal of reducing its black suspension rate to 25%. So, it doesn’t seem to be a coincidence that KIPP changed from a school which typically had a low-income rate exceeding 80%, which reported that 9% to 13% of incoming students were on IEPs, to one that starts the year as a 70% to 77% low-income school where as few as 5.6% of students are on IEPs. I guess that KIPP decided that if it couldn’t be so free to push out higher-challenge students that it should avoid enrolling them at the beginning.

Click to access KIPP_2015_ReportCard_KIPP_Reach_College_Preparatory.pdf