Archives for category: KIPP Charter Schools

The Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch reported that the KIPP charter chain received permission from the US Department of Education to hide data that public schools are required to disclose.


Laura Chapman reveals the names of the officials who made this decision (if she is wrong, I trust that someone at ED will inform me).


Chapman writes:


“The people in charge of the charter school grants that aided KIPP in hiding data from the public are Brian Martin, Kathryn Meeley, and Erin Pfeltz


U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Ave. SW
Washington, DC 20202
(202) 205-9085
(800) USA-LEARN”

The public-interest group Center for Media and Democracy made a startling discovery:


The powerful KIPP charter chain asked the US Department of Education to shield certain crucial data from public view, and the Department agreed to do so. With about 150 schools, KIPP is the nation’s largest charter chain, with the possible exception of the Gulen charter chain.


CMD notes that every public school is required to make its data public, but KIPP does not. Since KIPP millions of dollars in federal, state,and local funding, this is an unusual arrangement.



CMD reports:



“KIPP touts itself as particularly successful at preparing students to succeed in school and college.
“Yet, it insisted that the U.S. Department of Education keep secret from the public the statistics about the percentage of its eighth graders who completed high school, entered college, and/or who completed a two-year or four-year degree.
“A few years ago, professor Gary Miron and his colleagues Jessica Urschel and Nicholas Saxton, found that “KIPP charter middle schools enroll a significantly higher proportion of African-American students than the local school districts they draw from but 40 percent of the black males they enroll leave between grades 6 and 8,” as reported by Mary Ann Zehr in Ed Week.
“Zehr noted: “‘The dropout rate for African-American males is really shocking,’ said Gary J. Miron, a professor of evaluation, measurement, and research” at Western Michigan University, who conducted the national study.
“Miron’s analysis was attacked by KIPP and its allies, who said KIPP’s success was not due to the attrition of lower performing students who leave the school or move to other districts. One of its defenders was Mathematica Policy Research, whose subsequent study was used to try to rebut Miron’s analysis. (That name will be important momentarily.)
“The Department of Education has been provided with the data about what percentage of KIPP students graduate from high school and go on to college, but it is helping KIPP keep that secret—despite the public tax dollars going to these schools and despite KIPP’s claim to be operating what are public schools.
Real public schools would never be allowed to claim that high school graduation rates or college matriculation rates are “proprietary” or “privileged” or “confidential.”
“Why does the Education Department’s Charter School Program “Office of Innovation and Improvement” defer to KIPP’s demand to keep that information secret from the public?
“Meanwhile, the KIPP Foundation regularly spends nearly a half million dollars a year ($467,594 at last count) on advertising to convince the public how great its public charters are using figures it selects to promote. No public school district in the nation has that kind of money to drop on ads promoting its successes.”


But that’s not all that is undisclosed.


“Even as KIPP was seeking more than $22 million from the federal government to expand its charter school network, it insisted that the U.S. Department of Education redact from its application a chart about how much money would be spent on personnel, facilities, transportation, and “other uses” under the proposed grant. KIPP also sought to redact the amount of private funding it was projecting.
“The agency’s compliant Office of Innovation and Improvement obliged KIPP.”


However, CMD found some of this information on IRS reports. What they discovered were large expenditures on travel, executive salaries, and advertising. Trips included lavish expenditures at Disney World.


“Not only did KIPP seek to keep the public in the dark about how it spends tax-exempt funding and how many KIPP students make it to high school graduation or college, it also sought to redact information “KIPP Student Attrition” by region and “by subgroup” and “KIPP Student Performance” on state exams on “Math and Reading.”


“The Office of Innovation and Improvement did as KIPP requested.”


Why would the Department acquiesce to KIPP’s request to treat this information secret? If charters are public schools, how can their data on costs and attrition be treated as “proprietary”?



KIPP was a favorite of Arne Duncan. He awarded $50 million of Race to the Top funding to KIPP, and another $50 million to Teach for America. In case you didn’t know, Richard Barth, the executive director of KIPP, is married to Wendy Kopp, the founder of TFA.




– See more at:







Gary Rubinstein noticed the lack of media about KIPP charters in New York City. While Eva Moskowitz unleashes media blitzes about the high test scores of Success Academy charters, KIPP is silent. He wondered why.

He checked the test scores of third graders in the city’s 110 charters with a third grade (that started in kindergarten) and discovered the reason:

“In the bar graph below, the 110 schools are sorted from highest percent getting a 3 or 4 on the ELA test to the lowest. The Success Academies are almost all at the far left. The 3 KIPP schools are marked with red bars. The top performing KIPP school was 37th out of 110 with 41.9% getting a 3 or 4. The second best KIPP was 66th with 27.3% getting a 3 or a 4, and the lowest was 90th with 17.2% getting a 3 or a 4. On average, KIPP is pretty much worse than 2/3 of the charter schools in New York City.”

This is nothing to boast about.

On the other hand, I am so sick and tired of charter boasting that I am glad to see it tamped down or disappear.

Julian Vasquez Heilig explains that he first started researching charter schools because of his encounter with KIPP Austin.

He planned to work with KIPP Austin on their problems with attrition of black male students. Then Oprah celebrated KIPP as just the right place for black students, and the collaboration and research project were dead.

Now he reviews Jim Horn’s book about KIPP from his perspective as a knowledgeable researcher. The new book is called “Work Hard, Be Hard: Journeys Through “No Excuses” Teaching.”

KIPP is the most celebrated charter chain in the nation. It has received hundreds of millions of dollars in gifts and grants from foundations, individuals, and government.

Horn and his collaborators write about the perspectives of some 30 disillusioned former KIPP teachers.

Heilig writes that screaming at students is common practice in KIPP charter schools:

Why does KIPP encourage and/or allow these practices? Horn writes, school leaders relayed that “because of cultural differences, black students are accustomed to being screamed at…because that’s how their parents speak to them.” A KIPP teacher characterized the worst offender at her school as a “screamer, swearer and humiliator…..”


KIPP might also argue that they are the beneficiaries of widespread support in communities across the nation. It is very clear that KIPP benefits from powerful influential and wealthy supporters in government, the media, and foundations. Their no excuses approach to educating poor children has resonated with the elites in society and they have showered the corporate charter chain with resources for decades. So it may be surprising to some to read the counternarrative from KIPP teachers that is quite different than what you typically read in the newspapers, see in documentaries like Waiting for Superman, and generally experience in the public discourse. I proffer that the KIPP teachers’ counternarratives in Journeys should be required reading for all of KIPPs influential supporters. Why? Mutua (2008) explained the importance of counternarratives in society:

In their broadest formulation, counternarratives are stories/narratives that splinter widely accepted truths about people, cultures, and institutions as well as the value of those institutions and the knowledge produced by and within those cultural institutions. The term counternarrative itself clearly highlights its essence in expressing skepticism of narratives that claim the authority of knowledge of human experience or narratives that make grand claims about what is to be taken as truth.

So what is the counternarrative that the current and former KIPP teachers? There is a saying that I often heard in Austin that if you visit a KIPP school you would become KIPPnotized— essentially very impressed by their approach. One of the KIPP teachers spoke to being initially impressed during her recruitment and then later discovering that KIPP was “hell.”

[A former teacher wrote:] There was so much about it that was so good and promising in the beginning, and I got hooked into that from the minute I saw the news piece on them… but the dirty little secrets are what you don’t know until you are in their trenches.

The KIPP teachers in Journeys detail a variety of working condition issues that created high levels of turnover specific to the KIPP model in their schools— too many to discuss here. One teacher compared her experience teaching in KIPP and a public school. She said she wouldn’t recommend teaching in KIPP and stated “I wouldn’t wish it on anyone who wanted to be a teacher for the long-term…It’s exhausting. It’s demoralizing.” You might be wondering: If the working conditions are as bad as the current and former KIPP teachers say they were, how could the charter chain campuses stay open? Journeys explains,

Without a constant infusion of new teachers to replace all those who burn out… KIPP would have to shut its doors… The role of Teach For America and programs based on Teach For America’s hyper-abbreviated preparation are crucial, then, for the continued survival of… KIPP….

In summary, Journeys is shocking— but expected considering what is known about KIPP’s “no excuses” culture. What makes this piece unique is the unprecedented interviews with current and former KIPP teachers across many schools and years in the charter chain. While many claim that KIPP is beyond reproach and is the shining star of charter schools, I submit that we should instead be asking whether KIPP can actually reform their reform based on the counternarratives provided by the KIPP teachers, or whether their approach is simply a pathological and abusive approach that the elites would never prescribe or allow for their own kids— except of course if they sent them away to military school.

The Walton Family Foundation gave away $375 million last year. It gave away $202 million to educational groups.

The foundation’s money is generated by the vast earnings of Walmart. The foundation was established in 1987 by Sam Walton. At least six of the Walton family members are billionaires, maybe more. As they die off, the foundation will grow larger.

The leader of the education part of the Walton Foundation is Marc Sternberg, who worked for Joel Klein in the Néw York City Department of Education. From 2010 to 2013, Sternberg was in charge of school closures and charter co-locations inside public schools.

The foundation is not only very wealthy, it has an ideology. It is rightwing. It is reactionary. It does not like public schools. It favors privatization and deregulation, which is what you might expect of a powerful corporation that hates government telling it what to do (like paying its employees a living wage). It hates unions. It loves charters and vouchers.

You might ask, how can billionaires sleep at night when they know their employees are surviving on meager earnings? I don’t know. Maybe they don’t think about it. Maybe they say, “Tough. That’s life. Life is unfair. Where’s my Bentley?”

I think you will find it enlightening to see where its money went in the 2014 year.

The biggest chunks went to Teach for America and KIPP.

Here are some of the many beneficiaries of the Walton family’s largesse:


50CAN, INC. ($2.5 MILLION);
MIND TRUST ($500,000); Indianapolis
TEACH PLUS ($250,000);
THE NEW YORK TIMES ($150,000);

In addition,


An earlier post today described No Nonsense Nurturing as training teachers to be robots.

Here is a video by its developers. It is indeed interesting, especially the product endorsement by Dave Levin, co-founder of KIPP. Probably the product reflects the KIPP style.

Mila Jasey, a member of the New Jersey Assembly, proposed a three-year moratorium on opening new charter schools. She said it was time to pause and take stock of the charter law. Meanwhile, Governor Chris Christie is opening as many charters as possible in the state’s poorest, most segregated districts, with an occasional effort to place them in suburbs (which usually provokes intense parent resistance).

Now that parents and the Newark Students Union, as well as Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, oppose Cami Anderson’s efforts to eliminate their neighborhood schools, the usual corporate reform narrative has gotten scrambled because students and parents in Newark are fighting to stop privatization.

So KIPP-NJ organized a rally of 100 parents in front of Assemblymember Jasey’s office to protest the moratorium. Note that the legislation would not close their schools, although the statements of demonstrators assume that it would.

The rally was called “Hands Off Our Future.” Again, the moratorium would have no bearing on any of the existing charter schools or their students. Note in the press release that questions should be directed to KIPP’s marketing and communications specialist.

I have been impressed by the clever and appealing slogans–the branding–of the charter chains. Last year, when Mayor Bill de Blasio in NYC threatened to reject some of Eva Moskowitz’s charter proposals, her supporters (“Families for Excellent Schools”) quickly produced $5 million for slick TV ads called “Don’t Steal Possible.” (You may safely conclude that the “families” who came up with $5 million overnight don’t enroll their children in public schools or charter schools.) That, plus $1 million or so of campaign contributions to Governor Cuomo from hedge-fund managers, turned the tide. Cuomo became a charter cheerleader, and he pushed through a bill protecting Eva’s expansion plans and guaranteeing free space in public schools and requiring the public schools in NYC to pay the charters’ rent in private space.

Clearly, public schools must have their own branding strategy. How about this:

“”Wall Street: Hands Off Our Public Schools”

“Don’t Steal Democracy”

“Our Children Are Not for Sale”

“Public Schools Belong to the Public, Not Corporate Raiders”

Do you have better ideas? The charter sector is rich and ambitious. They start with the schools in urban areas, but they have already begun to push into the suburbs and even small towns.

The end result will be a dual system: one for the motivated students and families, free to exclude those students it doesn’t want; the other–our public schools–for the kids who were rejected by the charters. I thought the Brown decision of 1954 settled the issue of a publicly-funded dual system. But it is back again, not based on race, but on something else, maybe grit, ability to succeed, motivation. One system for strivers, another for the rest. When I was in graduate school many years ago, an economist who studied international education told me that systems may be shaken up but they tend to revert to long-established patterns. Like a dual school system.

I was in Oklahoma a few days ago, I talked to a principal who shares a building with KIPP. He told me that the charter sends him students they don’t want, usually right before the state tests. That’s how the new system works.

When Julie O’Connor of the Star-Ledger called to ask me about a Newark KIPP charter school that got amazing results, I told her I had no information or knowledge about the school. I suggested she should consider three possibilities: 1) it is indeed a wonderful school; 2) it is not enrolling the same proportion of students with disabilities and English language learners as the public schools; 3) check the attrition rate over time. I directed her to Bruce Baker and Mark Weber, who have studied charter school performance in Néw Jersey (I have not). I published O’Connor’s comment and Baker’s response in the previous post. What follows is Mark Weber’s response.

Jersey Jazzman (aka Mark Weber) is a teacher in Néw Jersey and a graduate student at Rutgers, working with Bruce Baker. He posted two other responses to O’Connor and “the KIPP Propaganda Machine,” referenced below in his first paragraph.

Here is the opening of Weber’s analysis:

“I really don’t want to keep debunking this past Sunday’s big, fat, wet kiss from the Star-Ledger’s Julie O’Connor to the TEAM/KIPP charter school in Newark — see here and here. But O’Connor has given us such a perfect example of reformy propaganda that it really does merit further deconstruction.

“O’Connor’s love letter to TEAM/KIPP is based on a collection of received truths:

“Urban public schools suck (and suburban schools aren’t that great, either).

“We’ve spent too much already on district schools.

“Charter schools are awesome because they “prove” that poverty can be overcome in our schools; they are also “doing more with less.”

“To make her case, O’Connor gives us several talking points, clearly pre-digested by TEAM/KIPP for her easy consumption. Among them:

“One KIPP elementary school even outscored Montclair kids in 2013, a much higher income group.”

“In a city where almost half the students don’t graduate, nearly all its kids finish, and a remarkable 95 percent of them go on to college.”

“At last count, nearly 10,000 families were on a waiting list to get their children in.”

“There are others, and I’ll get to them in due course. But let’s take these three for right now. Are these points of data factually correct? Yes, absolutely.

“But are they true? That’s an entirely different question.”

“The master propagandist never puts a piece of data before the public that isn’t factually correct. Why would she? Facts are not malleable in and of themselves, but their application certainly is. And what O’Connor has managed to do here is tell a story that is certainly “factual,” but leaves out so much critical information that it can hardly be called “true.”

In the remainder of his post, he explains how facts can be used to misrepresent the truth.

Here is my take, for what it’s worth. The charter school in question seems to have good results, even after the exaggerations are stripped away. What we don’t know is whether the school excludes the students with the most severe disabilities, whom the public schools are obliged to accept. We don’t know if it “counsels out” the students who are trouble-makers, whom the public schools are obliged to accept. We can assume that KIPP spends more per pupil than the district public schools (KIPP often receives multi-million dollar gifts from foundations, corporations, and the U.S. Department of Education.

For these reasons, I long ago issued what I called “The KIPP Challenge.” The challenge was for KIPP to take over an entire impoverished district and show what it could do if it were tasked with the same expectation that public schools must meet: educate all children. Educate the children with the full range of abilities. Educate the children who don’t speak English. Educate the children just released from the juvenile justice system. Educate the gifted. Educate the kids who are turned off by school. Educate them all. No exceptions. No excuses.

The last time I wrote about The KIPP Challenge, a number of KIPP advocates reacted angrily, said this was not its purpose. But if KIPP wants to be considered a model for urban education, then it should indeed take on an entire district and prove that its good results are not enhanced by cherry-picking, skimming, or attrition.

Until it does accept the Challenge, it should not boast about its outcomes or claim to be superior to public schools that do accept all children. I am willing to be convinced. But, first, meet the Challenge.

I posted about the Néw Jersey Star-Ledger’s coverage of a KIPP charter school in Newark on May 10. I wrote that the newspaper seemed (to me) to be determined to write a positive report about the school. I referred the writer to Bruce Baker and Jersey Jazzman, both of whom have studied and written about charter schools in Néw Jersey.

The story did indeed treat the school as a miracle school that had closed the achievement gaps. Called Newark Collegiate Academy, the school is a KIPP school, formerly known as TEAM schools.

The writer, Julie O’Connor, commented on my post. She wrote:

“Hi Professor Ravitch. Just saw this post. Want to make sure you know that we have repeatedly invited Professor Baker to come in for an editorial board meeting to discuss and clarify his arguments, and he has refused. If he thinks we are misinformed, it’s certainly not willful. After his blog post – which seems unfair, given all those invitations — we’ve invited him again, and I hope he takes us up on the offer.

“I would be happy to talk to you about it, too. We’ve spoken in the past, although you may not remember, and you were a big help on my story back at Columbia, about New York City’s pregnancy schools (when those still existed!) When you say you “sensed nothing I said would make her stop and question her presumptions,” it took me aback, because that’s actually why I reached out to you.

“You deferred to Baker on this issue, and he refused to discuss it with me. I don’t think that does anybody good. I have found you to be quite adept at crystallizing your arguments. When I asked you if you view KIPP as an exception, or more of the same, you replied in your email that there are three possibilities: 1) KIPP students have high scores and go to college, 2) KIPP students are not representative of their district or 3) High attrition rates eliminate the students most likely to succeed [sic]. You said you didn’t know which it is, and that I should talk to Baker. But if you leave it to him to explain his research, and then he forces everyone to rely exclusively on his writings – which, frankly, are pretty obtuse – I don’t think you can dismiss me as a “propaganda machine.”

“The Mathematica study said KIPP’s success isn’t explained by demographics or attrition.
If you believe Baker’s research is better than Mathematica’s, I hope one of you will take the time to come in for a meeting with the editorial board and explain why.”

I sent O’Connor’s comment to Bruce Baker and Mark Weber (Jersey Jazzman), and I invited them to respond.

Bruce Baker left the following comment on the blog.

“As I wrote to Diane,


“This is just bizarre. first of all, I have spoken with them several times on the phone in the past – at length – her boss Tom Moran in particular. And each time, I’ve been totally ignored or misrepresented. that’s why I took to e-mail and blogging this time.

“That aside, the last statement here is just plain stupid. This isn’t about “baker’s research is better than mathematica’s.” I point out that mathematica’s research is irrelevant to her argument in many ways.

“1) mathematica does not prove that TEAM is a miracle school as she argues, in terms of graduation. Mathematica studied/aggregated KIPP results nationally. Didn’t study TEAM specifically, or the outcomes she mentions.

“2) I provided her with critiques of the limitations of interpretation of mathematica’s study. I didn’t ever say it was bad. Just that she was totally misrepresenting it.

“3) I provided an analysis of the relative growth of all NJ schools to show where TEAM fit in that mix. Mathematica doesn’t do this. It’s a totally different (not better or worse) analysis, intended to put test score growth at TEAM into perspective, among all schools, statewide.

“This is just plain dumb!


“Anyone reading this, please refer to my original post linked above to see where I refer to the Mathematica study, and how I refer to it.

“Mark Weber in follow up posts further elaborates on the misrepresentation of the Mathematica national KIPP (excluding NJ) study.

“Note that I spoke to Tom Moran for, oh, about an hour on the phone before he wrote this rah rah Hoboken charter piece:

“Sadly, I don’t have a transcript of my comments that day, which went entirely ignored.

related post:”

Mark Weber wrote in an email to me that KIPP Team Academy, the subject of the Star-Ledger inquiry, was not included in the Mathematica study of KIPP schools. Not all KIPP schools get the same results.

He then wrote a post about the Star-Ledger’s use of data to “prove” the success of the KIPP Team Academy. It is an instructive analysis. He called it a case study in charter school propaganda. I will examine his critique in greater detail in the next post.

Some while ago, a reporter contacted me and asked if I would comment on the stellar, incredible, miraculous results achieved by KIPP in Newark. I referred her to Bruce Baker and Jersey Jazxman, who have studied charter schools in Néw Jersey. I sensed that she wanted to write a positive story and nothing I said would cause her to stop and question her presumptions

  • ;
  • It turned out that nothing said by BB or JJ would dissuade her from finding a miracle at KIPP.

    Read Jersey Jazzman here:

    Read Bruce Baker here: