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.
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.