Archives for category: KIPP Charter Schools

This is a hilarious, must-see video, narrated by Gary Rubinstein, about his life in Teach for America, his disillusionment with Reform, and his collision with Reformers as they set about to remake American education.

I play a minor role in his story, because I too was an apostate, and my turnaround helped him make his own turnaround.

You will see all the stars of Reform, as Gary gives each of them their few seconds of glory and dispatches some of their heroes.

You will also see how he had his own moment of reckoning and developed a passion for calling out lies and propaganda.

It really is delightful and informative.

The moral of the story, he says, is that Tufts University (where he was a student) beats Harvard University (where most of the Reformers were students).

There are lots more morals to the story, and you will see how he skillfully weaves the history of the past 25 or so years together into a slide show.

Gary Rubinstein has a serious problem about people who use data to fib.

He just saw a newspaper article about a KIPP school in New York City where “96%” of the graduates were going to college. This seemed improbable so he did some digging, and of course it wasn’t true.

He writes:

One of the dirtiest tricks played by charter schools is when they claim to have a 100% graduation rate and a 100% college acceptance rate. The first use of this, to my knowledge, was when YES Prep used it to help secure $1 million from Oprah. Over the years, it is very common to see some charter school tout a similar statistic.

When I hear about one of these 100% schools, the first thing I ask is “Is this 100% of the starting cohort, or just the senior class?” It is always just the senior class. Then I ask “How many students are in the senior class?” When the number of graduating seniors is in the 30s, 20s, or even most recently in the case of Success Academy, 16, I ask “How big was the initial cohort?”

In The New York Post the other day, there was an article titled “Bronx charter school sending 96 percent of grads to college.” The school was the one KIPP high school in New York City. According to the article, there were 225 graduating seniors, which, at least, is much bigger than the graduating class of many of these 100% (or 96% in this case) stories.

But 96% of the graduating seniors is not 96% of the original cohort and The Post addresses this by saying “The network said 86 percent of the original freshman class stayed on through their senior year.”

The problem with this statistic is that KIPP is a 5th to 12th grade program, not a 9th to 12th grade program.

So the question is, what percent of the original fifth grade class remained to graduate? Not 96%. Not 86%. Read on.

Why must every statistic be inflated?

In San Francisco, KIPP wants to open a new school in a neighborhood where teachers and parents are working together to improve their local schools—and succeeding. Parents are demonstrating against the charter invasion by a corporate chain. KIPP is the Walmart of charter schools, opening in communities where they are not wanted and destroying local public schools where parents are heard.

Test scores should not be the basis for refusing a chain school in the community. But when faced with aggressive charter pushers, this is the fallback position.

The parents and the community want to save their schools. They don’t want charter schools.

From the San Francisco Bayview National Black Newspaper:

“Recently, there have been many notable accomplishments in our public schools in the Bayview. Dr. George Washington Carver Elementary School’s principal was awarded Principal of the Year. Students at the Willie Brown Academy just won a statewide competition on healthy eating. And Malcolm X Academy’s fifth grade math and English test scores beat out KIPP Middle School’s fifth grade scores – that’s the charter chain that wants to take space away from Malcolm X.

“The students at Malcolm X Academy, a public school, didn’t need to be coerced to promote their school because the school’s dramatic improvement results from their own personal achievements. They have a right to be proud and to call for a stronger public school, not a charter, and for respect for their many victories despite the odds. – Photo: Steve Zeltzer
Our public schools are rising, our kids are getting good support and, with our community’s help, our students can go even farther.

“It’s up to us to support our neighborhood schools so they can build on their success. We already have respected indigenous organizations and leaders, dedicated teachers and administrators and involved parents who are leading that change. I am proud to say that I am one of them.

“Consider what’s happening at Carver Elementary School. My organization, 100% College Prep, is partnering with Umoja, a group that works with African American young boys at recess and after school. They focus on character, history and culture, and stress the importance of education.

“What they’ve seen at Carver is that with their support, behavior issues went down while attendance and minutes in the classroom went up. In addition, math scores have gone up in the school overall. These are the kinds of programs we want to see more of in our classrooms and community.

“Parents should know that Carver has a lot to offer. Not only has it been renovated, it has a Wellness Center staffed by social workers, a computer lab where students learn to code, a light-filled library with a teacher-librarian, and a full-time family liaison – who is also a former Carver parent and current co-chair of the district African American Parent Advisory Council. Its principal, Emmanuel Stewart, is a San Francisco native and Bayview resident who has become an inspiring and well-respected leader.

“At another local elementary school, Malcolm X, parents tell us their kids are well cared for. Eighty percent of its students are reading at grade level. There is outside play and learning, with a newly renovated garden classroom and recess playtime organized by Playworks.

“Students can take music, dance, theater and arts in partnership with community organizations, performing in a showcase at the end of the year. There are counseling and health services at the Wellness Center, and each student is served three meals a day.

“Students can attend an on-site afterschool program and each child is learning to code. More funds will flow into this school with Community Schools grants.”

San Francisco is woke!

Rachel Cohen wrote in The Intercept that Kipp Adelante, a charter in San Diego, offered cash awards and prizes to parents and teachers who recruit new students for the school. What, no waiting list?

KIPP is not the only charter school that is paying bonuses to help fill their enrollment.

The promotion read:

If you know a 5th grader at another school and you get them to come to school here, you will receive a premium of $500 to offset your child’s educational expenses. In addition, the family you bring to KIPP Adelante will receive a premium of $100 (also for educational expenses) for enrolling their child here. Bring two 5th Graders to the school – get $1000! These students have to attend our school for at least 2 weeks before you can collect your premium

A former KIPP Adelante teacher shared the newsletter with The Intercept, troubled by the ad targeting a school where 99 percent of students enrolled are children of color, and 98 percent qualify for free-and-reduced-price lunch.

That same year, the school offered a smaller cash incentive program to KIPP Adelante employees to help recruit fifth graders. The specific drive to recruit those students can be explained by the school’s unique makeup. In San Diego, elementary schools tend to go through the fifth grade, with middle schools covering the next three grades. But KIPP Adelante enrolls students from grades five to eight, which means enrolling fifth graders typically requires students to leave their elementary schools early.

The KIPP organization denied that such practices were common, but…

KIPP leaders in southern California, though, told The Intercept it is relatively common in their region. “I know that other charter schools do similar things,” said McKeown, the KIPP Adelante principal. “I can’t speak to exactly what they do because I don’t know, but I can say that I know for a fact that other charters in the area do the same thing.”

Allison Ohle, executive director of KIPP San Diego, told The Intercept that “it’s not an uncommon practice” for charter schools to offer these sorts of stipends. Ohle declined to name other schools that offer cash bonuses, but emphasized that the practice is legal.

Too bad that public schools don’t have the money to buy their students back. KIPP has 209 schools and 90,000 students, and the organization is the favorite of the Walton Family Foundation, the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, and dozens more. They are rolling in dough. They can afford to pay for enrollment.

Roxana Marachi, professor at San Jose State University, writes here that KIPP refuses to abide by the state’s conflict of interest law (that’s for the little people in public schools) but won approval of new charters by the state board anyway to open two new charters, despite public opposition.

Her post contains a wealth of documents showing the failure of KIPP to enroll the same proportions of ELLs and students with disabilities as nearby public schools, as well as documents about the damage that charters are doing to public schools in California.

This is great news for Betsy DeVos!

But bad news for public schools in California, where the state board rubber-stamps every charter proposal that comes before them, regardless of the views of elected local boards.



Julian Vasquez Heilig testified to a State Senate Committee on Education about why charters should be held accountable and be transparent. As chair of the California NAACP Committee on Education, he cites the findings of the national NAACP, which recommended banning for-profit charters and requiring that all charters be authorized ONLY by the local school district, to be sure that they meet local needs instead of replacing  public schools.

Yesterday, the State Board of Education approved two KIPP charters for districts that had rejected them. In California, a charter school can be rejected by the local board, rejected by the county board, and appeal to the state board, which was packed with charter supporters by charter-friendly Governor Jerry Brown.

At the charter hearing, Angela Der Ramos, the CTA State Board liaison for the Dr. Oscar F. Loya Elementary School, said:

KIPP is trying to muscle their way into the SF School District, despite the fact that the District and the County denied the charter.

There is no location, so they would force one of the public schools to share their space.

Over and over, the current state board approves charters that are not wanted by the community. The failure rate of these charters is alarming. 39% fail. And there are clear reasons why. Lack of oversight, lack of transparency, budget shenanigans…

The teachers tend to be uncredentialed, inexperienced, and unsupported, as evidenced by the high turnover rate of faculty.

NAACP is in the house speaking against this charter, as is SF School Board candidate Alison Collins, CTA, and reps from the district and county. They already said no twice. Will this board go against the wishes of the community and approve a charter at the expense of public schools?”

The state board gave its answer: Yes, we will go against the wishes of the community and approve KIPP charters at the expense of public schools. We don’t care what the local community wants.

WHY can’t KIPP find communities where they are welcome?


The New York Times reported on the allegations against Mike Feinberg, co-founder of KIPP, and his termination. 

“KIPP, one of the country’s largest and most successful charter school chains, dismissed its co-founder on Thursday after an investigation found credible a claim that he had sexually abused a student some two decades ago, according to a letter sent to the school community.

“The co-founder, Michael Feinberg, was accused last spring of sexually abusing a minor female student in Houston in the late 1990s, according to someone with close knowledge of the case, who was not authorized to speak publicly and asked not to be identified. An outside investigation found her claim credible after interviewing the student and her mother who both gave the same sequence of events.

“Mr. Feinberg denies the accusation, his lawyer, Christopher L. Tritico, said.

“Investigators also uncovered evidence that Mr. Feinberg had sexually harassed two KIPP employees. One case, in 2004, led to a financial settlement, the letter said; the other could not be corroborated because the woman involved would not cooperate, but the letter found it to be credible.

“We believe that Mr. Feinberg’s actions were incompatible with the leadership qualities that are central to our mission,” said the letter, which was sent Thursday afternoon to teachers, administrators and families of students.

“Mr. Feinberg was told of his dismissal at a meeting on Thursday in Houston.

“Mr. Tritico said an initial investigation last summer by outside counsel for KIPP’s Houston board had found the 1990s allegation to not be credible, before a second investigation by WilmerHale, a law firm specializing in sexual misconduct, reversed that finding.

“He said Mr. Feinberg had never been told of the precise allegations against him, and had not been given a chance to defend himself. “The investigation was conducted without even the most rudimentary form of due process,” Mr. Tritico said.

“KIPP said the first investigation found the claim inconclusive.

“The program, started in Texas in 1994 with 47 fifth-grade students, achieved extraordinary results with poor and minority schoolchildren and became a model that many others sought to replicate around the country. Today it has nearly 90,000 students and 209 schools in 20 states. The vision of Mr. Feinberg and the other co-founder, David Levin, Ivy League graduates who came together through Teach for America in the early 1990s, is largely credited with its success.

“In the early years, Mr. Feinberg was a teacher and administrator in Houston, but his current role had been mainly external — fund-raising, lobbying, political advocacy and college partnerships. In the year ended June 2016 — the latest period for which the organization’s tax filings were available — Mr. Feinberg received $231,885 in compensation and benefits while working for KIPP’s Houston schools, and $220,241 for work at the parent foundation in San Francisco, the filings show.”



KIPP released an announcement that co-founder Mike Feinberg has been terminated after an independent investigation of allegations of inappropriate conduct. 

Feinberg denies the allegations.

A few days ago, I posted a story about a high school teacher in the Bronx who was annoyed because he felt compelled to teach his public school students a story in a textbook that celebrated KIPP and put down their neighborhood.

The story attracted a lot of attention, and the teacher Erik Means wanted to answer your questions in this follow up post.

On August 25th, you linked to my Counterpunch article, which criticizes HMH for publishing a pro-charter essay in its 12th Grade Collections textbook. In part because of comments that a few of your readers posted, I feel obliged to make some clarifications:

When a school such as mine purchases HMH Collections, they buy textbooks for Grades 9-12, as well as electronic resources and supplementary materials – including a 180-day pacing guide. A set of scripted, Common Core-aligned questions follows each text. You buy these books because they are Common Core-aligned, and because they feature an array of shorter fiction and non-fiction texts that will help students practice for the Regents exam.

My administrators expected me to stick to this textbook, and use few “outside texts,” for these reasons. If I raised an issue with any text, they would tell me to teach it alongside a “counter-text” that provides a differing point of view. (I wrote the Counterpunch piece, in part, to create such as “counter-text” – since none really existed to suitably counter Gladwell’s claims and omissions).

To their credit, my administrators allow me to script my own questions. They respect me, my colleagues, and our academic freedom. They are also hard-working, good-hearted professionals who care deeply about the students and teachers in our building.

Do they require me to teach “Marita’s Bargain?” Given that they expect me to make my way through the textbook, as the year progresses, and only exclude certain texts because of time constraints, the answer is “yes.” You do not omit the first text in a textbook (it appears on pages 3-14) because of time constraints.

But the major reason why I teach “Marita’s Bargain” is because it is so glaring, in a literal sense. Throughout the year, all of my students will eventually leaf through the textbook, and see, in prominent letters, on page 5, “Just over ten years into its existence, KIPP has become one of the most desirable public schools in New York City.” They will see a photo of blighted South Bronx buildings on page 9. And they will see “Our kids are spending fifty to sixty percent more time learning than the traditional public school student” in prominent letters, on page 12.

My students would rightly wonder why I am skipping an article about schools in their community, when it appears as the first text in our textbook. If they read the most salient parts of the article, they might even suspect that I am skipping “Marita’s Bargain” because I am a self-interested public school teacher who wishes to obscure the miracles that KIPP charter schools are performing in their own community.

Thus, the fact that “Marita’s Bargain” appears so early in my textbook demands that I address it in some way. And if the text were not so prominent, I would not teach it; not in 100 years.

For my own part, I guide my students through “Marita’s Bargain” as critically as possible. But anyone who suspects that HMH would encourage teachers to do so can read its scripted questions, and judge for themselves (see pages 15-16):

Click to access maritas_bargain.pdf

Moreover, although most NYC ELA teachers are excellent, few of them are as knowledgeable about education reform as I am. “Pushing back” against Gladwell, as I do in class, requires a certain esoteric knowledge that many teachers lack – and this hardly discredits them as ELA instructors.

In this letter, I have written more about myself and my school than is my wont in a public forum. I have done so in order to make clear that my administrators acted, more or less rationally, in purchasing HMH Collections, and defensibly, in expecting me to teach most of its texts. I do not believe that they deserve much blame.

In my Counterpunch piece, I wrote primarily about the flaws and omissions of Gladwell’s piece itself. I attempted to demonstrate that the text failed to achieve a certain standard of quality, and that by deduction, HMH must have selected it for propagandistic purposes. This text should not be in my, or any, textbook, unless it is to be used as an example of certain defects. HMH did not wish this latter, if its scripted questions are any indication. I fault HMH for including the text in its Collections textbook, and for selling it to many schools throughout New York City. I fault Gladwell, to a lesser extent, for writing it in the first place.


Erik Mears

Dr.Julian Vasquez Heilig reports that two mothers in Houston want to sue the KIPP charter chain for collecting fees from them.

They “have been speaking out against KIPP’s ‘optional athletic fees, field trip fees, academic fees, etc and they state that these optional fees ‘have been charged as required fees at at least ten KIPP schools since 1994 and that the optional fees go into one account and are used for whatever purpose KIPP decides.’”They believe these fees violate state and federal laws.

KIPP denies that it collected fees illegally. The mothers want to know when they will be reimbursed.