Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Problem With KIPP

Reading Jonathan Alter's Newsweek column this week, "Bill Gates Goes to School", something catches my eye, amid the sniping at teacher's unions.

I'll mention this about teacher's unions first: I have worked at one union school, and three non-union. I have seen first-hand how completely an administration not constrained by a union will disregard the rights, working conditions and sanity of its employees, and how hard an administration so constrained will work to get around it. I am not impressed by the crybabies who want to blame the state of American education on the unions. But I digress.

Alter writes:

"Whenever he gets depressed about education, Gates says he visits one of the more than 60 KIPP schools nationwide, where the energy is palpable and the results irrefutable...So the challenge is not to find what works for at-risk kids--we know that by now--but how to replicate it."

I interviewed once at a KIPP school, and it was an amazing experience. I am impressed by what KIPP does. But here's the problem: KIPP relies on one basic, central thing to supplement their hard-core program: choice.

A poor black or Hispanic kid does not just fall out of the sky into KIPP. They are charter schools, and parents or guardians choose to bring them there. If the kid and the parents won't abide by the rules, the school can get rid of them.

Public schools have to take and keep everyone. Bear that in mind, Mr. Gates, and THEN tell me how to fix public education. KIPP has a great program, but it requires buy-in.

Oh, yeah, and stop bashing the teachers, PLEASE.

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