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PAYNICH: The Message Of KIPP

Here are some interesting thoughts from Margaret Paynich, a long-standing contributor to this blog, about Jay Mathews' KIPP book:

Work hard mural "I picked up Jay Mathews' book, "Work Hard. Be Nice." and decided to read it without knowing what it was about. Mathews tells a great story about Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin starting the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) in Houston, Texas, fresh out of Teach for America training in Los Angeles. I was easily enamored with Feinberg and Levin's passion for their students, their drive to make KIPP work no matter the obstalces, and the astonishing success and growth of KIPP. 

"Mathews makes the claim that KIPP schools are the best model of raising students to new heights of achievement by doing the most to overcome poverty, apathy, and racial and class bias. While there are critics of KIPP and critics of Mathews' claim, the one message I took from the book that I hope will receive critical thinking - how do we ensure that our public schools can take the most advantage of the groundbreaking ideas educators are discovering? 
"What I will remember most about the book is how hard it was for Feinberg and Levin to find support in their Houston and New York City school systems for KIPP. The should be a system for embracing successful strategies in our public schools. I think part of the problem is that our school systems are largely out of date and were designed for educating students from hundreds of years ago. 

"Now we have a school structure that is not desgined to have each child succeed to the best of his or her ability - yet we claim it does. These structures have made it difficult for administrators to focus on much more than what they need to do to keep their own jobs - which may not include helping teachers or students reach their own potential. 

"I believe that the public needs to demand a solution from their legislators. Education professionals have been doing the best they can - but I don't think they can do it alone anymore. I understand that legislation is part of the problem - legislation that is passed without proper attention to those who have to carry it out - but those policies can be reversed through legislation. 

"This summer I am piloting a project in Warwick, RI in which I intend to explain to the citizens of Warwick how the complicated education system works and what his or her public role is in ensuring the best possible education we can provide. I will be walking door-to-door this summer introducing individuals to the school committee, showing them afterschool and mentoring programs they can volunteer for, and hoping to inspire individuals to take a better responsibility for their role as citizens." 
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Great post Alexander. I agree that as a public, we cannot stand back and watch our public education system become obsolete. The complexity of the system is a big part of the challenge. It seems everyone tends to blame everyone else because each part of the problem is inter-weaved with root causes that are unrelated.

With fewer than one of five or six households with school age children, it seems all to easy to disengage and believe the problem will be solved by someone else. But few are looking at the big picture. As citizens that is our responsibility, obligation and need. We're working on some things here in Minneapolis in that front. I'd love to share our learning.

Steve,

Please get in touch with me, I'd love to hear about what you're doing in Minnesota.
[email protected]

And thanks for commenting!

Margaret

Alexander... Good post. I agree whole-heartedly in what you are trying to do. I believe we parents need to advocate for a transformed education system based on the premise of "many paths", where it seems we currently have a system built around a "one size fits all" approach, endlessly tweaked, but never significantly changed.

I realize my view on parent engagement will sound like typical education "reform" agenda. "Choice" is usually vilified as elitist based on the belief that making informed choices is only possible for people privileged with time and education. But is that really true? Even if 5 percent of all families cannot choose between schools, what is lost when most families never get the chance to inform themselves in order to choose?
Parents are no different than anyone else. We engage with things we've chosen after some deliberation among options. Arranged schooling is as anachronistic as arranged marriage. Without a choice, we tend to resist, take for granted, critizize and distance ourselves.The first
principle of family engagement in their child's school is family open enrollment.

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