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Quotes: "Not Supportable To Try And Explain Away [KIPP Effects]"

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comAt this point, it’s simply not supportable to try and explain away the fact that KIPP schools -– at least KIPP middle schools –- increase testing outcomes more quickly than comparable district schools. -- Matthew Di Carlo, senior fellow at the Albert Shanker Institute, in the Huffington Post
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I agree. I hope DiCarlo agrees that KIPP can't be scaled up

What if we had a system, however, where neighborhood schools had the advantages KIPP has? I wouldn't want their "No Excuses" policies. They couldn't work in systems that serve everyone. But, we who face the toughest challenges should be allowed to create safe and orderly learning environments. And that can't happen without spending a lot more money.

And, that can't happen until they retire the silly sound bite that KIPP serves the same kids.

And, that is less likely to happen until "reformers" deescalate the blame game.

But, I agree that traditional reformers should take the higher road than the "reformers" and give credit where credit is due.

It's not "explain away." Clearly there's a legitimate lesson to be learned from KIPP, which is, after all, the way charter schools were originally supposed to work. So here it is, in my own words:

If a school focuses on working with disadvantaged low-income kids, but works with a subset of those students -- those who are compliant and motivated and come from compliant, motivated and supportive families -- those students will do better. Keeping those students away from their less compliant, motivated and high-functioning peers has a beneficial effect. Add in the fact that those schools have bounteous resources compared with public schools.

It's a valid and valuable lesson. But it's very difficult to study all this because KIPP and its supporters persist in dishonestly denying the actual situation. And, of course, it only addresses a certain subset of disadvantaged students.

It would also be useful to disaggregate KIPP's distinctive practices to determine the impact of those. Do they serve to exacerbate the selectivity factor or are they effective on their own?

The rest of Matt Di Carlo's quote is quite useful as well:

"Their high-cost, high-intensity approach won’t work for all students, but those for whom it works really do show meaningfully positive results. We should give KIPP credit for that."

I spent only one afternoon at a Kipp middle school in Lynn, MA (near the end of its first year of operation, I think). It may not be typical, but it was awful and nobody in this conversation would put their own kid there.

It seems plausible that it might "increase testing outcomes more quickly than comparable district schools". Look how carefully phrased that claim is, though.

The teaching and learning goals I saw were very limited, and I've never seen a public middle school with lower expectations for actual intellectual growth. A compliant student learning all the prescribed responses might show faster score increases on selected instruments, but would have nowhere to go from there. I'm not surprised Kipp can't demonstrate robust improvement in education prospects for the kids, long term or even middle term.

"Rapid score increase" is their prize, but it's a dead-end goal, an irresistible winning strategy with a long-term downside. I think that's what really blind-sided the over-sold reform backers. They have nothing to sell, and nowhere to lead, with this.

It would be even more impressive if KIPP would take on regular district schools and use its undeniable willingness to question traditional methods in order to find a way to serve all of the kids in an attendance area. That would have to include finding a way to serve children whose parents are not supportive. I for one would be open to experiments where disruptive children were served in separate classrooms (or even buildings) as long as they were receiving high quality instruction and appropriate supportive services.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.