Education Week Craps The Bed On KIPP Story
The article is trapped behind a subscription wall, making it unlinkable, but Ed Week correctly reports that fewer than half of the kids that begin the Bay Area KIPP schools as 5th graders in 2003 make it to 8th grade in 2006. In the Oakland incarnation, the attrition rate climbs to 75 percent. The article ignores the fact that these lost students are overwhelmingly African-American males. The three Bay Area KIPPs lost 77, 67, and 71 percent of its Young Black Males (YBMs) during this time period.
That's the story Ed Week. That's the story Eduwonk. That's the story, KIPP PR fixers.
There's more Black males on the KIPP website than in the KIPP classrooms.
The internal exit interviews that Ed Week references lay the blame on student migration factors brought about by the low SES of the community. This would suggest that KIPP schools have some of the highest student mobility in California, definitely in the 90th percentile, if not higher, and I'm not buying it. Yes, these schools serve poor kids, but so do many others, and in communities with far higher mobility rates than those located in the Bay Area. Do the OUSD and SFUSD based schools that serve comparable populations report such dramatic rates of student mobility, or can the attrition rate be accounted for in some other way?
Anecdotal evidence would suggest so. Students at my school who have left KIPP have done so because of the debilitating effects of the shame and exclusion based discipline policy, because they were flat kicked out, or because they were told to change an aspect of their physical appearance (hair color; hair style) before being allowed to return. None of them left because their families moved.
The ability to remove students, or create the conditions in which students remove themselves has numerous ramification and implications -- on school culture, classroom management, and issues of testing and accountable. Charter schools like KIPP operate on an entirely different level of freedom from constraint, but are nonetheless compared to public schools to further political and economic goals. They benefit from a poor public understanding of what they do and how they do it, an understanding that is driven by bizarrely (or not) poor reporting. We need to better examine these schools and their operational policies, and not accept their rationale for failure quite so blithely. Meanwhile, if KIPP Bay Area cannot keep Black males in the classroom, maybe we can all dial down the rhetoric on how truly wonderful places these schools are. Or at least attach the appropriate asterisk.