Sen. Bryles get his KIPP | Arkansas Blog

Sen. Bryles get his KIPP

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Brummett writes this morning some back story on Blytheville's happy news that it will be the second city in Arkansas to have  KIPP charter school, which has been successful in Helena.

That occasions a link to a thoughtful article on KIPP, related to a book on the subject by a Washington Post writer. The author, like the book's author, is an admirer of KIPP. But her piece brings up some issues worth thinking about in this or any school reform discussion.

1) There are many successful education programs. Broad replication is the core problem. 2) Even in poor communities, KIPP has a more homogenuous student body, comprising self-selected families (even if chosen by lottery), than the average all-comers school in economically depressed places. 3) KIPP can winnow (expel) the mediocre students and parents who don't meet the demanding standards.

The author suggests an experiment where, rather than building a single school to serve a (motivated) part of the population of a city, that KIPP take on an entire community. She writes:

But since the biggest debate about KIPP, on both the ideological left and right, is whether or not its methods can work for all disadvantaged children (instead of just a handful of self-selecting families), why wouldn't it—and its financial, ideological, and media backers—have a strong interest in answering this question once and for all by taking on an entire urban area or even, for that matter, a single neighborhood as, say, Geoffrey Canada has tried to do in Harlem with his Harlem's Children's Zone?

There's something perversely evasive about KIPP's opening up just one school in Dallas, one school in Albany, N.Y., one school in Oakland, Calif., one school in Charlotte, N.C., one school in Nashville, Tenn., and so on—as if the program recognizes that its best chance at success is to be the exception rather than the rule in any city where it operates. Perhaps this approach made sense in the program's early years, when it needed to build credibility and attract financing. But now it has done both. Until KIPP tries to succeed within an entire, single community, it is, for all its remarkable rise and deserved praise, just another model program that has yet to prove it can succeed with all—or even most—disadvantaged children.

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