You might have missed on the web this week another guest column from Paul Hewitt, a former school superintendent on the University of Arkansas education faculty. He comments on a new study on KIPP schools, the highly lauded charter school operation that has shown great results with poor minority children in Arkansas and elsewhere with extended hours and a strong commitment from parents and kids to that rigorous program.
The KIPP schools enroll a significantly higher proportion of African-American students than the local districts they draw from. As reported in Education Week, the Western Michigan study found that 40 percent of the black males drop out of KIPP schools between grades 6 and 8. Gary Miron at Western Michigan stated that: "The dropout rate for African-American students is really shocking."
Well, no, it's not shocking. (It's unclear if the Arkansas KIPP schools were covered in the study, but their own numbers have shown a huge dropout rate among original enrollees.) The program requires an intense commitment, more than many families and children can — or want — to make.
It's the same thing state Board of Education member Ben Mays noted in considering LISA Academy expansion plans. Are good test outcomes a product of the school or a product of the students who walk through the door of the school? Public schools don't have the luxury of a winnowing process that tosses aside 60 percent of enrollees. Nor do they enjoy the extras financed by billionaires backing the charter agenda. Writes Hewitt:
Just imagine if the regular public schools in your community were given an extra $6,500 by civic minded foundations. Now, imagine the impact on the public school test scores if 60 percent of the most undisciplined students could be encouraged to transfer elsewhere. (Maybe the charter schools would welcome them?) The headlines about highly successful public schools would dominate the news. However, the American people and a nation built on equality for all would never tolerate such an unethical charade. Would we?