"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, June 30, 2007

KIPP Cuts and Runs, Again

There was this story recently about a charter school in Buffalo losing its KIPP franchise when it ran into performance problems (KIPP only allows success, you see). It seems that when KIPP has a steady revenue stream, a public facility provided to them, a steady supply of Teach for America temps, a good overseer, and a dependable crop of self-selected children whose parents are eager to have them KIPP-notized, then we are likely to see the KIPP magic in action.

When faced with problems as in Buffalo or Atlanta, however, we see KIPP only ready to retreat to greener pasture$. Here is another example from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 06/27/07

Atlanta Public Schools officials want to close a charter campus — which opened four years ago with hopes of getting more inner-city children into college — even though the principal says his students are outperforming their traditional public school peers.

In a daylong, testy public hearing Tuesday on terminating Achieve Academy of Atlanta's contract, school system officials laid out why the campus for fifth- through eighth-graders should be shuttered, including repeatedly not paying teachers on time.

But the fledgling school's supporters gave a feisty defense, objecting to the proceeding and nearly every piece of evidence presented.

"We have not had adequate time to prepare for ever-moving, ever-changing allegations," Glenn Delk, Achieve's attorney, told the hearing officer. "This is not adequate notice, due process and an opportunity to be heard."

The academy, which the Atlanta Board of Education had approved as a new alternative to the area's traditional public schools, has struggled since opening. Envisioned as part of the Knowledge is Power Program, or KIPP, the campus was supposed to emulate the practices of an oft-lauded network of tuition-free public schools, which specialize in providing an academically demanding environment in poverty-stricken neighborhoods.

But KIPP pulled its powerful name and canceled its licensing agreement with the school last year, citing financial and management problems at the campus. Supporters successfully sued to keep the school open without the KIPP moniker and continued this past school year without the nonprofit group's backing.

Now, Atlanta officials say Achieve must be closed because of multiple violations of its charter or contract, which dictated the terms under which the taxpayer-funded school would operate. They say Achieve has a long history of serious management problems and that it would be irresponsible for them to keep the campus open.

"Teachers don't get paid. Services don't get provided," Sharron Pitts, Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall's chief of staff, said in an interview. "We think they've shown they've really been incompetent to run a school."

Every year, Achieve has been forced to move to a new location. While it first opened in the southeast area of the city, the campus now is located on the west side. Principal David Morgan, who has led the school since KIPP left, blames many of the problems on the school system, which he said has needlessly pulled building leases and withheld money for teachers' salaries — both of which system officials deny.

"There's a difference between dereliction of duty and you just don't have the means to do it," said Morgan, whose campus has sued the system for inadequate funding.

During Tuesday's hearing, which took place at the system's headquarters, an Atlanta official and former Achieve employees testified, among other things, that the campus was not using certified teachers, was not regularly providing special education or guidance counseling to students, and was not paying faculty members on time.

The school has met federal standards under the No Child Left Behind Act, unlike many of Atlanta's middle schools. But Jean Cohen, who oversees the system's charter school agreements, testified that Achieve hasn't met many of the academic goals in its own contract, including that students meet or beat the state's test score averages. . . .

Even though KIPP has cut and run in Atlanta, don't expect the Bushies to give up so quickly. After all, they never saw a charter school, failure or otherwise, that they did not prefer to a public school that costs a third more to operate. In fact, yesterday ED announced another $36.5 million (on top of last year's $21.6 million) to fund facilities for charter schools, even as large numbers of public schools are crumbling. Amount laid out by ED in capital building funds for America's public schools? $0.00.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:41 PM

    Well now. Thus do we see and abject lesson in why public schools have evolved into their current form over the years. One simple truth here is that public schools work because education is not business and cannot be operated as a business.

    If we abruptly abolish our public school system, as some are only too anxious to do, from where will come the facilities necessary to replace them? Public support is essential because building and operating schools is absolutely not a for-profit enterprise. No private school can possibly charge enough in fees and tuition to make a profit, let alone sufficient profit to remain in business.

    But what about our august, eastern private schools that have existed for decades? What about religious schools that have been successful for many years? You're making my point. Prestigious eastern prep. schools exist primarily because they are supported through private and foundation contributions which have allowed them to build substantial endowments and hefty stock portfolios. Religious schools exist because they are supported as part of the ministry of the involved denomination and because they can pay their teachers peanuts. Neither type of institution could possibly charge enough in tuition, even if the parents of their students are, as in the first case, predominantly wealthy.

    What happens to children when the business running their school goes bankrupt before Christmas? Education is not business.