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

Sunday, March 23, 2008

From KIPP to SABIS: Industrial Knowledge for the Knowledge Industry

Part of untold story of the success of the KIPPsters has everything to do with the large numbers of children who can't hack the 12 hour days and "work hard, be nice" brainwashing that white liberals prefer so much for the children of the poor. These young washouts, of course, do not figure in to the test score totals, which have the media convinced that these industrial KIPP learning camps are the solution to teaching the future poor how to keep their mouths shut in the global economy.

Now there is a for-profit, corporate welfare outfit (actually it predates KIPP) that uses the same reform school discipline to whip high schoolers into smiling, glassy-eyed Burger King employees. Not everyone in Massachusetts is a fan (as the following letter indicates) , even if the Boston Globe would prefer it:

THE GLOBE did a disservice to children of color in its March 10 editorial "The achievement gap wins one," which embraced the proposal for a for-profit SABIS charter school in Brockton. In fact, SABIS may push out more high school-aged students than it graduates. SABIS, which has a wait list of 2,677 students in Springfield, shrinks from 160 students in grade nine to just 73 in grade 10. Is the above-average MCAS performance of this tiny 10th-grade cohort really evidence of SABIS's value?

According to a Department of Education report, "significant numbers of students do transfer out of the school at the secondary level because their academic or programmatic needs were not being met." An attrition rate this high should be a mark against the school, not the foundation for praise.

SABIS should also be judged at several grades, such as English language arts at grade four, where blacks, Latinos, whites, and students with disabilities at SABIS scored needing improvement and warning status at higher levels than the state average for each subgroup. Only the reduced cohort of students of color in grade 10 outperformed whites in the state in the English test.

The Globe editorial board misinformed us by presenting one thin slice of questionable data. Board of Education chairman Paul Reville should be applauded for declining another SABIS charter.

DANIEL J. LOSEN
Lexington
The writer is a senior education law and policy associate at the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School.

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