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

Saturday, February 07, 2009

KIPP's IIPP: Intimidation is Power Program

KIPP's organizational rationale is built on three unacknowledged principles, if one may use that word to describe such dystopian intent:
  1. mind and body control of poor children who are indoctrinated to serve the needs of the 21st Century global economy, i. e., to serve the needs of corporate lords who are not constrained by national loyalties or basic human rights of life and work (the same lords, by the way, who have run the global economy over the cliff);
  2. the replacement of professional teachers who have been poisoned by educational theory, history, and child development considerations that are the legacies of liberalism coming all the way down through Jefferson, Mann, and Dewey. KIPP prefers teachers, especially the clueless TFA temps, who have been, as Berliner says “protected from the ‘liberal agenda’ of teacher education programs;"
  3. the dismantling of teacher collective bargaining, due process, and tenure protections. This effort is enabled by corporations and their foundations (Broad, Gates, Dell, etc.) that funnel tens of millions of dollars, with each dollar matched by a dollar in tax credit, into KIPP coffers in order to pay KIPP teachers more and, thus, tamp down the impetus to join unions. This is the a perfect example of social entrepreneurship at its worst.
This third leg of KIPP's ideological stool is now threatened to be knocked loose by the handful of teachers in a Brooklyn KIPP who have voted to ask for union protection. And guess what? With his empire threatened and his millions at risk, co-founder David Levin is tightening the screws on these teachers. Why should we expect anything different from people whose unexamined privilege, self-serving grandiosity, and reckless disregard for basic human rights has led them on a self-congratulatory quest to save the poor by extinguishing their cultures and their humanity in the process. (One may look at the American Indian educational experience for another never-ending example of the same phenomenon).

From the NY Times:

With its stellar test scores and connection to a national network, the KIPP AMP charter school in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, presented a ripe opportunity for the city’s teachers’ union to prove that it, too, could embrace innovation that fuels rapid improvement for students.

The founders of the network, the Knowledge is Power Program, often paid teachers more than they would have earned under union contracts, and one of its four New York City schools was already unionized under a quirk of state law. When the United Federation of Teachers announced last month that it had collected enough signatures to unionize the charter school, Dave Levin, KIPP’s co-founder and New York superintendent, said he was willing to work with the union and was optimistic things would proceed smoothly.

But in the weeks since, several teachers said in interviews, the atmosphere at the school has grown increasingly tense, with administrators making veiled threats about the effect of creating a union. E-mail and text messages that would usually be returned at all hours have gone unanswered. And late last month, teachers said they were told by their students, school administrators pulled students into a private meeting and asked them to critique their teachers.

“The general tenor has been of increased distance, and administrators felt more inaccessible than they have ever been,” said Leila Chakravarty, a seventh-grade math teacher who helped collect signatures to form the union.

The union filed a complaint this week with the state Public Employment Relations Board saying that KIPP’s administration was intimidating the organizing teachers.

A spokesman for KIPP said that Mr. Levin declined a request for an interview. The co-principals at KIPP AMP, which was founded in 2005 and now has 275 students in fifth through eighth grades, did not respond to telephone messages. (The AMP in the school’s name stands for “Always Mentally Prepared.”)

Under state law, if the majority of a charter school’s teachers sign a petition supporting the union, as 15 of KIPP AMP’s 22 teachers have, management has 30 days to recognize the union or the matter goes to arbitration with the state; that deadline is Thursday. Union officials said that Mr. Levin met with the teachers on Friday, and also contacted Randi Weingarten, the union president, to arrange a meeting for next week.

Perhaps the standoff should not be a surprise. Charter schools, which are publicly financed but operate independently, were founded in opposition to teachers’ unions; many of the movement’s supporters view union contracts as a fundamental flaw in public education that keeps ineffective teachers on the job. And KIPP, like many charters, has hired teachers without traditional training and requires long hours and weekend work, usually for extra pay. . . .

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