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

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The KIPP Fresno Horror Story That the National Media Won't Tell: Part I

The KIPP Fresno story has disappeared from media coverage, except for McEwen's continued editorializing the news section of the Fresno Bee, where he has repeatedly painted this horror as a minor incident resulting from disgruntled parents or former employees. The facts, some of which are presented below in this Part I, demonstrate that this is not the case.

For reasons that are becoming increasingly clear, the KIPP Fresno scandal never got anycoverage beyond a few stories in the local media. If a public school had the documented case against it that KIPP Fresno has garnered through its ethical breaches, abusive practices, and violations of the law, the national media and cable news would have had a feeding frenzy. But, then, the oligarchs see KIPP as the solution to the 21st Century "minority problem," and the corporate media is that corporate message.

Even so, reading the lengthy "Notice to Cure and Correct Violations" issued by the chartering authority offers a case study in how an organizational culture that encourages any means to achieve its ends of behavioral transformation and high test scores, combined with a lack of Board authority, has created a monstrous form of penal schooling that is about to be unleashed on urban America, if the misanthropic oligarchy gets its way.

In April, May, an June 2008, parents of children attending KIPP Academy Fresno Charter School filed multiple complaints with the Fresno Unified School District about practices at the school. Even though the District passed the complaints to the KIPP Board to investigate, the Board had no authority to demand answers or to make personnel changes and, therefore, advised the District to take charge of the investigation. Following an investigation, a 64 page Notice to Cure and Correct report was issued on December 11, 2008.

Below are some of the findings from that Report:

During the 20004-2005 school year, Johnny Nellum of the NAACP visited KIPP Fresno following complaints by parents regarding disciplinary actions against students by Chi Tschang, the CEO of the school. Tschang was counseled by the District for inappropriate behavior at that time. Other allegations of student mistreatment followed, however, and a meeting between the KIPP Foundation , Mr. Tschang, and the District took place.

At the urging of the Charter School Development Center in 2005-2006, a Parent Handbook was finally developed that outlined discipline policies and parent complaint procedures.

During the 2006-2007 school year, the KIPP Board received training from the District regarding its roles and responsibilities. During the 07-08 school year, complaints against the CEO, Mr. Tschang continued. After calling for Mr. Tschang's resignation, the KIPP Board was told by KIPP, Inc. that the Board had no authority to demand Mr. Tschang's resignation. The Board resigned shortly thereafter.

Based on concerns for student" psychological and emotional health," the District offered KIPP Fresno's staff training to deal with emotional and psychological problems. CEO Tschang refused. (The reader should keep in mind that KIPP prefers to hire teachers who have not completed teacher education programs where they are routinely required to take courses in child development and pscyhology).

The culminating complaint in 07-08 came when Child and Protective Services notified the District that a child who had recently undergone one of Mr. Tschang's punishments had subsequently threatened suicide. Mr. Tschang had failed to notify the parents of the child.

Some of the violations in the Report:

I. Student Discipline and Punishment

2004-2005 Twelve separate allegations


1. In her interview Kia Spenhoff stated that she witnessed Mr. Tschang put his hands on students. She witnessed Mr. Tschang pick up a student off the ground, hold the student by the neck against a wall, and then drop the student. When asked about this incident Mr Tschang stated, "I don't remember picking up and dropping a student, I do remember shaking a kid."

6. __________ also reported witnessing Tschang push another student's face against the wall and saying, " Put your ugly face against the wall, I don't want to see your face."

10. Student __________ reported witnessing Mr. Tschang draw a circle on the ground and force a student to stand in the circle for two hours in the sun during the summertime.

12. __________, a student at KIPP from 2004 to 2007, stated that in the 04-05 term he saw Mr. Tchang pick students up and drop them. If a student wasn't sitting correctly he would pick them up by their shirt, move the chair, and drop them on the floor.

2005-2006 Seven separate allegations


3. Vincent Montgomery, former Chief Operating Oficer for the school, reported that he observed several incidents in which he felt Chi Tschang was emotionally abusive toward students, such as requiring students to stand outside in the rain. Mr. Montgomery also stated he felt any gains made by kids were offset by the emotional abuse they experienced.

4. Richard Keyes made a comment to Mr. Tschang that he thought Mr. Tschang needed training in child growth and development because there were things going on that were psychologically damaging.

5. Students stated in an interview that Mr. Tschang would make kids stand in the sun while he yelled at them, and that _________ had to stand there for an hour.


1. Marcella Mayfield witnessed Mr. Tschang grab a backpack off of a student and then repeatedly kick it.

2007-2008 Eight Separate Allegations


2. In December 2007 the police reported several students for shoplifting at a ______ store. As punishment, Mr. Tschang had them sit at their desks outside in the cold for two days. Diane Gutierrez, an employee at the Charter School, stated that Mr. Tschang took away their shoes on one day to let them know how it feels to have something taken away form them. Marcella Mayfield stated that it was bitterly cold in December and the students were only allowed to wear sweatshirts. She also stated that Mr. Tschang screamed at the students during the entire day. She tole this investigation, "I lost count how many times he could be heard from the classroom. When there was a quiet spell in the class, you could hear him outside screaming at them."

5. Diana Gutierrez stted in her interview hat Mr. Tshcang raged and screamed at students on several occasions. She stated the he: "has thrown backpacks belonging to students in a manner taht the contents fell out. he has grabbed papers out of students' hands and yelled at them. He yells at students right in their faces. The children are so afraid of him that they do not want to look at him. He will just yell louder and say things like 'Look at me,' 'Listen to me,' and "What's wrong with you?' 'Do you want me to kick you out of school?'

8. Former Board member Steve Hopper stated that Mr. Tschang was so focused on peer accountability that he would lose track of the moment. Mr. Hopper said, "when he yells or throws books, and you confront him, he calls it 'strategic.'"

The above examples are from the first of 10 separate categories of violations listed in the Report. Subsequent posts will offer examples of other breaches in the other nine categories: Board Composition, Credentialing, Criminal Background Checking, State Mandated Testing, Right to Privacy, Transporting Students Off Campus, Copyright, Failure to Report Child Sexual Abuse.


  1. Hi Jim -- belatedly catching up on your coverage! As you probably know, I've been following this scandal in my San Francisco Examiner.com blog as much as I can. Aside from the fact that the mainstream press is largely deaf to any negative information about KIPP, Fresno's location is likely deterring any wider coverage. Both the L.A. Times and the San Francisco Chronicle are fighting for survival, which makes it even less likely that they'll cover a story 200-250 miles away. It's definitely up to the blogosphere to stay on top of this one. And note that there are more abuse charges in a KIPP school near Atlanta (my blog addressing it):


  2. It was my daughter who was the one threatening suicide at the school. She has under gone so much since she left KIPP I believe she has PTSD. This was so sad.

  3. Took me time to read all the comments, but I really enjoyed the article. It proved to be Very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained! creepy news stories