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

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Three Stooges Go to School

(Since Michael Bloomberg won re-election, Moe will now be played by Arne Duncan. Photo by Jed Kirschbaum, AP).

The hilarious trio took their political antics on the road Friday to a KIPP school in Baltimore. There to lightheartedly promote their support for segregated total compliance testing camps that focus on fixing children's minds rather than their impoverished neighborhoods and schools, the wise-cracking trio sat in on a class that, ironically, was studying what it means to be enslaved. Talk about a teachable moment!

Between some "incredible" and "unbelievable" comedy by Moe, Curly, and Larry, Moe had this to say:
Everywhere we're going, we're seeing not incremental change, not slight change, but dramatic change - exponential growth. And our challenge, and our opportunity, is how do you take to scale what's working," Duncan said. "For all the challenges we face, and they are huge, I'm unbelievably hopeful about where we're going.
Unbelievable, isn't it. Incredible, too. Huge.

What is not incredible, but very credible, in fact, is that the "exponential growth" that the Stooges are seeing at the KIPP cults they visit comes with a big premium that is paid in the large number of children who become pushouts and dropouts. In the only KIPP schools that have been systematically studied (pdf here), five Bay Area KIPPs lost 60% of their students between 5th and 8th grade:

Together, the four schools began with a combined total of 312 fifth graders in 2003-04, and ended with 173 eighth graders in 2006-07. The number of eighth graders includes new students who entered KIPP after fifth grade (p.12).

And here is another unbelievably believable bit of data regarding teacher attrition that is never brought to light at the Stooges' media circuses:

Since 2003-04, the five Bay Area KIPP school leaders have hired a total of 121 teachers. Of these, 43 remained in the classroom at the start of the 2007-08 school year. Among teachers who left the classroom, at four of the schools they spent a median of 1 year in the classroom before leaving; at one school, the typical teacher spent 2 years in the classroom before leaving (32).

Do these numbers present a problem for the corporate education reform movement, which pretends to use KIPP as a "scalable" model for the perpetuation of segregated containment schools? An incredible and unbelievable one, I'd say.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jim -- One thing that the study on KIPP attrition that you cite did not research was the ethnic breakout of the students who "left." But I've done some of that (as an unpaid volunteer advocate for public education). So here is some critical additional information!

    This is research that I did in February 2007 on KIPP Bridge Academy in Oakland, Calif.:
    Here are the figures for KIPP Bridge's class that finished 8th grade in 2006:
    Total enrollment, all demographics:
    87 students started 5th grade in 02-03;
    60 continued to 6th grade in 03-04;
    50 continued to 7th grade in 04-05;
    36 continued to 8th grade in 05-06.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: Those are fall statistics, so we don't know how many actually finished 8th grade and were promoted to high school.
    Similar pattern for the class that is to finish 8th grade in 2007:
    82 started 5th grade in 03-04;
    78 continued to 6th grade in 04-05;
    47 continued to 7th grade in 05-06;
    number who finished 8th grade unknown.

    African-American boys:
    35 started 5th grade in 02-03;
    19 continued to 6th grade in 03-04;
    15 continued to 7th grade in 04-05;
    8 continued to 8th grade in 05-06.
    Again, those are fall figures, so we don't know how many finished 8th grade and were promoted to high school. This means 77% of the African-American boys who started at this KIPP school either left or were retained to repeat a grade (this is unknowable unless KIPP chooses to tell us) by the FALL of 8th grade. We also don't know, unless KIPP chooses to tell us, how many of those eight finished 8th grade and went on to high school.

    Additional note from Caroline: I looked at figures for all then-nine California KIPP schools when I did that research. Six of them showed that same clear pattern -- high attrition, but far higher for the most academically challenged demographic subgroup -- either African-American boys or Latino boys. The SRI study that you cite was done AFTER I did my research, and confirms it, except that as I say, that study didn't break out the attrition by ethnicity.