At the same time KIPP is becoming the urban model for corporate ed reform, the movement is in the process of pivoting from the the phony campaign under Bush ostensibly to close the black-white achievement gap, with the same high expectations for all, thus avoiding "the soft bigotry of low expectations," blah-blah, to a new phony campaign of assuring that poor children have the same access to high quality teachers and schools because education is now the "civil rights issue of our generation." Blah, blah, blah. While the pivot leaves in place the high-stakes standardized testing that declared 30-40 percent of public schools failures and charter targets under the last 9 years of NCLB, the pivot demands a shift in what is measured by the tests and how it is measured. The achievement gap has left the stadium, ladies and gentlemen, while growth models have taken the stage. Now that the urban school systems have been blown up, thus clearing the way for the corporate charterites, the canyon between test scores of the rich and poor is no longer of interest. Indeed, the achievement gap has become a "mindless measure," to use the words of Jay Mathews.
The focus now is on "a year's worth of individual student growth" for a year's worth of teaching (much more on this later, with a feature on the Wizard of Oz, Bill Sanders). In short, the new target of corporate ed reform is to blow up, or disrupt, the teaching profession by measuring effective teaching on how much test score growth a teacher can oversee. And as the new CEO-led KIPP chain gangs are to replace urban public schools, so then an endless stream of non-union white missionary temps are being prepared to replace the professionals who now staff the urban schools. Test score gains, or lack thereof, will be used to justify the firing of professionals and the use of temps from TFA and the TFA knock-offs that Arne fondly calls alternative teacher certification programs.
When I challenged Mathews for his commentary in WaPo supporting the pivoting away from the achievement gap, he responded with the piece quoted in its entirety below. You will notice that the first thing he does is not respond to the challenge but, rather, to change the subject and, instead, to challenge Ira Socol's insightful piece that I recently posted.
As you will see from the comments, Jay bit off more than he could chew when he challenged Socol, who is not impressed with nor intimidated by the fact that Mathews has the full backing of the Billionaire Boys' Club and all the "thinking" that their tanks can buy. A good number of other comments, including my own, are left out of the edited comment section below. I wanted to focus on the back and forth between Jay, the hapless interrogator, and Ira, the intelligent respondent.
Obviously, Jay has joined other bold reformers such as the recently-fired Bret Schundler of New Jersey whose efforts to remake New Jersey schools in the corporate image led him to denounce New Jersey Public Schools as a “wretched system” and the state’s #1 national rankings on the NAEP in both 4th and 8th grade reading and math as “irrelevant.” For bold reformers like Jay and Bret, or Arne and Michelle, if the facts don’t support your desired results anymore, those facts no longer matter. Poof.
Jay and the the new generation of reformers doing the same thing as the last generation (when will they become the status quo?) would rather look at test score growth over time, especially when big achievement gap closing claims by your favorite politicians do not materialize. Focusing on individual gains makes the disparity between the haves and the have-nots much easier to ignore, since this new value-added universe is not even interested in those troublesome group comparisons any longer that are based on the poverty chasm. Unless, of course, the reformers need to shut down your neighborhood school and turn it into a corporate-styled testing madrasah, i. e., charter school. Then your percentile ranking becomes a crucial tool in deciding who is in that bottom five percent that just keeps replenishing itself as the last group is scraped off to become charterized.
I am not sure I fit well with the important present and former policymakers he cites, but it is always good to be noticed by Jim. He is a great writer, and validates my existence on the planet.
In his most recent post he also hands me some ammo to fire back at him. He quotes an online letter to President Obama from a reader, Ira Socol. Socol is critical of the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), as an example of the kind of charter school the president admires, and compares KIPP unfavorably---too rigid, too uncreative, too imperialist---to the Sidwell Friends School which Obama's daughters attend. This is reminiscent of a point made by the late, great Gerald W. Bracey at the beginning of the Obama administration.
Sadly, Socol makes the same mistake Jim has made many times. He cites as evidence for his views of teaching at KIPP and Sidwell some descriptions he found on their Web sites. Any good teacher would tell you that is no way to judge a school. Socol gives no indication he has ever spent time inside a KIPP school, or Sidwell. Neither has Jim, unless I have missed something. They are among the many KIPP critics who consider it sufficient to judge schools by what they read on the Internet.
I think they should visit the schools they write about and tell us what they see. All of the KIPP schools I know have an open door policy. There are 99 KIPP schools in 20 states and D.C., including one in each of the 20 largest cities except Phoenix. I have visited many KIPP schools and Sidwell. I think Socol, and Jim, will be surprised, once they get inside, at how little difference there is between the great teaching going on at both places.
By Jay Mathews | September 1, 2010; 2:00 PM ET
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It is interesting, as Ira points out, that the only schools that a sour taste in Jay's mouth are those he visited without an appointment. Hmm.