. . . .I notice that Oklahoma City's KIPP was one of the 22 schools studied [in recent Mathematica working paper], but its attrition data was excluded due to the way the numbers were kept. Our KIPP does a great job, but you simply can not compare a charter which had a decade to build up to serving 285 students, with 8.5 percent being on special education IEPs, with its neighboring school. KIPP replaced Moon Middle School which had served 792 students, with 26 percent on IEPs. Last year, KIPP recommended 21 percent of students for retention, while the old Moon had recommended 3 precent of students for retention. The old Moon was cited infor a lunch room riot. KIPP's neighboring school had a one year middle school dropout rate of 11.5 percent. At Moon, latecomers sometimes arrived in a deputy's car, in handcuffs, as they reentered a school with no transition services. One of their forms of attrition was 30 expulsions; the old school had 808 total suspensions.
As I have explained, Arne Duncan came to Oklahoma City and gave our KIPP the praise it deserved, but he was factually incorrect in claiming that the charter served the "same kids in the same building." Ironically, I had been bloodied that day breaking up a vicious assault which badly injured a student. The assailant had previously sent a teacher to the hospital. I had former KIPP students in my honors class, and they said that KIPP would never have tolerated the routine physical assaults that our neighborhood school allowed to be committed on students and teachers.
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I will never begrudge KIPP the praise that it deserves for the good it does for some students. Neither do I begrudge the extra resources that KIPP gets from private donors.
The problem is the claim that neighborhood schools could replicate those successes if we had higher expectations. Every day in my last two years in the classroom, I had a student transfer in or transfer out. I doubt anyone would claim that families chose my school in order to improve their life's prospects. If a student transferred to my school, obviously, it was because his or her family was not able to take advantage of the wide array of educational choices in our metropolitan area. At best, their only transition services were a handshake while being greeted or being told "good bye." Too many times, teachers were too overwhelmed to even offer those basic courtesies.
By pretending that KIPP serves our most vulnerable students, society is given an excuse for starving alternative services for our most traumatized kids. For the life of me, I can not understand why people of good will can not agree on the obvious. KIPP is the answer for some students. But our toughest secondary schools need far more investments for our most damaged children if we hope to provide educational futures for them and their classmates. Why not give our neighborhood schools the same chances to help poor kids that we give to KIPP?