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

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Big Time Self-Plagiarism . . . Part 2

Three days ago I posted on the enthused response by KIPPians to a self-plagiarized re-issue of the same KIPP hallelujah piece that appeared in early 2010 from some of those "implicated" Gates scholars who are peddling their wares from Harvard.  I want to take issue with Matt Yglesias on something he said in his reporting on the repeat piece for which he did not bother to notice that he had reported on last year:
The most scrutinized of these successful charter networks is the Knowledge Is Power Program and the latest research (PDF, via Adam Ozimek) once again shows substantial KIPP-linked gains for poor kids, especially the weakest students and special ed kids.
If Matt were to read this "latest research" on a single KIPP school in Lynn, MA, he would no doubt note that the report does not offer any population numbers for the "special ed kids" who are grinding out the test score gains like the rest of the KIPP survivors.  Nor do we know the nature of their special needs.  What Miron and others have shown in regards to KIPP's special education and ELL students is this:
During the 2007-08 school year, the new study found that 11.5 percent of KIPP students were ELLs, compared with 19.2 percent of students in their local school districts. The numbers for special education students showed an even wider gap for that school year; 5.9 percent of KIPP students had disabilities, compared with 12.1 percent of students in the local school districts (Ed Week, 04/11/11).
With KIPP's one-size-had-better-fit-all junior police state pedagogy, I cannot imagine any children with moderate to severe learning issues surviving in these segregated test camps.

Another point Matt makes:
The study also looks at the issue of whether KIPP is “skimming” through a high attrition rate. The authors confirm that KIPP does, indeed, have a high attrition rate. But it also finds that students who won the KIPP admissions lottery are no more likely to switch schools than those who lost. So it’s KIPP’s attrition rate, not the success of its students, that reflects a selection effect. 
Two things.  First, we cannot tell from this study whether or not KIPP Revere and the Revere Public Schools are losing the same kinds of students.  Previous research has demonstrated that KIPP loses, shoves out, or retains until they leave, a disproportionate percentage of low performers, thus assuring the survival of the fittest test takers.  The second thing, again clearly documented in the Miron study and even admitted by KIPPian Chief Cheerleader, Jay Mathews, is that the students that KIPP loses during the year are not replaced by transfer-in students, which is a sad fact and disruptive of life in high-mobility and poor public schools.  KIPP simply doesn't allow it in most instances.

Another point by Matt that deserves a response:
I think charter proponents may finally be winning this argument, since I just read a piece by Dana Goldstein making the reverse of a skimming critique, arguing that “there are some troubling questions about whether the most politically popular charter school model—the ‘No Excuses’ model popularized by KIPP and embraced by Moskowitz’s Success Charter Network—is palatable to middle-class and affluent parents.” In other words, if KIPP’s not condemned for skimming the easiest cases, it’s condemned for promoting segregation by declining to make itself appealing to the easiest cases.
Another way to think of this is that KIPP promotes segregation by creating an abusive, total compliance schooling environment that most middle class white parents would never consider for their own children.  Affluent parents, forget it.  

Richard Kahlenberg speaks specifically to Matt's point on June 3:
. . .for me, the problem with KIPP is precisely that it does both simultaneously – skims motivated students and yet is pointed to as a segregation success story.  Some observers see high rates of achievement in KIPP schools, which are overwhelmingly poor, and conclude that poverty and economic segregation don’t matter that much after all.  At their most hyperbolic, charter enthusiasts like Davis Guggenheim, director of “Waiting for Superman,” point to KIPP and conclude “we’ve cracked the code” in educating low-income students.  Yglesias is only somewhat more measured when he writes that the success of charter networks like KIPP “demonstrates that it’s possible to overcome challenging demographics.”

But KIPP schools in no way demonstrate that the devastating effects of poverty and segregation have been “overcome.”  KIPP’s predominantly low-income students do very well compared with other low-income students, which is a wonderful thing, but the effects of poverty remain, as two-thirds of the KIPP cohort which entered eighth grade 10 years ago haven’t earned a bachelor’s degree.  That’s not what happens to more affluent students.

And KIPP hardly demonstrates that with the right teaching approach, economically segregation matters little in public education, because, just below the surface, KIPP schools are demographically nothing like regular high poverty public schools.  By definition, KIPP students are from self-selected families who chose to enter a lottery; and KIPP has very high attrition rates.  Yglesias points out that some research finds that KIPP lottery losers also are highly mobile, which is true, but the difference is that unlike a regular public school, KIPP takes in very few new students in the 7th and 8th grades of middle school.  Think about the difference in the KIPP environment compared with a typical high poverty school.  In KIPP, students are surrounded by other self-selected students, and, over time, enjoy a cohort including only those peers who have survived what all acknowledge to be a very rigorous and demanding program.  In terms of peer values and norms, KIPP schools more closely resemble economically mixed schools than traditional high poverty schools. 

It remains telling that on the one occasion when KIPP took over a regular high poverty public school – without a self-selected student population and with new students entering the classroom when they moved into the area – KIPP failed and got out of the business of running regular neighborhood public schools.  The lesson that many draw from KIPP – that a No Excuses approach can work in regular high poverty public schools – is completely unsupported. 

Moreover, KIPP demonstrably fails the American “common school” test of providing an economically and racially diverse environment, which is important for reasons having nothing to do with test scores.  Most American public schools fail this test too, of course, but it’s important to note some schools, including some charter schools, pass it.

Rather than holding KIPP’s segregated high poverty environment out as the ideal, why aren’t more people talking about socioeconomically and racially integrated charter schools – like the Denver School of Science and Technology and the High Tech High schools in San Diego – as exemplars?  These schools produce positive results for low-income students and also fulfill the common school ideal.  And, unlike KIPP, they don’t lead people to draw false and profoundly conservative conclusions that poverty and segregation don’t need to be addressed.
Matt's last point regarding "bourgeois modes of behavior" will have to wait.  I am on summer break for two weeks starting tomorrow. 

1 comment:

  1. I put together a piece addressing Yglesias over the weekend that will probably contribute to this discussion: OpineRegress: Matthew Yglesias' reactionary education policy pandering