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

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Nashville School Board Puts the Brakes on KIPP Expansion

Recently Mayor Karl Dean and the corporate fat cats who made him mayor shoved through a $16,000,000 giveaway to renovate the Nashville KIPP test prep factory.  We can only wonder now if that decision will be revisited after considering last year's results on state tests, even though this information was available to Dean's staff when the decision was made.  KIPP Nashville had the lowest value-added scores in social studies and science of any middle school in all of Metro Nashville.  The amazing power of non-stop test prep in math and reading!!

Thanks to the Gates Foundation and ALEC, the caps on charters in Tennessee are off, and expansion is now open to all socioeconomic groups.  This new law will doubtless have a further segregative effect on Tennessee schools, creating as it will high-end white progressive charters in the leafy suburbs to contrast the total compliance chain gangs of inner city Nashville and Memphis.  Jim Crow schooling all over again, corporate style.

Below is the piece from the Tennessean on the KIPP smackdown, with information on the lurking corporate schools now in line for some of the tax dollars intended for public education.  Nashville has gone from $4 million five years ago for charters to $25 million today to educate 3,000 charter kids.

Where's the outrage over this outrageous and transparent starving out of public education for corporate schools with no oversight!? Do we need Wall Street running our schools into the ground in the same fashion they have ruined the Economy?

Story by Nate Rau (thank god that the Tennessean has real reporter for education).

The local branch of a prominent national charter school chain was on the defensive Wednesday on the heels of the school board’s vote to reject its application to open a second middle school in Nashville.
KIPP Academy Executive Director Randy Dowell vowed to appeal the school board’s decision and defended the academic achievements at the charter organization’s current middle school, which opened in 2005.
School board member Mark North was critical of KIPP’s test results, pointing to the charter school’s regressed scores in science and social studies. The school board voted 5-1 on Tuesday to reject KIPP’s application, even though the school district’s charter review committee had recommended that it be approved.
“They were hurt by their own performance at their existing school,” North said, pointing out that KIPP’s value-added scores for eighth-grade science and social studies were the worst among middle schools in the entire school district.
KIPP Academy’s overall academic achievement received poor marks on the most recent state evaluation for the 2010-11 school year. KIPP, which educates students in grades 5-8, received a D grade in math, reading and social studies, and an F in science.
But Dowell said KIPP has seen improvements that outpace those at traditional public schools, according to year-over-year data compiled by the state Department of Education. KIPP received an A grade for improvement in math and B grades for improvement in reading and social studies. The school did receive a D grade for test improvements in science.
KIPP serves 325 students, 87 percent of whom receive free or reduced-price lunch.
“Our overall achievement scores were not where they needed to be last year, especially in science. We own this at KIPP, as our motto is ‘no excuses,’ ” Dowell said. “This year, we made adjustments to our academic program, such as administering weekly assessments and providing students with weekly remediation.”

Next move?

While KIPP officials vowed to appeal the school board’s decision, it was unclear on Wednesday what the future held for Arizona-based Great Hearts Academy, which sought to add five schools across Davidson County, including in affluent areas. Charter schools have historically catered to poor students at failing schools, but Great Hearts proposed to be the first school to take advantage of a 2011 change in state law that opened up enrollment in charter schools to all students, regardless of economic status.
Great Hearts officials did not respond to a request for comment on whether they would appeal the school board’s unanimous decision to reject their application. The charter review committee cited concerns over Great Hearts’ lack of a transportation plan. Great Hearts, which received the support of various local politicians, such as U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper and members of Metro Council, would only commit to providing transportation to special-needs students.
“The organizational plan partially meets criteria for approval because there is no specific plan for student recruitment and enrollment and the lack of a transportation plan,” the review committee’s report released on Tuesday stated. “Additionally, the location in West Nashville does not align with district priorities as outlined in the request for proposal.”
The eight rejected charter schools have until June 13 to submit appeals, which the school board will then vote on at its June 26 meeting. If an application is rejected a second time, then a potential operator may appeal to the state Board of Education.
The school board approved just two applications at its Tuesday meeting. The high rejection rate comes at a time when charter schools are expanding rapidly in Nashville. Metro will commit $25 million to educate 3,000 students in the upcoming school year at charter schools, which are publicly financed but privately operated. Just five years ago, Metro spent $4 million to finance charter schools.
Nashville Classical Charter School and Intrepid Preparatory Charter School were the two applicants approved by the board. Nashville Classical will initially offer enrollment to 108 kindergarten students when it opens in East Nashville in 2013. Intrepid College Prep will offer enrollment to 120 fifth-graders when it opens in Antioch in 2013.
“My sense was that MNPS has worked really hard to hold charters to an increasingly high standard,” Intrepid College Prep founder Mia Howard said of the district’s approval process for charter operators.
Contact Nate Rau at 615-259-8094 or nrau@tennessean.com.

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