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

Sunday, November 09, 2014

KIPP Puts Up to 30 Problem Students in Empty Basement When Visitors Are in the Building

Update November 22, 2015

Work Hard, Be Hard: Journeys through "No Excuses Teaching will be published in February 2016 by Rowman & Littlefield.  Pre-publication orders may be placed here.  jh

You have heard about KIPP's padded cells for kindergartners and KIPP school leaders putting garbage cans on children's heads and making them bark like dogs, and you've heard about children forced to sit on the floor for days until they have earned desks, but now comes, yet, another KIPP abuse strategy.  

On VIB (Visitor in Building) days, at least one KIPP school puts up to 30 problem students in the empty basement for hours until the visiting investors, dignitaries, or politicians have left the building.  Also during this time, no class changes occur, even though visits might last three hours.  Children are, in essence, in lockdown mode in their classrooms so that no infraction or non-compliant behavior during class change may be seen by outsiders.

During a recent interview with a former KIPP teacher, we had this exchange:
TEACHER: . . . my experience was so different from my close friends who were employed at different KIPP schools. But the people that were at my specific school seemed to have a similar experience to me, which is terrible. But I have, like I said, I have a lot of close friends that are still involved in KIPP. . . . but I think that there’s a lot swept under the rug as far as things that also aren’t so great.

JH:  And what do you see as swept under the rug?

TEACHER: You know, there’s just cultural things like, I can only speak to what I experienced in my day-to-day, and so that was a lot of yelling, a lot of berating students, a lot of, you know, physically confronting students. 

We used to have a special schedule when we had visitors in the building. For instance, sometimes we’d have, you know, investors or big-wigs walking through the building. And so we would have a separate schedule where we would pick out all the behavior issue kids and take them down into the basement for the duration of the visitors’ visit, to kind of keep them out of the way. So you know, that’s one very, like, clear example of sweeping something under the rug.

JH:  Can you tell me how that worked?

TEACHER:  Yeah. So in the morning, we would receive an email or a special schedule that said VIB schedule, Visitor in Building schedule. And it would basically list all of the students that needed to be in the basement area, and it would tell us the specific times that they were supposed to be there. And we would also, for instance, we would not transition from class to class if there was a visitor, because the transitions from class to class would sometimes be, you know, kids are kids, and so they would sometimes not listen, or they would run, or whatever the case is. And our administration didn’t want the visitors to see anything less than perfection. And so we would hold students in the classroom when normally they’d be transitioning from class to class. So the visitors didn’t get the impression that the school was anything less than very well managed.

INTERVIEWER:  Right. So what was in the basement? What did the students do in the basement?

TEACHER:  That’s a great question. I never, fortunately I guess, was never in charge of managing those students. But in the basement, what was down there was just, you know, there was basically nothing. I mean, there was a carpeted area. And I don’t know what they did down there, to be honest.

JH:  And how many students were sent down there?

TEACHER:   I believe our school had about 300 students when I was there. And it probably, you know, less than 30.

JH:  And these students were selected how? Based on what? 

TEACHER:  From my impression, it was that they were, based on their behavior. So if they were a student that acted out frequently, they would be sent down into the basement for the duration of the visitor’s stay.

JH:  OK, so these were called Visitor in Building days? VIB?

TEACHER:  Yeah, VIB schedule.

JH:  OK. And what was the longest time that you remember staying in a class, that you weren’t allowed to switch?

TEACHER:   Two or three hours, depending on the visitors and how long they would be there.


  1. Anonymous4:27 PM

    I am a former KIPP teacher. (I worked there before the internet was a big deal) I am glad that the public is now able to see the treatment that KIPP students and staff face at these schools. I can personally attest to the fact at the KIPP school where I worked that students did in fact "loose" their desks due to misbehavior and had to sit on the floor. Kids who misbehaved had to go "on bench" which means they had to turn their uniform shirt inside out for the day and no other students were allowed to speak to these kids. If regular public schools tried to pull this crap it would be all over the news.

  2. Given these types of crimes KIPP commits against its students, Los Angeles should be very nervous they are trying to expand their cruelty: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-kipp-charter-expansion-20141022-story.html

  3. Anonymous1:34 PM

    Jim Horn you will have to get your message our to more people. To many people are in the dark about the things going on in public education, especially Memphis.

  4. Anonymous5:00 PM

    When reading this piece, my mouth was wide open in complete shock. To think that KIPP is trying to take over schools and this is going on is unbelievable. Many people are under the false assumption that charter schools are doing better than public schools of course with this nonsense going on when visitors are in the building it appears as if they are doing great. However, once you look at what is really going on, you begin to see the true picture. It is applauding that this is going on and people are under the impression that KIPP is a quality school. I am glad that you are reporting the truth about what is going on because the public's perception is that KIPP is providing our students with a quality education. At this rate, I think not. Thanks.

    1. Back in May it became obvious to me as a researcher that KIPP does not want people in their buildings who may know what questions to ask or where to focus observations. I was denied any access to any of the KIPP schools in Memphis, without any reason given:

  5. Anonymous9:24 PM

    This piece needs a broader audience! Get the truth out there! Share!

  6. Anonymous12:25 PM

    The author should forward this to Diane Ravitch -- but only if it is 100% accurate. Truth is an absolute defense to allegations of libel and slander. Diane Ravitch has the broadest reach that I know -- and she is furious with charter schools.

    1. Diane does not often post anything from anyone who is not in the corporate union network that she operates to contain the resistance.

  7. The privatization, fragmentation, and balkanization of our public schools combined with the overly simplistic reliance on test scores rewards cherry picking and the exclusion of children with disabilities from receiving a satisfactory educational experience. The privatization movement is, defacto, turning the educational clock back before 1975 when P.L. 94-142 guaranteed a free appropriate public education to each child with a disability.

  8. Anonymous2:54 PM

    It saddens me to know that more parents are sending their children to KIPP schools. If they only knew what their children and their children's friends are having to endure while trying to get an education at a KIPP school. My son was once a KIPP student and til this day he will share random memories of his experiences as a KIPP student. I've also asked questions to my nieces' bestfriend, who is now a working college student, about her experiences as a KIPP student. She shared how shy she was as a child and because of her shyness, that she had no control over, it was considered being rude and disrespectful according to KIPP staff. She remembers she was constantly in trouble for it. She said she had no idea what to do about it. She didn't want to tell her parents because the KIPP staff had a way to manipulate the parents to believe that the student was clearly in the wrong. I just wish there was more that can be done :(.