Is Choice a Panacea? (scholarly paper on KIPP and other charters)

quote: “Shifting tax dollars into charters turns out, despite the publicity, not to be the panacea for Black students, but an apparent diversion of tax dollars and public attention from the real possibilities that could come from a sustained investment in Texas and the nations public schools.”

abstract: Public concern about pervasive inequalities in traditional public schools, combined with growing political, parental, and corporate support, has created the expectation that charter schools are the solution for educating minorities, particularly Black youth. There is a paucity of research on the educational attainment of Black youth in privately operated charters, particularly on the issue of attrition. This paper finds that on average peer urban districts in Texas show lower incidence of Black student dropouts and leavers relative to charters. The data also show that despite the claims that 88-90% of the children attending KIPP charters go on to college, their attrition rate for Black secondary students surpasses that of their peer urban districts. And this is in spite of KIPP spending 30–60% more per pupil than comparable urban districts. The analyses also show that the vast majority of privately operated charter districts in Texas serve very few Black students.

Read the full paper here

The War on Teachers

Students in the U.S. are not performing well in comparison to students in other countries– particularly countries which do not experience the immigration and poverty issues in our schools.

U.S. economic struggles add to the sense of emergency we have about our kids not thriving in school. Are they getting the training or inspiration that they need to save this country?

Or are we boring them with the old fashioned factory school model and then discouraging them with heavy student loans, a lack of jobs, and irrelevance of their preparation to whatever unknowns the future holds.

So, we think, it must be the teachers. And of course some teachers are better than others. And most teachers are dedicated and skilled. But they are dedicated and skilled in a broken system.

So we set up charter schools that can circumvent bureaucratic and pedagogical rules. And students enter various charters. And are these charters doing what we said they were for? To yield new ideas that can be applied in the larger traditional schools? Not so much. A competition exists in many cases.

Can we better prepare teachers? Yes. Can we better evaluate teachers? Yes. But should we use tests designed decades ago, that test students on a part of what they are learning, and then judge the teachers based on student tests that are do not even do well at measuring students– what they are designed to do, much less measuring teachers.

If we care about the future, it is time to work with teachers to build new education models. We need to listen to the students so we don’t lose them as we experiment with the model.

If the teacher can make each student feel heard and seen, the rest can follow. It is hard for teachers to do that while watching their backs as one obstacle after another is put in their way. And all of us can see and hear students so see themselve be heard. So that they know they are part of a real changing society.

Let’s face it, it is not the teachers.

We have to step up and pay attention to young people, to schools, to teachers, and we need to help, not set up more tests.