In My Backyard, Please

In a stack of papers called Reform.

  • Dec
  • 16
  • 2007

My district just had a board meeting last Thursday and consideration of a KIPP high school was on the agenda. As of this writing, I don’t know how that meeting went, but I’ll find out and post an update. At my school, we had strong voices against the charter school, desperate for its disapproval. Folks scoured the charter paperwork in the hopes that KIPP had missed a hoop somewhere and could thereby be disqualified. There was no mention of KIPP being an inappropriate, ineffective, or impossible school model, just the hope that they hadn’t dotted all “i”s or crossed all “t”s.


The Fear

Here’s the only reason I heard for disapproving: with 500 students enrolled in the KIPP school, my district will say goodbye to roughly 20 teachers. So even if KIPP better serves their specific population of students (as much standardized test and final grade data show), even if those students are in a better situation than we provide in our public schools, we should not allow it. Teachers losing their jobs was the sole argument I heard during a brief speech at the “inservice” meeting before last.

That’s It?

The way I see it, this is not a problem. First off, if fewer teachers is the big concern, there’s a predicted teacher shortage, so we shouldn’t be worried about losing anyone. Secondly, our school system needs to be about the students we serve. If there’s another model out there doing a better job than traditional public schools, we need to give that model a chance to thrive. If we question that fact, let the argument be about efficacy, not employment. Thirdly, charter schools focusing on specific populations allows public schools to do the same. 500 students will be in a school designed with them in mind. I imagine all 500 of those students coming from my school. The students that we’d be left with would have a narrower set of needs; we’d better be able to define and reach those needs.

I’ve written about KIPP before, visited a KIPP open house, received regular updates about KIPP. I’m familiar with the KIPP model and, while I wouldn’t work in such a school, am anxious to see how students from my district do in such an environment. What’s everyone afraid of? Worried you might actually have to compete for your job? Worried you might lose your job because someone else is doing it? Worried that the someone else is doing it better? If those things start to worry teachers, we are one step closer to actually working in a profession, not just a career.

KIPP doesn’t frighten me and it shouldn’t frighten you. If the KIPP model, or any other charter school, puts public schools out of business, maybe public schools deserve that.


1. anonymous says:

[12/16/2007 - 2:25 pm]

20 teachers is a high estimate for only 500 students, and that in a district that serves over 25,000. Besides, the high school will create jobs as well; jobs that will be occupied by teachers who will do whatever it takes to see their students graduate from college. By the way, the district approved it unanimously.

2. Todd says:

[12/16/2007 - 7:15 pm]

We were actually told 25 teachers. I brought the estimate down based on 150 students needing 6 teachers throughout the day. 20 seems right on the money to me. What ratio are you using and what number do you come up with?

As far as “teachers who will do whatever it takes to see their students graduate from college,” you write that as if the teachers potentially losing their jobs are not currently doing so. That’s a faulty generalization. KIPP just takes a different approach that works for the narrow band of students they serve.

Glad to hear it was approved. Unanimously, though? That’s shocking. I’m curious who this is. Since you know where I am, can you email me? I won’t announce who you are, I’d just like to know.

3. Clix says:

[12/17/2007 - 3:25 am]

Oo! In all that paperwork, is there something about teacher experience and retention rates? As in, X% of them have been teaching in KIPP schools for 2 years or less, X% for 2-5 years, X% for 5-10 years, etc.

I’ve been wondering about that for some time and haven’t been able to find it on KIPP’s website.

4. Dave says:

[3/23/2008 - 3:52 pm]

KIPP secured an unwanted foothold in our district 4 or 5 years ago. Before they opened, I was recruited by their principal-elect to jump ship from my public school classroom to join his team. He had obviously done some internet research and found my classroom web page. He was very familiar with my posted discipline, homework, and grading policies and with some of the things I did in my classroom. To his credit he seemed like a smart and energetic man, but in my opinion he was also a man of questionable character to stoop the the aggressive headhunting tactics he was using to steal good teachers (that’s me) out of the public school system.

During the summer I would often take my laptop to the coffee shop to work on the next year’s curriculum. One morning he was meeting with a handfull of parents who had expressed interest in enrolling their kids in KIPP. He and I had never met or seen each other, and he had no idea I was sitting at the table next to him. I could easily overhear his smooth salesmanship with these parents and how he was denegrating publics schools (and by inference denegrating my own school). It was all I could do to keep my mouth shut and not defend myself. He was quick to play on these parents’ fears about middle school, which was coming up for their kids after the next school year. After I left I kicked myself in the butt for having remained silent the way I did.

But the story continues: that September KIPP opened their first school in our district. Lo and behold I later had 3 KIPP dropouts added to my class roster midyear only months before state testing! These kids did not perform well on the state test, and I’m sure that I got credit for their poor performance! I was soooo totally p!ssed!

I don’t know if other teachers at nearby schools had the same thing happen to them… it would seem likely there must have been other dropouts besides those who came to me… but I don’t know.

So, did KIPP turn up the heat and purge these non-conforming, low-performing students the months before testing in order to boost their own scores? (And believe me, they were indeed non-conforming and low performing!)

I would love to see how well KIPP would perform if kids couldn’t whine and complain their way back into public school, which MUST by law put up with (and educate!) them.

5. Dave says:

[3/23/2008 - 8:27 pm]

Clarification of my post above:

In the first lines I wrote:

“Before they (KIPP) opened, I was recruited by their principal-elect…”

It should say:

Their principal-elect tried to recruit me…” I did NOT want to work for them. I reported their agressive headhunting tactics to our district administrators.

Also, I said that 3 KIPP dropouts were later added to my roster. I might be wrong on this now that I think about it; it may have only been 2 students. I can’t remember if the third student came from KIPP or another private school. I think he came from KIPP, but now I can’t remember… At any rate it was definitely 2.