New York

Hisp. Federation says working together is not same as agreeing

Hispanic Federation president Lillian Rodriguez Lopez, center. What exactly does it mean to be a "partner"? When Learn NY, the group fighting to preserve the mayor's control over the school system, announced partnerships with three racial-minority groups last week, it seemed like evidence that the groups would join its lobbying battle. But the president of one of the three groups, Lillian Rodriguez Lopez of the Hispanic Federation, told me late last week that "partner" in this case has a "very contained and limited" meaning. The Hispanic Federation will not adopt Learn NY's position on mayoral control; it will come up with its own, separate position, after talking to parents, she said. That keeps Lopez open to maintaining the scathing critique of mayoral control that she provided to Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum's commission on school governance last year: "The dial towards improvement has moved very, very slowly during the years of mayoral control and in certain communities we have seen the dial moving in the opposite direction towards a worsening of the schools," she said in testimony that you can read here (page 130 — UPDATE: sorry about broken link, should work now). In her testimony, Lopez blamed both the Bloomberg administration's "corporate" approach to school policy and the mayoral control system itself, which she said silenced debate. She also challenged the idea promoted by Learn NY board chairman Geoffrey Canada that mayoral control brings a clear line of accountability. Lopez said that under mayoral control it has been impossible to know who is responsible for what. "Too many of us are unsure of what the system really looks like now," Lopez said. So why is Lopez partnering with Learn NY? She said that the resources the group offered her, combined with the chance to boost the voice of the Latino community, sealed the deal.
New York

Jay Mathews' seven myths about the KIPP charter schools

Jay Mathews' new book on KIPP challenges the truth of some popular ideas about the school. I'm working on a review of Jay Mathews' new book about the KIPP charter school network, which I just devoured over the weekend. (Preview of my thoughts: Extremely readable, honest, and — best of all — contains excellent advice for how to force Dave Levin to return your phone calls. Apparently one must call twice in fast succession.) While I finish that up, here's an executive summary of the book's take-aways according to Mathews, a list of seven myths about KIPP. Mathews shared the list at a book talk at Education Sector, the Washington D.C. think tank. You can listen to the talk here. 1. KIPP is militaristic. Mathews' account describes schools that are strict about discipline, often denying privileges like annual trips to students who do not behave or perform well academically. But he concludes that teachers are also warm and supportive. The chants KIPP is famous for, by Mathews' account, are more like songs shared around a camp fire than grunted military rites. 2. KIPP's curriculum is characterized by "drill and kill." Work Hard. Be Nice. tells the story of a 25-year-old teacher in D.C. who asked to use a different math curriculum than the one Levin, a math teacher, favors, and then won a teaching award for her results. Every KIPP school, Mathews writes, gets to pick its own teachers and curriculum. 3. "KIPP is just a lot of white people telling black people what to do," is the next conception Mathews declared a myth. The book describes the major role played by two non-white educators who mentored Levin and Feinberg early on: Rafe Esquith and Harriet Ball, who came up with the characteristic chants that help students memorize math facts. "KIPP started with a black person telling two white people what to do," Mathews said.