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February 18, 2009
The flip side of "creaming": What happens to the bottom ten?
A major downside to opening up boutique schools with special programs and higher expectations is that some children will inevitably be left behind. What becomes…
February 18, 2009
KIPP charter schools take a weekly vow of e-mail abstinence
Staff at the four KIPP charter schools in New York City are experimenting with a new way to improve their practice: Every Wednesday, they toss…
February 17, 2009
KIPP charter school funders are major Republican Party donors
Via Flickr. Here's a fact of interest in the KIPP vs. teachers union fracas, which looks increasingly like a war: The people who have been the charter school network's major benefactors are also among the Republican Party's most generous contributors. Donald and Doris Fisher, the aging founders of the Gap clothing chain, each donated to George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004; maxed out at the $2,300 limit to Rudy Giuliani in 2007; made regular donations to Norm Coleman, the Minnesota senator Al Franken eventually (presumably) unseated, and poured money into the Republican Party war chest, recent campaign contribution filings show. The Fishers did send some money to Democrats, too, including $5,000 to a group tied to Rep. George Miller, the chair of the House education committee and a supporter of No Child Left Behind and charter schools. But the overwhelming majority of their giving (especially their federal giving) went to Republicans. Dave Levin, a KIPP co-founder who got flak when he and students appeared on stage at the 2000 Republican National Convention, said the donations have no bearing on KIPP. "The Fisher’s political activities and their philanthropic involvement in education and KIPP are independent of each other," he wrote in an e-mail message.
February 12, 2009
Union: KIPP charter leaders are waging an intimidation campaign
The city teachers union is accusing the elite KIPP charter school network of waging an intimidation campaign against teachers who are trying to unionize. The dispute began in January, when teachers at a Brooklyn KIPP school shocked the charter school world by petitioning to join the powerful United Federation of Teachers. At the time, Dave Levin, KIPP’s cofounder and the superintendent of its New York City schools, indicated that he was open to working with the union — even though many KIPP supporters oppose working with unions, which they argue block schools’ ability to teach at-risk urban students by imposing strict work rules on schools. (KIPP stands for the Knowledge is Power Program.) Now, the union is accusing Levin of urging teachers not to unionize and painting a bleak picture of what will happen if they do. The accusations are cataloged in two complaints the UFT sent to the state labor board in the last nine days arguing that KIPP is improperly blocking teachers’ ability to unionize. The latest complaint, filed Wednesday, adds to complaints first aired in a Sunday New York Times story reporting that KIPP is resisting the teachers' organizing drive. The complaints accuse a KIPP human resources official of telling teachers that he is concerned that the Brooklyn school will lose its affiliation with the KIPP network if they organize; they accuse the school's founding principal, Ky Adderley, of sitting in the hallway every day to monitor teachers, and they accuse Levin of making a rare attendance at a staff meeting to encourage teachers to reverse their decision to unionize. Levin and a KIPP spokesman did not return telephone messages requesting comment today.
February 10, 2009
Mayor beats his own deadline to open 100 charter schools
As he gears up to run for a third term, Mayor Bloomberg announced today that he has made good on a 2005 campaign promise to double the number of charter schools in the city. Bloomberg said in October 2005 that he would bring the number of charter schools in the city to 100 by the end of his second term this year. At the time, there were fewer than 50 charters open in the city, and state law allowed only 100 charters altogether. The law changed in 2007 and since then, the state, city Department of Education, and SUNY system have granted charters at breakneck speed. This fall, 100 charter schools will be open in the city. Bloomberg's vigorous lobbying influenced the legislature's decision two years ago to permit more charters, and today, his support for the movement won him a "Champion for Charters" award from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, an organization that promotes the schools. The award ceremony took place at Brooklyn Charter School, a Bedford-Stuyvesant elementary school that was the first DOE-authorized charter school. The number of charter schools operating in the city grew from 17 when Bloomberg first took office in 2002 to 78 this school year. This fall, there will be anywhere from 99 to 104 charters open, depending on the results of Bloomberg's attempt to convert some shrinking Catholic schools to charters and on whether the State Education Department approves the first charter school for Staten Island. (That school would serve children with special needs.) A couple of low-performing charter schools have also closed. On average, charter schools outperform other city public schools on state tests and on the city's progress reports. The city's full press release about Bloomberg's award, and the rise in the number of charter schools, is after the jump. Also in the press release: a list of 25 charter schools that will open either in the fall or in 2010.
February 9, 2009
Greek clues to how Catholic school conversions might play out
The Hellenic Classical Charter School in Brooklyn distances itself from a Greek Orthodox parochial school around the corner. (Image from Google maps) The mayor’s…
February 4, 2009
KIPP management so far hasn't recognized teachers' campaign
A page from a manual helping charter school leaders resist unionization. Labor-management relations may be off to a rocky start so far at KIPP AMP, the Brooklyn charter school where teachers shocked the charter school community last month by petitioning to join the powerful United Federation of Teachers. The trouble is that KIPP management has so far declined to recognize the teachers' petition, something the leaders have 30 days to do — or else defer to a more contentious process, the state labor board. Allowing the labor board to decide whether to recognize the petitions opens the door for KIPP to make a legal case against unionization. The 30-day period ends next Thursday. It is not clear why KIPP is not recognizing the petitions, or whether the charter school network will do so by Thursday. Union officials said they recently sent the charter school network a reminder letter, restating the 30-day deadline, but KIPP has still not recognized. Dave Levin, the KIPP co-founder and superintendent of New York City KIPP schools who will have to make the final decision, has not returned my requests for comment. Briscoe Smith, the senior vice president and counsel at a Manhattan-based foundation that helps charter schools fight unions (and is loathed by the UFT), said he has not consulted with KIPP. But he said it is possible for managers to challenge workers' efforts to unionize.
February 2, 2009
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.
January 29, 2009
For the first time, charter schools will open up to 4-year-olds
The charter school chain that is expanding to 4-year-olds next year. State law previously restricted charter schools from admitting pre-kindergarten students; they could go only…
January 27, 2009
Bill Gates on the difficulty of measuring what works in education
The importance of raising teacher quality and a ramped-up declaration of support for charter schools are the education points getting attention from Bill…
January 22, 2009
Mildly Melancholy responds to the great debate about her firing
The charter school teacher who goes by Mildly Melancholy first got our attention here when she was unceremoniously fired, in the middle of the school year, after struggling for months with what sounds like precious little support from administrators and fellow staff. Since then, she's inspired a great debate in the comments section here about what it means to be a teacher, how to measure teacher quality, and whether urban teachers are asked to do too much. And now, she's emerged from a period of quiet on the subject of herself to respond to this raging debate. The long response she's posted is worth a read, especially her disclosure that she's the third teacher in the grade she taught to be dismissed from this particular school. (Maybe she's not the one to blame here.) Here are some other highlights from the robust conversation Mildly Melancholy started.
January 21, 2009
A charter school leader joins the blogosphere, via Huffington Post
Teachers have blogs, grad students have blogs, professors have blogs, principals have blogs, and now, in what is the first case I know of,…
January 20, 2009
Cheers erupt in Harlem as students watch Obama make history
Philissa and I spent the morning watching the inauguration in Harlem with thousands of public school students. They came from 34 public schools,…
January 20, 2009
Obama is an inspiration to a 14-year-old watching from Harlem
Students from 34 city public schools and and an influx of tearful well-wishers — including some members of the New York Guard, a family…
January 16, 2009
The Ross Global charter school graduates from Tweed
Tweed Courthouse, site of the Department of Education and soon to be the former home of Ross Global Academy Charter School. (Via Flickr) After…
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