Another regrettable oversight by Duval County Public Schools

This one falls somewhere in between pleading poverty while sitting over a hundred million dollars and not providing a curriculum or any oversight for the Schools of the Future. It’s a little worse than not knowing they actually closed the Bank of America School for six months but is totally blown away by the misuse of title one funds.

From the Times Union, The Duval County School District will begin noticing the dates, times and location of meetings its agents have with employee unions.

The district had not been noticing meetings it has with bargaining units or unions, which is required by law.

Spokeswoman Jill Johnson said the meetings weren’t noticed because of an oversight by the district.

“It’s a regrettable oversight that it wasn’t done in the past,” she said. “But we feel that the members of the bargaining units were well informed of the meetings.”

The notices will appear on a bulletin board located on the first floor of the district’s headquarters at 1701 Prudential Drive and on the district’s web site.

Hey what’s one more regrettable oversight? And just who is running the district.

What are your children doing in school today?

Many of the state’s children will be taking end of course exams. Yes that is right end of the course exams. Read that a little slower, end… of… course… exams. As in now the course will be over, or they better be because anything the student was supposed to have learned should have been taught by now.

Why are we having end or course exams nearly six weeks before school ends? Well friends it is because we live in Florida and doing what is right for our children has been thrown out with the bath water. It makes no sense at all.

Welcome to Florida.

Bush, Rhee and Duncan versus Parents

From Scathing Purple Musings, by Bob Sykes

PTA’s National Senior Policy analyst, Jacque Chevalier responded to email inquiries this week regarding the National Resolution of High Stakes Testing, and said the following:

We are sending it out to encourage State and Local PTAs to endorse the Resolution.

NPTA isn’t able to officially endorse the resolution – we are in alignment. It would have to be voted on by membership at our convention and we can’t get that to happen at this point – we are sending it out via social media to encourage state and local PTAs to endorse.”

Chevalier also emphasized that PTA already has a similar position statement that reads as follows:

“PTA opposes the use of a national, mandated, standardized test as the sole criterion for measuring a school’s or student’s progress.

An assessment system should evaluate higher-order skills, including students’ abilities to use technology, conduct research, engage in scientific investigation, and solve problems.

An accountability system should include other indicators of educational quality, such as competency of teaching staff, class size, parent involvement, facility condition, and quality of instructional materials.

PTA also believes that states and schools must have the resources – including adequate financial and technical support – to address specific problems and ensure that schools can meet high standards.

Student assessment should identify how instruction and learning can be improved.

Assessments should be used to help parents and teachers determine the specific academic needs of students and increase opportunities for student learning. Assessments should not be used for high-stakes determinations such as grade promotion or graduation.”

The nations most influential education reformers in Jeb Bush, Michelle Rhee and Arne Duncan would have you believe that they are speaking for the nation’s parents. Yet their test-dominated philosophy is at odds with the nation’s oldest and largest parent organization.

Florida PTA groups were part of the broad parent coalition which defeated parent trigger in March. With reports indicating that other state school boards will be taking up the Resolution within the next few weeks, local PTAs will give board members supportive of the measure the political cover they may be looking for.

Prepping for disaster with the state’s ESE children

From the Pensecola News Journal’s editorial board

Here’s a five-step method toward making education better in Florida, brought to you by . . . well, we’re not really sure:

Step I: Take most of the special-education kids and put them in general education classrooms.

Step II: Don’t add any funding for more special-ed teachers.

Step III: Test the special-ed kids the same as the general-ed kids.

Step IV: Don’t really tell anyone what you’re doing, how it’s going to work, or whose idea it was.

Step V: Don’t get any public input.

Oh, and we’ll add a final step:

Prep for disaster.

This morning, PNJ education reporter Erin Kourkounis begins a three-day series on what state-mandated inclusion of ESE (Exceptional Student Education) students into general-education classes will mean to Florida. Here’s an abbreviated version.

It will radically change how your children are educated.

It will force schools to make ESE students be evaluated on FCAT the same as general-ed students and have that score count against the school’s ranking and the teacher’s salary.

The plan is despised by many teachers.

It is criticized by many parents, even those of ESE students.

It has no blueprint for success. Different schools and different school systems have varying knowledge of what is going on.

Other than that, it must be a great idea.

We have no claim of expertise on the issue of ESE students and the benefits, or lack thereof, of inclusion.

But the concept of taking ESE children and mainstreaming them without the support and/or counsel of teachers, within a cloud of confusion and with the goal of ending ESE education as we know it is not just a bad idea, but one that borders on the insane.

Whoever thought of this needs a week’s detention. Maybe more.

Every day teachers are challenged with different levels of learning, to be sure. But the addition of ESE students, in many cases without a second, ESE-certified teacher in the room, presents problems far beyond the norm, from learning capabilities to discipline problems.

And who can blame the teachers who believe this is yet another attack on public education? An attack on them individually?

The irony of this is that the inclusion strategy is linked to the state getting a waiver from “No child left behind,” the federal government’s education initiative from the Bush Era.

There will be plenty of students left behind.

But whose?


Will it be the ESE student? Not necessarily, as they might demand all of the teacher’s attention.

Will it be the general-education student?

Perhaps so.

Will it help education get better in our state?

It’s hard to see how.

But with this plan, it’s hard to see anything.

In Florida raw politics trumps thoughtful policy

From the Herald Tribune, By Lloyd Dunkelberger,

In 1980, a powerful state senator decided his hometown university needed a football stadium.

As Senate president, he inserted the provision into the budget bill. But the governor rejected plan, noting the University of West Florida in Pensacola did not even have a football team.

The episode underscores how often raw politics trumps thoughtful policy in Florida’s higher-education system — a point driven home again this month with Gov. Rick Scott’s approval of a new polytechnic university in Lakeland, sought by an influential lawmaker, Senate Budget Chairman J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales.

Scott and Alexander say Florida Polytechnic University will help the state meet its growing needs for graduating highly skilled students with degrees in the sciences, engineering and related technical fields.

“I believe that in the long term it’s going to pay off in jobs,” Scott said. “I think it’s going to be very successful.”

But critics say the sudden decision to embrace a new polytechnic university highlights Florida’s image as a state with a haphazard, politically driven university system. It lacks a strong, unifying vision, yielding schools more known for their mediocrity and sports teams than academic stature.

“Florida has a national reputation these days that it has political intrusion on steroids,” said Charles Reed, the chancellor for the California state university system.

Reed, who has run the California system since 1998, also knows Florida well. He was the state’s university chancellor for a dozen years before leaving for California. And in 1980, he was the chief of staff to former Gov. Bob Graham, who vetoed the legislative plan for the UWF football stadium.

“It has no central plan and no central authority,” Reed said of the Florida system. “That’s kind of like the worst of all combinations.

“All of the campuses have a culture now of what’s best for me, me, me — not what is best for Florida,” he said.

The potential for a stronger, more unified Florida university system rests in the Board of Governors, the constitutionally authorized body overseeing the schools.

Graham, the former governor and U.S. senator, pushed the creation of the BOG, which was approved by voters in 2002 — after the Legislature abolished the former university oversight panel, the state Board of Regents, in 2001.

Graham envisioned the BOG as a constitutionally authorized autonomous group that could free the Florida universities from some of the political interference — modeling itself after similar successful governance systems in states like California, Michigan and North Carolina.

“There is no example of a superior system in America that is as politicized as Florida is now,” Graham said.

The BOG had laid out a plan for moving the original polytechnic campus in Lakeland — under the control of the University of South Florida — to an independent status. But the conversion was expected to take years under USF’s supervision.

Alexander and other top lawmakers pushed through the bill (SB 1994), signed by Scott, that will create an independent university on July 1.

Graham said he sees the creation of the new school as a test of the BOG’s authority.

“In my judgment, the board is now going to be faced with the question of what is it going to do?” Graham said. “Is it going to assert its constitutional authority?”

But the powers of the BOG and its relationship with the Legislature remain in flux, with a lawsuit pending before the Florida Supreme Court over the board’s ability to control university tuition and fees as opposed to the Legislature’s authority.

Thus far, state lawmakers have prevailed in lower court rulings by asserting that “the power to raise and appropriate funds remains exclusively with the Legislature.”

The lawsuit, initiated by Graham and other higher education advocates, lays out more than a half-century of fighting between those who wanted a more autonomous university system and lawmakers, who want to control the money and policy decisions.

It dates all the way back to the notorious Johns Committee in 1956, set up by the state Senate to weed out communists, homosexuals and others deemed “subversives” in the university system.

It includes repeated attempts by the Legislature to abolish the then Board of Regents. In 1980, the measure passed the Legislature, only to be vetoed by Graham.

In 2001, lawmakers finally succeeded — after a battle between top lawmakers and the Board of Regents over creating new professional schools.

In a speech before the influential Council of 100 business group last fall, Reed said the state’s lack of a strong, independent body to oversee the state’s universities was devastating to Florida.

“Everyone wants law schools, medical schools and graduate programs because they are prestigious,” Reed said. “So now, schools are creating more grad programs at the expense of undergraduate programs — with the dollars generated by undergraduate enrollment.

“These low enrollment duplicative graduate programs have not served the state well. It’s turned into what the local chamber wants, not what the state needs.”

Like Graham, Reed said he wants to see a stronger role for the BOG. But he said at this point the board doesn’t “have any juice or respect.”

“It takes guts. It takes a governor that is going to back them up,” Reed said. “And they don’t have any of that.”

And as for the idea of Florida creating a polytechnic university, Reed, who has two polytechnic schools in his system, said it is a mistake for Florida, noting the high cost of the school and the question of whether the state can attract students ideally suited for the program.

“The last time I drove around Lakeland I saw a lot of phosphate pits. I didn’t see a Silicon Valley there,” Reed said.

The hidden agenda behind standardized tests

From the Bradenton Times, by Dennis Maley

This week, local schools wrapped up yet another year of FCAT exams. The panic attacks, shot nerves and turning tummies that plague administrators, educators, parents, and not least of which students, can recede to the slightly less vexing anxiety of waiting to receive the scores. Few argue the notion that such tests are far from the best metric of educational success, yet so much hinges on their results. It might be easy to dismiss this as just another bureaucratic snafu, but others see an engineered outcome with a more nefarious goal – dismantling the public education system. A closer look suggests they might be right.

This is a subject that I have taken great interest in over many years. I have talked to countless educational professionals and have not found one who advocates high-stakes testing. In fact, it should be noted that the vast majority of standardized-testing experts and even the companies that produce them, do not advocate their use as a primary method of gauging educational success. In my experience, nearly all parents – especially those most engaged and involved in seeing that their child gets a quality education and schools are held accountable in providing it – loathe the tests. Students, even those who have excelled and prospered under the FCAT system, tell me almost without exception that it is an insulting premise to suggest that such a score is truly indicative of their academic merit.

The exams have come to define the way we teach. Rather than teaching what students need to learn, and then testing in a manner that measures whether they have, we teach based on what the test contains, compounding the problem of an already antiquated learning system. It seems certain that there is no way that we can reasonably expect to improve if we continue down this path, which we now have a large enough body of evidence to not only declare failure, but to confidently diagnose why it doesn’t work.

So, why do lawmakers insist on not only continuing this process, but doubling down on it? I believe that there is a fairly well-coordinated effort by those who favor privatized education to dismantle the public education system, and that high-stakes standardized testing is seen as the perfect way to not only bring the system to its knees by tying one arm behind educators’ backs, but then provide an engineered metric meant to justify radically reinventing education in a manner that will bring it in line with other class-divided privileges. It is no surprise that the same people who brought you a new FCAT, one that was shown in pre-testing to dramatically increase the number of failing and nearly-failing schools, are the same ones who promoted legislation making it easier to convert those institutions into charters.

It should also be no surprise that the loudest proponents of increasing standardized tests are now the same people advocating for the increased roll of private, for-profit institutions in publicly-financed education. I am not talking about parents who’ve had good experiences with their children at a charter school, or the talented teachers and committed principals who work in many of them. I’m not suggesting that there is not a roll for charter schools in our education system. I am, however, identifying an ideologically-driven movement with a clear agenda.

For many years, it has been the same policy groups and think tanks, along with their bought and paid for legislators that have told us education must be set on such a path. They’ve prescribed vouchers, charters and various ways to hamstring public schools, and are now moving on to ways in which to remove them from the system. At first, vouchers might seem like a viable plan. Their origins are actually rooted in altruistic intentions. But they’ve come to be looked at as a tool to de-fund struggling schools, putting a boot on their neck that they’re too weak to break free of.

There’s an inherent flaw in the way public schools in the U.S. are funded. Their relationship to property taxes already ensures that more prosperous neighborhoods will have more resources in their schools. Therefore, schools in the most economically-depressed areas already operate at significant disadvantages. To punish them for performing poorly by taking away funding, punishing teachers for working there by tying half of the evaluations to performance on a standardized test, and then allowing parents to opt out of the district and take their student’s share of funding with them, will only put nails in their coffin.

To some people, this might sound like a good thing. But at a time when there is little appetite in increasing our public investments in anything not involving long-range ballistic missiles, and great appetite for further slashing government revenues (read taxes), there will likely be less, not more, total resources available. The idea that there is going to be a brighter, better and shinier institution for every child is a pipe dream. This road leads toward an increasingly feudalistic society, where education is evermore a privilege of the gilded class.

We have come to a fork in the American road. One idea is to take a page from a previous playbook that resulted in historic prosperity. To invest in a vital and educated workforce, regain our edge in science and technology, and to empower a new middle class of consumers that can fuel domestic growth. This requires policies like higher revenues (read taxes) and incentivizing investments that make such an outcome more likely. There is a competing idea that suggests America must become more like the rest of the world in order to compete with it. That our growing gap in prosperity simply means more of us must recalibrate our expectations, accept lower wages, more “personal responsibility” and sacrifice quality of life issues like clean water and air in order to become “competitive.”

In this kind of world, we won’t need as many engineers, inventors, mathematicians, biologists, etc. They’ll continue to come (more cheaply) from places like India and South Korea. We’ll need more strong backs with low brows, conditioned to expect and even desire little more than some fast food and reality TV as respite from the warehouses and big box stores, and even the call centers and dirty factories when standards once more get low enough to be “competitive” with the third world nations that have sucked those occupations from our shores.

Yes, it’s no surprise that the same people advocating high-stakes testing are the same ones who are pushing a 25 percent top-tax bracket, defend the hedge fund loophole, rail on the “death tax” and tell us that global warming is a hoax, and that we should drill, baby drill. In a feudal society, education is a privilege of wealth, and once the same ivory towers can fence off the primary education system and create an even larger barrier to moving up the social ladder than already exists at the collegiate level, it will be all the easier ensure a social order that accepts such inequality. The children of the privileged will continue to go to the best schools and they’ll continue to extract wealth from the economy on Wall Street and in board rooms and executive suites all over the country. The last thing they need is a dissident population of well-educated self thinkers who’ve been left behind. Skull and Bones forever, I suppose.

Dennis Maley is a featured columnist and editor for The Bradenton Times. His column appears every Thursday and Sunday on our site and in our free Weekly Recap and Sunday Edition (click here to subscribe). An archive of Dennis’ columns is available here. He can be reached at

How to Destroy Education While Making a Trillion Dollars

From Common Dreams by Robert Freeman

The Vietnam War produced more than its share of iconic idiocies. Perhaps the most revelatory was the psychotic assertion of an army major explaining the U.S. bombing of the provincial hamlet of Ben Tre: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” If only such self-extinguishing claims for intelligence were confined to military war.

The U.S is ratcheting up a societal-level war on public education. At issue is whether we are going to make it better — build it into something estimable, a social asset that undergirds a noble and prosperous society — or whether we’re going to tear it down so that private investors can get their hands on the almost $1 trillion we spend on it every year. The tear-it-down option is the civilian equivalent of Ben Tre, but on a vastly larger scale and with incomparably greater stakes: we must destroy public education in order to save it. It’s still early in the game, but right now the momentum is with the wreckers because that’s where the money is. Whether they succeed or not will be up to you.

Here’s a three-step recipe for how to destroy education. It maps perfectly to how to make a prodigious profit by privatizing it. It is the essential game plan of the big money boys.

First, lower the costs so you can jack up the profits. Since the overwhelming cost in education is the salaries of the teachers, this means firing the experienced teachers, for they are the most expensive. Replace them with “teachers” who are young, inexperienced, and inexpensive. Better yet, waive requirements that they have to have any training, that is to say, that they be credentialed. That way, you can get the absolute cheapest workers available. Roll them over frequently so they don’t develop any expectation that they’ll ever make a career out of it.

Second, make the curriculum as narrow, rote, and regimented as you can. This makes it possible for low-skilled “teachers” to “teach.” All they need do is maintain order while drilling students in mindless memorization and robotic repetition. By all means avoid messy things like context, nuance, values, complexity, reflection, depth, ambiguity—all the things that actually make for true intelligence. It’s too hard to teach those things and, besides, you need intelligent, experienced people to be able to do it. Stick with the model: Profitable equals simplistic and formulaic. Go with it.

Finally, rinse and repeat five thousand times. Proliferate franchised, chartered McSchools with each classroom in each McSchool teaching the same thing on the same day in exactly the same way. So, for the math lesson on the formula of a line, you only need develop it once. But you download it in Power Point on the assigned day so the room monitors, i.e., the “teachers,” know what bullets to read. Now repeat this for every lesson in every course in every school, every day. In biology, chemistry, geometry, history, English, Spanish, indeed, all of a K-12 curriculum. Develop the lesson literally once, but distribute and reuse it thousands of times with low-cost proctors doing the supervision. The cost is infinitesimal making the profit potential astronomical.

This is the essential charter school model and the money is all the rationale its promoters need. Think about it. There’s a trillion dollars a year spent on public education in the U.S. and enterprising investors want to get their meat hooks on it. Where else in the world can you find a $1 trillion opportunity that is essentially untouched? Not in automobiles. Not in health care. Not in weapons, computers, banking, telecommunications, agriculture, entertainment, retail, manufacturing, housing. Nowhere.

Oh, to be sure, you have to soften up the public with a decades-long PR campaign bashing teachers, vilifying their unions, trashing schools, and condemning public education in general, all the while promising the sun, moon, and stars for privatization, which is the ultimate charter goal. Voila! You’ve got your chance.

But to really make a killing, you need not just revenues, but profits. That’s why the low cost delivery and “build it once but resell it millions of times” model is so key. It was that very model that made Bill Gates the richest man in the world. It is what earned Microsoft 13 TIMES the rate of profit of the average Fortune 500 company in the 1990s and persuaded the Justice Department to declare it a “felony monopolist”. Gates recognizes the model very well, which is why his foundation is pouring tens of millions of dollars into charters. And you thought it was his altruism.

Of course, anybody who actually knows education, indeed, anybody who is simply intelligent, knows that intelligence does not come from rote repetition or parroting Power Point slides at the regimented direction of a room monitor, no matter how perky or well intended. It comes from an agonizingly complex, intricate, sustained set of challenges to the mind that are exquisitely choreographed over the better part of two decades, all intimately tailored to the specific needs of an individual, inquisitive, aspiring student.

That is what real teachers do. And it is precisely what a cookie-cutter, low-content, low-cost, high-turnover, high-profit money mill cannot do. Because it’s not intended to do that. It’s intended to produce profits. Real education, real intelligence, real character are agonizingly slow, dazzlingly complex, maddening difficult things to create. You can’t make a profit off of it, unless you destroy it in the process. That is why not one of the nations of the world that surpass the U.S. in education performance operate charter-based or privatized educational systems.

If America wants better education, it needs to fix the greatest force undermining education, which is poverty. The single most powerful predictor of student performance is the average income of the zip code in which they live. But one out of four American students now live in poverty, and the numbers are growing. One out of two will live in poverty sometime during their lives. Forty-seven million Americans are on food stamps. Is it any wonder American school performance is faltering?

But poverty is a hard and expensive problem to fix. We prefer easy, painless fixes, or even better, vapid clichés about the “magic of the market” and such. Why, look what we got from the deregulation of the banking system: the greatest economic collapse of the last 80 years and the greatest plunder of the public treasury in the history of the world.

This is the essential neo-liberal agenda which Obama enthusiastically supports: privatize and deregulate everything, especially public services, so that the money spent on them can be transferred to private hands. This is how Arne Duncan, Obama’s Secretary of Education, earned his bureaucratic bonafides: he converted more than 100 of Chicago’s public schools to charters while the city’s school superintendent. It’s unbelievable how credulous we are but obviously, propaganda works. That’s why the likes of the Gates Foundation keep pouring money into the cause.

The problem with charter schools is that they simply don’t work, at least not for delivering high quality education. Of course, given their formula, how could they? The most thorough research on charter schools, by Stanford University, shows that while charters do better than public schools in 17% of cases, they actually do worse in 37%, a more than 2-to-1 bad-to-good ratio!

If your doctor injured two patients for every one he cured, would you go to him? If your mechanic wrecked two cars for every one he fixed, would you go to him? Yet that is literally the proposition that charter school operators are peddling. And that 2-to-1 failure rate is after charters have skimmed off the better students and run what can only be called ethnically cleansed schools, counseling out poor performers, special needs cases, and “undesirable” minorities, leaving them for the public schools to deal with. For the data show they do that as well.

The irony of all this, indeed, the hypocrisy, is that America is at least nominally a capitalist county. You would think it would be ok to be honest about your intentions to make money by pillaging children’s futures while looting the public purse. God knows the weapons makers, the banks, the oil companies, the pharmaceutical companies, agribusiness and others aren’t bashful about it. But that doesn’t seem to be true here, in education.

Here, it’s all about “the children,” about “streamlining” education, boosting scores, uplifting minorities, making America competitive, and just about every other infantile fairy tale they can invoke to convince the country to hand over the loot. For that’s what it’s really about. The trillion dollars a year to be made by turning “the children” into intellectually impotent dullards but profit producing zombies? Well, that’s just a lavishly fortunate coincidence. Right?

Remember, you can’t save something by destroying it. Which isn’t to say that swashbuckling entrepreneurs aren’t willing to try. All they need is the liberating impetus of that essential American ethic: “I’m getting mine, screw you.” But the cost of this plunder will be incalculable, for it will ripple through the economy for decades. And the damage will be irreversible for, while public education is the most powerful democratizing institution in the world, it only works when the schools work. When they cease to work, it’s over.

So watch out. A destroyed educational system, a desiccated economy, and a debauched democracy are coming soon to a school district near you.

Robert Freeman teaches history and economics at a public high school in northern California. He is the founder of One Dollar For Life, a national non-profit that helps American schools build schools in the developing world with donations of one dollar. He can be reached at

Gerard Robinson, states top educator or states to charter school lobbyist?

From Scathing Purple Musings, by Bob Sykes

Gerard Robinson knows he’s being fact-checked. Twice in a weekend interview with Gradebook’s Jeff Solocheck, he clearly sought to unburden the weight of a question. Despite having his guard up, Robinson let loose with some real whoppers. Responding to a probe by Solochek regarding recent instances of serious malfeasance in charter schools, Robinson said this:

There is nothing in place right now that prohibits the local school boards from making decisions. … We’ve had charters for a very long time. We know the ones that work, we know the ones that don’t work. That’s not a new issue. The reason I ask about what keeps you up at night is because there are some of those same challenges in traditional public schools.

Politifact may have a liar, liar pants on fire on their hands. Emphasis mine, by-the-way.

Robinson’s, “there is nothing in place right now that prohibits the local school boards from making decisions” just isn’t true. And he knows it. Robinson is aware of current charter school policies which allow charter school to go over the head of local school boards if they are rejected by them. Seminole, Duval and Orange county districts were overruled in February by the state for rejecting charter school applications. Another failing Duval charter school is looking to appeal the closure of its school by the local board. For Robinson to imply otherwise in the manner he did is to abdicate his responsibility as a public servant.

Moreover, Solochek’s question was about charter schools improperly spending money on religious material and consultants. Robinson’s “there are some of those same challenges in public schools” serves as a smear of the public schools he is supposed to be leading. In the case such troubling events occur in a public school, immediate mechanisms are in place to correct it. In the case of the Pinellas Scientology charter school Solochek appears to be referring to, no immediate recourse was available to parents and children.

By designation of his position as State Education Commissioner, Robinson is supposed to go about his duties as the state’s top educator. Not charter school’s top lobbyist. In his call for equitable funding for charter schools, he completely ignores the reality that charter schools do not provide costly services like transportation, special education services and free and/or reduced meals that Florida’s public schools do. To ignore this in his role as the state’s top educator is further evidence that Robinson is focused on a separate and narrow agenda.

Study shows KIPP Schools are a bad investment

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

There are a few dissenters who have remained leery of the great success story of the KIPP schools, questioning the turnover of students in the acclaimed program. KIPP operates three schools in the metro area and a high school, KIPP Atlanta Collegiate, opens this summer.

Now skeptics are about to get some data on attrition and funding that may confirm their suspicions.

In a study bound to raise the hackles of KIPP supporters, researchers at the College of Education and Human Development at Western Michigan University and Teachers College at Columbia University found that KIPP has a high attrition rate among African-American boys.

While the study does not challenge the academic success of KIPP graduates, it raises questions about the funding and whether the high level of private dollars is sustainable. The study found that KIPP schools benefit tremendously by donations and private funding, earning an extra $6,500 on average per pupil.

KIPP sent me a comment and fact sheet rebuttal of the study:

At KIPP, we welcome any rigorous and objective review of our schools. We have participated on several occasions with outside, independent reviews, such as the 2010 study by Mathematica Policy Research.

This morning we received a copy of the report “What Makes KIPP Work? A Study of Student Characteristics, Attrition and School Finance,” by Gary Miron, Jessica L. Urschel, and Nicholas Saxton at Western Michigan University (WMU). In our quick read of the WMU report we observe significant shortcomings in the methodologies used, and must therefore reject the core conclusions made by Miron, et al. about KIPP.

While this report focuses on some very fundamental issues for KIPP—student enrollment, attrition, and finances—the implications of its findings do not hold up. We have identified, based on our quick review of the report, multiple factual misrepresentations and errors of analysis.

For example, the WMU report claims that KIPP received $5,760 per student in private funding for the 2008 fiscal year. However, this result is based on an analysis of only half of our schools, and includes at least two instances where private revenue for regions was misclassified. When we look at correctly classified data for these two KIPP regions, and include all KIPP schools that were in operation that year, the number drops to around $2,500 per student—more than 55 percent lower than the WMU estimate.

Here is the official release on the report:

KIPP, The Knowledge is Power Program, has been widely praised by both the Bush and Obama administrations as a successful charter school model. The program, which operates 99 schools in 20 states and serves 27,000 students, is renowned for its “no excuses method,” by which generally high-poverty students attend school for a longer day and year than local public school students in more traditional school settings. According to the KIPP Web site, “more than 90 percent of KIPP middle school students have gone on to college-preparatory high schools, and over 85 percent of KIPP alumni have gone on to college.”

However, while most of the publicity about KIPP has focused on the number of students going on to college, little attention has looked at the kinds of students entering KIPP schools and the number of dollars KIPP receives from school districts, states and the federal government, as well as private sources.

“Outcomes are only half the story,” said Jeffrey R. Heng, Chair of the Dept. of Education Policy & Social Analysis at the Teachers College of Columbia University. “Inputs are the other half and this study’s attention to factors like student characteristics, student attrition, and school finance sheds new light on these.”

Among the key findings in the report “What Makes KIPP Work? A Study of Student Characteristics, Attrition, and School Finance:”

– KIPP draws students who are low-income – but are more ready to learn than the typical public school student in the surrounding school district.

While KIPP schools have enrolled high numbers of students who qualify for free or reduced price lunch (77 percent as compared to 71 percent at comparable public schools), they have enrolled far fewer students than traditional public schools who are classified as English Language Learners (11.5 percent as compared to 19.2 percent) and a lower rate of disabled children (5.9 percent as compared to 12.1 percent at traditional public schools).

–Nationally, KIPPs schools have substantially higher levels of attrition than traditional public schools. Analysis by the report’s researchers revealed that, on average, approximately 15 percent of students disappear from the KIPP grade cohorts each year. This finding is in line with other research, including KIPP’s own estimate of attrition. Between grades 6 and 8, the size of the KIPP grade cohorts drops by 30 percent.

The actual attrition rate may be higher if any of the KIPP schools do any backfilling of vacated places after grade 6. However, it appears that most KIPP schools do little to fill empty seats as students leave. When these figures are further broken out by race and gender, a full 40 percent of the African-American male students leave KIPP schools between grades 6 and 8. Overall a higher proportion of African-American students than other ethnic groups leave the KIPP schools. Girls are much more likely to remain in the KIPP schools across all ethnic groups.

–The level of funding KIPP receives from government and private sources is substantially more than the funding available to traditional public schools or competing charters. Using the federal dataset on school finance (2007-08), researchers were able to obtain detailed revenue from 25 KIPP schools and their local districts. During the 2007-08 school year, KIPP received more per pupil in combined public revenue ($12,731 per student) than any other comparison group: the national average for all schools ($11,937), the national charter school average ($9,579), or the average for KIPP’s local school districts ($11,960).

KIPP received more in per pupil revenue from federal sources ($1,779) than did any other comparison group: the national average ($922), the national charter district average ($949), or KIPP schools’ host districts ($1,332).

“I am surprised that KIPP gets more money from the federal government especially because KIPP has limited special education services which are subsidized with federal dollars,” said Dr. Gary Miron, the report’s lead researcher and Professor of Evaluation, Measurement & Research at the Dept. of Educational Leadership, Research and Technology at Western Michigan University. “Charter schools traditionally receive less money because they provide fewer services like special education and vocational training. That is why it’s surprising that KIPP receives more money than all of our comparison groups from public sources.”

None of the 12 KIPP districts reported any private revenues in the national school district finance dataset; however, a separate analysis of these districts’ 990 tax forms for 2008 revealed large sums of private contributions. Per-pupil contributions for the 11 KIPP districts that the researchers included in this analysis equaled an average of $5,760, much more than the $1,000 to $1,500 additional per-pupil revenue KIPP estimates is necessary for their program. Two KIPP districts or groups received more than $10,000 per pupil in private revenues.

–The $6,500 advantage: Combining public and private sources of revenue, KIPP received, on average, $18,491 per pupil in 2007-08. This is $6,500 more per-pupil than what KIPP’s local school districts received in revenues. Some KIPP students have as much as a $10,000 advantage over their peers in traditional public schools.

This study does not question the body of evidence on student achievement gains made in KIPP schools. In fact, it is the view of the report’s authors that KIPP’s claims of improving test results of the students who persist in its schools faster than traditional public schools are supported by rigorous and well-documented studies.

“KIPP has been lauded as a successful private operator of public schools,” said Miron, “but this report shows that KIPP is not able to serve the broad spectrum of public school students with the money that is currently available for public schools.”

Added Miron, “If KIPP wishes to maintain its status as an exemplar of private management of schools, rather than a new effort to public schools, it will need to convince policymakers and the public that it intends to recruit and serve a wider range of students and that it will be able to do so with sustainable levels of funding comparable to what traditional public schools receive.”

A former KIPP teacher talks about her experience

From Seatle Education, by Dora

KIPP is one of the charter school franchises that’s been tossed around in Seattle by ed reformers as an option if charter schools were to be legalized in our state. I’ve been following KIPP and several articles that I have come across are listed in the right column of this blog under “KIPP”. It could possibly be the worst example of a school experience a child could have but they do market well.

I was reading a post by Leonie Haimson that is well worth a read “At KIPP, I would wake up sick, every single day”. The post is an interview that Leonie had with a former KIPP parent and the parent’s daughter who was a student attending KIPP.

At the end of the post was the following comment written by a former KIPP teacher that I wanted to share with you today:

I was a teacher at a KIPP school for 1 /1/2 years. (Not in NYC) It was the most horrible experience of my life. The teachers and students are literally in school for 11 hours a day. You basically have no personal life as it is all about KIPP. The school has a cult like mentality with chants, rituals, and an obsessive focus on “being nice, work hard, get into college”. I saw numerous teachers experience nervous breakdowns from the extreme pressure and harassment of administration. There was a 50% turnover for staff each year. They made me chaperone a week long trip to another city to visit colleges. I had to sleep in the same room as the students. (They do NOT pay anywhere near what would be expected from a district school.) KIPP also made me go door to door in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods on the city that I worked in to recruit students. The most crazy thing I witnessed was at a KIPP summer seminar that had KIPP teachers from throughout the United States present. One of the main speakers asked the audience of KIPP teachers to stand up if they were first year teachers. About 30% of the audience stood up. Then they asked teachers with 2-5 years of experience to stand up. At that time 60% of the teachers stood up. Then they asked teachers with 5-10 years experience to stand up and 10% stood up. Then they asked teachers with more than 10 years of experience to stand up. At that time I WAS STANDING WITH 2 OTHER TEACHERS OUT OF AN AUDIENCE OF 500 TEACHERS!

This is why TFA, Inc. has come to town in our fair city, in anticipation of populating these charter schools. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen, charter schools that is.