Monday, February 9, 2009

News conference: Obama brings up education

In tonight's news conference President Obama briefly touched on education:

Both Democrats and Republicans are going to have to think differently in order to come together and solve that problem. I think there are areas like education where some in my party have been too resistant to reform and have argued only money makes a difference.

And there have been others on the Republican side or the conservative side who said, No matter how much money you spend, nothing makes a difference, so let's just blow up the public school systems.

And I think that both sides are going to have to acknowledge we're going to need more money for new science labs, to pay teachers more effectively, but we're also going to need more reform, which means that we've got to train teachers more effectively, bad teachers need to be fired after being given the opportunity to train effectively, that we should experiment with things like charter schools that are innovating in the classroom, that we should have high standards.

Let's open it up to comments...


  1. I can hardly express my happiness to have a politician - our president in DC no less! - who acknowledges that BOTH sides are right (and wrong.) That to solve educational problems in our country it'll take more than 'more money' or 'blow up public education'. Let's pray that Obama can really help make change happen here. Yes, there is reform that needs to happen - and in California we need to acknowledge this. At the same time, Republicans must be aware that the way we fund it (not to mention the amount, but I'll just stick to how it's distributed and allocated) really needs to be addressed as well.

  2. I am a big fan of Obama's, but I disagree with him about charter schools. I think he's buying the hype without questioning it sufficiently. SPecifically, I would challenge him and anyone else to come up with any innovations being pioneered in a charter school, anywhere, even one. I'm not saying some aren't doing good things -- they consistently have more money than public schools, so it's easier for them -- but innovations? Where? Total hype.

  3. To elaborate on and clarify my post:

    Where charter schools are successful (overall they are no more successful than traditional public schools), it is extremely likely that it's because they have more money. They get huge amounts of private philanthropy.

    So it's very troubling that even Obama is downplaying the importance of funding, based partly on misconceptions about charter schools.

  4. Oh, on the face of it, it would certainly seem that a school that is subject to less bureacratic restrictions could try out new philosophies or methods more easily. Whether it is more "successful" may depend on one's measurements.
    I just learned of an interesting school in Aurora Colorado called the Global Village Academy. ( Apparently it is a charter school, up in running in just 2 years, and it teaches French, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese immersion. Also applying for the International Baccelaureate (sp?) certification.
    Talk about cool. And the student body is very diverse. SF BOE would DIE for such diversity. Now, how successful they are I don't know- I'm not sure how they meld all the different programs together, but I definitely like how they are integrating different language programs.

    OT: Instead of that Waldorf school (that was a whole long blog) as the next charter, something like this GVA seems a lot less controversial and really innovative. Or a whole child school like the one in Palo Alto, Ohlone School. I don't think they subscribe to any of the weird theories of the founder of the Waldorf movement yet still maintain the progressive educational philosophy that can be effective with children.

  5. I'd trust Obama's view of Charter Schools way before I'd trust anything Caroline has to say about Charter Schools.

  6. Isn't Leonard Flynn applying for the IB? And, Spanish Immersion? This a traditional public school, not a charter. It would be great if they would add French and Mandarin, but SFUSD has got more immersion in more languages that probably any other city. It would be great to add a French program somewhere.

  7. Yes, there are definite advantages to charter schools in being freed from some regulations. But that raises numerous questions, such as whether all schools should be freed from those same regulations.

    On the other hand, charter schools overall (in the aggregate) notoriously underserve high-need students such as students with disabilities (especially more severe disabilities) and English-language learners, so how do we deal with the fact that freedom from regulations allows them to do that?

    And, again, it's quite clear that so many charter schools have considerably more money than traditional public schools teaching comparable students, so if they ARE successful, that could show that more money IS the key.

  8. Caroline,
    Do you know if there are any studies correlating the extra money charters receive from outside sources to student achievement? KIPP is successful, but with their longer school day obviously requires teachers willing to burn themselves out, or a second shift of teachers, or both. It's not sustainable with the budget regular public schools are given. If certain segments of kids need that level of intensity (and the money that requires) then the state needs to fund that.

  9. I haven't seen any such studies -- I guess that first the study would have to determine how much money a given charter has, counting the private funding, and I'm not sure that figure is even accessible. I was e-mailing with a researcher at Arizona State U who studies school reform -- I'll ask him.

  10. 7:41, you make a good point. KIPP may be showing us that certain populations will benefit a lot from such innovations as extended hours--I believe KIPP starts at 7:30 and goes until 5pm, and requires half-day Saturday attendance every other week. If adding more hours, including enrichment, demonstrably closes the achievement gap, then YES! Let's do it.

    But to do it sustainably will require more funding for split-shift teaching and/or higher pay or benefits over the long-term. The hours demanded by this system will suck up and spit out young, idealistic teachers but will not work as time goes by. So let's not fight it if it works....but let's fund it right, too: more teachers and better pay for those teachers.

    And while we're at it, let's fund early interventions (pre-school and even infant level). Let's fund school breakfast, lunch and family dinners too--I am aware of a progressive private school, church-funded, back East for inner-city, low-income kids, that provides family meals for its families in the evening after their extended-learning day....parents sitting and eating with their kids. Along with the meals (though not every night) they provide regular family education nights for the parents. It works. The families get fed, the parents learn better parenting, the kids get extended learning support and enrichment. But it takes bucks.

    A pox on the Senate "centrists" for attacking education funding in the jobs bill. Hopefully some of it will be put back in conference, and hopefully too their will be a comprehensive education bill brought forward. It's worth a call to Pelosi, Feinstein and Boxer to keep the pressure on.

  11. "SPecifically, I would challenge him and anyone else to come up with any innovations being pioneered in a charter school, anywhere, even one."

    Caroline, are you saying that there are NO innovations at all being pioneered at all in charter schools - not even one? Whther or not they are succesful is another issue but your definition of innovation seems somewhat constrained.

    Whether or not you agree with the philosophy of charter schools - I think one needs to recognize that they are a bridge across to different groups to try and work out educational reform and policies (sort of like tax cuts). They are not going away - it would be better to try and use charters in a way that would be positive. I personally think that the answer lies more in allowing charter like procedures for all schools (i.e. flexibility and site specific programs) and limit some of the outlier charter school concepts.

    Pivot the thinking, as Obama seems to be trying to say and lets not fight the battles on ideological grounds.

  12. The casual, assumed, "received wisdom" hype about charter schools is that they are all about pioneering innovations that can be emulated in public schools, Teamlala. Since that's expressed so, so, so very often, for several years I've been asking people whenever it comes up to name one of those innovations. Zip so far!

    At a panel discussion at the Commonwealth Club about charter schools a few years ago, I was able to submit that question to Caprice Young, who was then the director of the California Charter Schools Assn. (top lobbyist and spokesperson). She kind of stammered a bit and then ventured, "Foreign language programs...?" Well, sorry, foreign language programs are wonderful and I fervently wish we had more in all schools, but they are NOT an innovation being pioneered in charter schools.

    I guess I'm not confident enough to firmly state that no innovations are being pioneered in any charter schools anywhere, but if even she couldn't name one, who can? So all I'll say is that no charter school advocate I've asked has yet been able to cite an actual innovation being pioneered in charter schools. In that particular area, it's looking more and more like the emperor's private parts are showing.

    I mean, that's not to damn everything about charter schools, though I am a charter school critic -- that still doesn't mean I don't think some of them have good programs. But the innovations part appears to be 100% false hype. I'm open to correction if anyone can cite an innovation...

  13. I don't know about "pioneering innovations", but they at least able to implement innovations and are not stuck having to adhere to the drill and kill "teach to the test" methods prevalent in inner city schools.

  14. 6:59 Please explain further.

    Charter schools must also adhere to NCLB and test their students.

  15. 6:59, I think that traditional public schools have some flexibility as to whether to "teach to the test" or be more creative. They are all under pressure to achieve high test scores, but then, so are charter schools. No public schools can afford to blow that off in the current political climate.

    Also, some of the most highly regarded charters, such as KIPP, are known to be extremely regimented; they are defensive about insisting that they're not "militaristic." Most inner-city "mission" charters, as they're known, tend to be like that.

    So that perceived advantage of charters is not reality-based. They DO have more freedom than traditional public schools in numerous areas, which is not the same as "pioneering innovations."

  16. Plus, many regular and inner-city public schools do *not* adhere to drill and kill and teach to the test.

    Certainly, my kids' school does not. Since 2nd grade they have gotten one (1) week of test prep homework, consisting of multiple choice test-like questions, in order to get them used to the format. That's it. They do have spelling and vocabulary lessons, and some of that *could* be considered rote I guess--they are supposed to learn to spell correctly--but some of it is learning phonetic rules and etymology for English. It is far from drill and kill. Of note, my kids attend a school with a fairly high (greater than 50%) number of free-lunch-qualified kids, so this isn't an "elite" public school.

    I want to scream every time I hear this myth! Most teachers hate drill and kill and will absolutely use better ways to teach. Kids who are under-performing in our school are given extra support in the form of reading recovery classes and tutoring after school, not drill and kill.

  17. online, no one can hear you scream.

  18. Well I suppose I could have posted in ALL CAPS--isn't that the online version of screaming? :-) But I refrained.

  19. The poorer the school population, the more they use "teach to the test" methods.

  20. 7:26, there may be truth to that, and a lot of insiders will say that different teaching methods work with kids from different backgrounds. But that's true of both traditional public schools and charters.

    A point about KIPP and other "mission" charters with similarly rigid methods is that it's impossible to imagine any middle-class family who values creativity, imagination and critical thinking tolerating some of those methods for a second. Yet clearly the families who enroll their kids are aware of them. It just makes me ponder.

    One example: some KIPP schools use decibel meters in the classroom and assign acceptable levels to different activities. And some or all -- that part I don't know -- teach the students to "walk briskly down the hall" (the quote is from a favorable description of KIPP methods). My kids would be playing around trying to nudge the decibel meter over the limit, and would fall on the floor laughing if someone tried to teach them to walk briskly. It wouldn't work out.

    However... those methods could be used in a traditional public school. For better or for worse, there's no reason they need to be exclusive to charter schools.

  21. Have you ever been in a KIPP school?

  22. Yes, I went to KIPP San Francisco Bay Academy to "try to enroll" my daughter, and we poked around the school some.

    I did this because a KIPP parent had posted proudly on the sfschools listserve that his daughter had "tested into" that school. They're not supposed to give entrance tests. The parent didn't respond when I questioned that, so I went to see if they'd require my daughter to take an entrance test. (The results were inconclusive as to the test issue, but it was an interesting visit.)

  23. Not totally on point, but here are two SF charter school updates:

    1. The Waldorf charter school initiative Escuela del Pueblo withdrew its petition for 2009-10 school year, but say that they plan to resubmit for 2010-11 school year.

    2. During tour season, Creative Arts Charter School had been reporting that it would be moving from its Turk Street location next year, i.e., would be in a new location for the 2009-10 school year. They were supposed to be finding out from SFUSD in January where the new location might be. I recently called them for an update, and was told that the SFUSD offered them to stay in their current building for next year. Their board is supposed to decide at their next meeting whether to accept the offer.

  24. My understanding is that KIPP tests students entering in 6th grade (as opposed to 5th, where most KIPP students start) to ensure that they are adequately prepared. If they aren't they have to repeat 5th grade, or go elsewhere. I had a student last year who failed the test and decided to stay in SFUSD rather than re-do the year.

  25. Not necessarily.. you'd be surprised how many suburban schools teach to the test. damn straight they do. Not so bluntly but they do, starting from K.

    Of course, they also have lots of enrichment programs because the socio demographics allow for it.

    Re Charter Schools and innovations -- maybe charter schools are not necessarily innovative but they have a lot more flexibility in implementing different teaching methods and so they feel more innovative.

    Maybe its not the innovation that all of us crave, maybe its just being freed from the mind numbing bureaucratic regulations (anyone see how Public schools are funded? How many different block grants, some of which probably serve no more good purpose, but all of these grants which restrict how a school can use the money. Yeah yeah, left to our own devices, humans can do no good, that's why we need regulations but really...
    there has got to be a happy medium.

  26. Perhaps one innovation the charter schools have pioneered is their very ability to attract large amounts of private philanthropy.

  27. Why oh why does every thread on this blog degrade into debates about charter schools?
    Oh, that's's because Caroline Grannan (who doesn't even have kids in elementary school anymore) has made it her personal mission to attack them at every possible opportunity.

  28. How is it "degraded" to have a lively discussion about charter schools, or anything else? If others aren't interested in charter schools, there's no reason s to respond to my comments, and the discussion will die. Obviously, they are a topic of legitimate interest. Is that a bad thing?

    I'm not sure if charter schools have any more flexibility in teaching methods. They probably have more flexibility in how to use teachers.

    I understand that in SFUSD, the Small Schools By Design policy offers similar flexibility. For example, a teacher might not have to have a specialized math credential to teach math (at middle and high school level).
    A caveat: This is my general understanding, not fully researched and confirmed.

    So, if this is correct, it's an area where it might be legitimately subject to debate whether the credentialing requirements for a math teacher at an ordinary school are a burdensome bureaucratic regulation or not. That seems like a worthwhile question to pursue.

    I wouldn't pick on charters in a vacuum for not being innovative. It's the fact that they're constantly touted as "pioneering innovations" -- when that appears to be baseless -- that I'm questioning.

  29. Lorraine responding to Caroline here:

    What SOME (note emphasis) charter schools have been able to do is get the flexibility to implement programs that have helped put SOME kids who have been 'left behind' in SOME more traditional public schools on the fast track to catch up their academic performance.

    I think you warp the argument with the broad brush stroke you use that all charters are (fill in the blank.) There can be no argument that SOME of the systems in traditional public schools leave SOME kids behind. It's just as unfair for those to brand all public schools as (fill in the blank.)

    There is no one size fits all approach to education children - but charter schools (and schools like KIPP) are helping some kids catch up and excel that were not previously.

    For KIPP, it's the longer school day, Saturdays, and practically 24/7 availability of teachers. This works.

    But this, for most schools systems with union rules, administrative overhead/baggage, etc. don't allow for this type of flexibility.

    After spending some time with KIPP and families that go there, I have really come to be a supporter and recognize it as a great option for some kids. I've recommended it to more than a few families I know.

  30. I've never said that all charter schools are ANYTHING. For one thing, there are two distinct types -- the "mission" charter schools like KIPP, intended to serve low-income, at-risk students and tending to be more rigid in its methods; and those like Creative Arts that lean toward the flexible and free-form. And within those general types are certainly wide variations.

    I would agree that KIPP schools are a good option for some kids, though of course the families would have to be onboard with the methods. That's not my issue with KIPP schools. It's that the astronomical attrition and the obvious selection bias mean they can't be fairly compared with traditional public schools, and yet they are constantly praised as superior to traditional public schools and receive large amounts of private philanthropy because of that, which isn't fair.

    For anyone interested in learning more about KIPP and these issues, here's an interesting new post from a blog I wasn't even familiar with, even though it quotes me (after which someone alerted me to it):

  31. Specifically, I would challenge him and anyone else to come up with any innovations being pioneered in a charter school, anywhere, even one.

    CLAS in Los Angeles didn't invent the programs they're using (Oakland, SFUSD and LAUSD have both used Standard English Proficiency models in various forms), but they've certainly taken it farther than any other school. Their results are outstanding without the more typical model of charter schooling for underserved populations (uniforms, strict discipline, extended hours, etc.).

    From youtube:

  32. 7:17 -- yes, I think it would be great to have French immersion but what about a charter school that models the UN -- French, Russian or Arabic and then the English portion.

    Or just straight French immersion in the regular ES is probably the way the District would go, and it would have to be a charter or small school by design if it were to incorporate more than one language.

  33. With the experience of being an elementary school teacher as well as a parent of an elementary school child, I think one of the best things we could do for schools is place more adults (who work directly with children) in them. Not necessarily teachers mind you. Just more support staff.

    -More paras
    -More Sports 4 Kids types
    -More Americorps people
    -The Hillcrest model (recently covered in the Examiner) that brings after-school staff into the school day to cover the cafeteria, lunch recess, and P.E.
    -More mental health staff (not only from the district) supporting students and families directly
    -More employment opportunities at the schools for parents
    -More art/enrichment teachers
    -More tutors
    -More custodians

    ...and I'm sure we could continue the list.

    Funding education well could employ many people and provide our children with more attention and care. This is especially important for the many children who spend nine hours a day at school because they are in after-school programs.

    But science labs, play structures, fixing crumbling old schools... well that's important and employs people too. And feeding all our children fresh fruit and vegetable snacks everyday would employ farmers. And going back to the old style hot lunches served by women with hairnets... sorry, pre-prop 13 childhood flashback.

    It's not good economic sense to cut education.

  34. 9:44, the YouTube link doesn't work. But do you have examples of schools that program is used in, and their numbers? "They have outstanding results" without support is a frequently heard remark, needless to say...

    But again, I am not saying there aren't excellent charter schools and there aren't excellent programs in charter schools. I'm saying: what are the constantly-touted "innovations being pioneered"?

  35. 9:44:

    I just watched the youtube link you posted (sorry Caroline, but the link does work) and it looks like a fabulous, innovative charter school to me!

  36. Caroline-

    Can you site any innovations being pioneered in SFUSD or any public school district?

    Just sayin'...

  37. A lot of the innovations were "pioneered" in Public Schools, but, for various reasons, the Public Schools were not ALLOWED to implement them ...

    but Charter Schools are. And they do. And that is why many parents opt for Charter Schools.

    There is enough room for all types of schools, this constant effort to pit schools against schools and parents against parents is just destructive and totally pointless and inane. I wish it would stop and we could all just focus on doing the work to make whatever schools we do send our kids to better.


  38. Moggy, what are they?

    And 8:51, the point is that charter advocates and those who trusted their hype (like Obama!) keep citing the "innovations" being "pioneered" at charter schools. It's a constant drumbeat. That's why I'm asking. Nobody is making the same claims for SFUSD, so that's an insincere retort.

    Sorry, that link worked when I tried it again. It could be a great school (the API is decent), but this is a PR video, people. That in itself is not a sound basis for judging the quality of a school. And in any case, I'm not saying there aren't excellent charter schools. In this discussion I'm asking about the "pioneering innovations" claim.

  39. cut and paste from innovations in charter schools ( - charter schools are free from a range of state laws and district policies stipulating what and how they teach, where they can spend their money [San Francisco public schools have this choice - thank you Arlene Ackerman], and who they can hire and fire. To lengthen the school day, mix grades, require dress codes, put teachers on their
    school boards, double up instruction in core subject
    areas like math or reading, make parents genuine partners
    in family-style school cultures, adopt any instructional
    practice that will help achieve their missions—
    free, in short, to do whatever it takes to build the skills.

    Charter schools haven't cornered the market on this sort of stuff - but the outside of the box thinking isn't in school districts elsewhere.

    I've come to realize that there are some truly genius policies in in the San Francisco public district, but talk to any principal about how hard it is to get rid of a teacher that just isn't right for the school and you'll realize that we do have a long way to go.

  40. The KIPP highly disciplined, longer school day, plus some Saturdays seems to be an innovation that is leading to increased achievement in the kids it serves. This is a small subset of an extremely disadvantaged population. But it seems the kids who can take the school's rigid aproach really benefit from it in a way they might not at a traditional public school. Just because it doesn't work for everyone doesn't mean it's not worth doing.

    But, it's not sustainable without greatly increased funding. No public school could afford to hire two sets of teachers. The other choice is to do what KIPP does and just churn young teachers through until they burn out and leave the profession or go elsewhere. That's not a good practice to emulate either. The idea behind charter schools was to produce results that can be replicated elsewhere. KIPP would be difficult to replicate much beyond where they are now. And it's only possible with philanthropical funding.

    I do think that philanthropists are more likely to fund charter schools because they can have a direct relationship with the school itself. It's a lot more personal that having a relationship with a school district.

  41. I know this is getting repetitive, but none of those are innovations. They are distinctive, just not new.

    It certainly is valid to watch what charter schools can do because they're more free of regulation (see my example about the use of teachers) and then decide whether the regulation in question should be scrapped for all schools.

    You can't separate KIPP's success from the fact that its unsuccessful kids leave, either, so we don't know which of its practices are effective.

  42. I'm not sure that it matters that KIPP doesn't work for everyone and a lot of kids leave. The kids it works for do extremely well. Almost no African American students in the district are doing extremely well elsewhere, and I don't say that lightly. So while the skimming effect is undoubtably real, I don't think it's the whole answer. I think KIPP really is doing something that works for this small group of kids. And in my book, every kid counts.

  43. Caroline asked:

    "Moggy, what are they?"

    You know, Caroline, when you get in this badgering mode, you just parse and spin whatever anybody does respond.

    If I reply, you will say "that isn't an INNOVATION", it's just distinctive".

    dictionary definition to avoid your endless semantic game playing:
    1 : the introduction of something new

    So, even if an "innovation" has been used elsewhere, if it is NEWLY introduced into a school, it is an innovation.

    But one example ... my son's school uses a RESPONSIVE CLASSROOM approach ...

    it is wonderful, little things like having recess BEFORE lunch, instead of after, so the kids don't rush to eat in 15 minutes so they can go out to play ...

    I tried to suggest doing that at my son's previous school, they'd have none of it. "wouldn't work" "the teachers don't want that" "we have always done it this way" ...

    absolutely NO flexibility.

    I think a few regular SFUSD public schools use some responsive classroom techniques, including recess before lunch, but most don't.

    I also think my son's charter school is much much better at differentiating his curriculum than they were at his previous regular SFUSD school ... Creative Arts uses project-based learning techniques instead or rigidly following the curriculum.

    Yes, some other schools like SF Community are supposed to be good at this too, but SF Community would not allow my son to go there, because he has an autism diagnosis.

    I just do not understand why you are always on attack mode about charter schools. Nobody on this list is saying they are the answer to every educational problem on Earth, but there is room for all kinds of schools. I am very weary of the way you constantly spout that one sentence someone said to you ONCE years ago, the one about "pioneering innovations" and then you drone on that endlessly and act like all charter school parents all say the same thing.



  44. Here are some reasons why I think it matters that 60% of the students at KIPP leave, and that they are consistently the most unsuccessful students (according to the SRI International study):

    KIPP attracts millions and millions of dollars in private funding based on its success. That money, needless to say, COULD be going to schools that serve that 60% of less-successful students. Shouldn't that be part of the discussion?

    If the traditional public school down the street also got rid of its bottom 60% of students, would the remaining students do as well? To me, that seems to be an extremely important question. Does KIPP even need all that private money or could its students do as well without it, based on the departure of the less-successful majority?

    Traditional public schools are constantly compared unfavorably to KIPP schools, meaning that traditional public schools lose support in myriad ways. That includes all those private millions, of course, which presumably also could go to traditional public schools in some form or other.

    To me and many other education advocates, that's an essential part of the discussion. KIPP schools don't function in a vacuum. We could give one school three times the funding per student at the expense of other students and then say hey, those students are successful and nothing else matters. I don't think that would fly. The impact on other schools DOES matter, and so do the means by which KIPP achieves its successes.

    Of course the parents are happy when the needier, more-troublesome kids leave their kids' classes -- you and I would be too! But let's be honest and clear about it.

    Moggy, I initially posted my question about innovations in response to President Obama's citing the innovations in charter schools, not something someone once said to me.

  45. Caroline, you tell this story over and over and over again, every chance you get:

    --"At a panel discussion at the Commonwealth Club about charter schools a few years ago, I was able to submit that question to Caprice Young, who was then the director of the California Charter Schools Assn. (top lobbyist and spokesperson). She kind of stammered a bit and then ventured, "Foreign language programs...?" Well, sorry, foreign language programs are wonderful and I fervently wish we had more in all schools, but they are NOT an innovation being pioneered in charter schools.

    You must have a "constantly cut and paste these same stories" document on your desktop.

  46. 11:14, there are new participants all the time on this blog and other forums. Anyone making a case repeats the most effective support for the case, true? Why waste time and bandwidth commenting on it?

  47. KIPP attracts millions and millions of dollars in private funding based on its success. That money, needless to say, COULD be going to schools that serve that 60% of less-successful students. Shouldn't that be part of the discussion?

    I would argue that we serve all sort of kids in segregated batches. We have GATE classes that serve only top achievers, we have special day classes that serve kids with special needs that can't function in the regular classroom, we have immersion programs, we have ELL classes. All these things are appropriate. One group SFUSD is not currently serving well are AA students with potential to be high academic achievers. Until we can do that, I don't think it's unfair to offer them the chance to go to a school that will help them achieve at high levels.

    It's totally unfair for KIPP to claim they are better than traditional public schools. They are serving a very small subset well, no more, no less. I also wish all schools had as much money as philanthropists are throwing at certain charter schools.

  48. I totally agree that sorting out motivated, academically focused African-American kids is a worthy experiment.

    Sorry to repeat myself again, but Elijah Anderson's "Code of the Street" gives an excellent view of why that would be effective. The "code of the street" pervades schools with a high number of troubled kids from tough neighborhoods. So I agree that that's something to watch closely and encourage. That goes for both the evident self-sorting/selection bias and the attrition.

    But KIPP denies any effect from those factors, and firmly insists that there IS no self-sorting/selection bias at all. KIPP spokespeople and supporters only admit to the attrition because the figures are undeniable -- and only after someone (me) looked them up and blogged them.

    All six major studies of KIPP schools over the years happened to neglect to look at the schools' attrition; reams of favorable news coverage also forgot to ask that question.

    Then I uncovered the Bay Area attrition figures as an unpaid amateur layperson blogger. After that, KIPP and others did take notice. The later SRI study did look at attrition, and another large-scale study is underway that I'm sure will also include it.

    It's not that KIPP didn't notice the attrition; it was evident to the naked eye that the eighth grade is much smaller than the fifth grade. I haven't figured out how they deal with the loss of per-student funding; I guess the private philanthropy just makes up for it.

    KIPP and its supporters -- mainly Washington Post reporter Jay Mathews, who just put out a book about KIPP (which of course will sell better the more KIPP is portrayed as a miracle, largely by him in the pages of the Post - conflict? tainted coverage? oh, noooo, nothing like that...) -- vigorously insist that there's no self-sorting, no selection bias.

    Presumably this is because KIPP is attracting all that private money based on the view that it's working miracles with the poorest of the poor, the truly at-risk.

    It can't afford to concede that it's sorting for the higher-functioning, more-motivated among low-income, at-risk youth of color.
    Obviously, it is.

    Sorry if it slows the private philanthropy checks, but KIPP needs to own up to that factor. If that's the key in helping at-risk students reach their highest potential, that's a really important thing to know -- and for public schools to find a way to emulate.

    Of course then the public schools will continue to struggle to meet the needs of the lower-functioning, less-motivated students, the ones who never show up at KIPP or who leave KIPP. Too bad Bill Gates won't give them millions upon millions for that challenge.

  49. Must she always have the last word? OMG.

  50. Must the anonymous Caroline-hater always have the last word? OMG.

  51. So it seems to me that KIPP casts a wide net, giving lots of low-income kids a chance to do well at a highly academic school. Even if they are behind to start with, they bring kids up to speed by having them repeat fifth grade. But, after that, they've got to be motivated and together enough to stick with it. Those 40% that can are probably getting a really good education, and those same 40% of kids probably would not have gotten it at a regular SFUSD school, sadly. This seems fair enough, and really not a bad model.

    The trick is for KIPP to acknowledge that that's what is going on, and also realize that the kids who don't make it will need support too wherever they end up. They are not a school that can make anyone into a high achiever. They are a school that gives everyone a chance to become a high achiever. Not everyone does.

  52. **Those 40% that can are probably getting a really good education, and those same 40% of kids probably would not have gotten it at a regular SFUSD school, sadly.**

    This may be true -- we don't know that. The SRI study of KIPP, the one that did look into the attrition, said it was not possible to study the direct impact of KIPP's practices on its students because the attrition so biased the sampling.

    One question is: Would those exact same students -- the 40% who survive KIPP all the way through -- learn and achieve as well in an SFUSD school? We don't know that one way or another, though I gather the parents often think not. (But there isn't academic research.)

    But the second question is: Would those exact same students, isolated from the 60% of lower-functioning kids as they are ta KIPP, THEN learn and achieve as well in an SFUSD school as they do at KIPP? DO the other KIPP practices have an impact? How much of an impact? Which practices have most impact? Etc.

  53. How are the KIPP-like (KIPP-lite?) non-charter SFUSD schools doing? (Charles Drew, Willie Brown… any others?) These “dream schools” did have extra resources, longer days, Saturday classes, contracts, uniforms, and a somewhat military school kind of vibe. When I visited the classrooms three or four years ago, I wasn’t favorably impressed (except by the absolute dedication of the staff and charm of the children). I know the Drew/Brown model is also based on some seemingly successful schools in NYC, but run really counter to the kinds of solutions (to the “achievement gap”) suggested by Kozol (treated as some kind of irrelevant old coot last time he was mentioned here, but still...) and others, in terms of the concentration of a large population of very disadvantaged/high need kids in one school. (Which is apparently what KIPP does, too…. but with the advantage of creaming?)

  54. Caroline, you say:

    KIPP attracts millions and millions of dollars in private funding based on its success. That money, needless to say, COULD be going to schools that serve that 60% of less-successful students. Shouldn't that be part of the discussion?

    But the philanthropic and funding reality is that those that are giving money, in this case to KIPP, are giving it because they believe in what they are doing there. It's not like if KIPP weren't there, the Fisher family would have been writing checks to SFUSD all this time. That isn't how it works - in philanthropy or in life.

    Again, having spent time at KIPP, and given all it's challenges (and also being a giant and fervent public school advocate) I still come away with the knowledge and proof that these schools are helping kids academically that would not have been served in the situations they came from - in virtually all the cases these are SFUSD schools in the area. That's not to say that public schools are a failure, but the KIPP model provides some flexibility to allow for more 'innovative' educational models ans structures that public schools for a variety of reasons aren't able to emulate (although I believe that even Carlos Garcia has said that it would be a good idea to look at these and see what they are doing to get the success they are getting with those students.)

    I find it silly to point out that 60% of KIPP kids drop out, when about that many AA students don't graduate from SFUSD high schools. It's practically the same percentage - which tells me that everyone still has a long way to go to make sure that we keep these students in school and get them to graduate.

  55. Lorraine here, again:

    -------------Traditional public schools are constantly compared unfavorably to KIPP schools, meaning that traditional public schools lose support in myriad ways. That includes all those private millions, of course, which presumably also could go to traditional public schools in some form or other.

    If you haven't already, play around with the SFUSD Matrix that was unveiled last November and which is a souped up 'similar schools index' comparing all SFUSD public and charter schools. Important to note, this is what the SFUSD created to look at who is doing well with the same populations over a 4 year period of time.

    What very distinctly stands out is that there is improvement for almost all schools over this time period. But you can very easily and clearly see which schools are shooting way ahead of the rest: Both KIPP Schools in SF. The one in Bayview doesn't do as well as the other one , Bay Academy, I think it's called, but both have made large gains vs. schools with similar demographic populations. You can see which SFUSD schools do better as well - Aptos is noticable, Lick, etc.

    All this to say: even the SFUSD's own data which is adjusted to compare apples to apples shows they are doing something right over at KIPP. And virtually all these are kids that were not doing well in SFUSD before they came there.

    Again, as a strong public school supporter, I don't think there is a one size fits all approach to education. I also think it's unrealistic to think that if only charters weren't around, funders would be automatically be giving it to public schools.

    A better way to look at it is that because of Charter schools, there is money coming into schools and to students that wouldn't otherwise be getting that investment.

    That said, it is my hope that we get more investment in any and all public schools from the business and philanthropic community - especially in SFUSD. Fortunately, that has been happening in recent years - especially since it all but halted prior to Carlos Garcia becoming superintendent.

  56. Caroline,

    I find your dismissing CLAS's video as a PR piece (and therefore something that must immediately be doubtful) problematic. Additionally, while the school did not invent MELD instruction, they have taken it much farther than any other school - which is not surprising, given that one of the founders worked with Noma LeMoine. I'll say that's innovative - especially in the current education climate and given the history of similar methodologies.

    Also, it's a lot different from KIPP and similar models, which in my opinion are lauded and wonderful...for someone else's kids. You never see the US News and World Report KIPP fanclub signing their own children up for KIPP schools.

  57. M, I am completely in the dark about the "KIPP-lite" schools, except that their test scores are very low! Maybe I'll devote a little energy to visiting one sometime.

    I met someone who worked at one (I know exactly when, because I was staffing a campaign table for John Kerry at the time). She told me angrily that they could never succeed because then-supe Ackerman wasn't willing to kick out the problem kids. That's practically the sum total of my insight on them, though.

    I agree that all those philanthropists are giving megabucks to KIPP because they believe it works and that they wouldn't just happily hand the money to Aptos if KIPP weren't there. But to me (and other, more-qualified researchers), they are handing out that money based on a false story, when the self-creaming and attrition were for so long ignored, covered up and denied.

    Again, the question is: If James Denman or Martin Luther King MS's had an application process that self-selected for motivated, high-functioning kids, and then going forward, the lowest-performing 60% of the kids left, would the remaining kids do as well as they would at KIPP. To me this is a really crucial question to answer. (Add in the additional money KIPP has and hit "refresh," too...)

    10:46, CLAS may be fantastic. I honestly had never heard of it. The video IS a PR piece, though, and as such in itself has no credibility with me. Some years ago, a well-known right-leaning SFUSD parent activist who was trying to win me to her side gave me a video made by and for the charter/voucher advocates that was very similar. It had compelling, impressive shots of an Edison school in Boston, called Boston Renaissance, with chamber music accompanying scenes of hardworking black children asking penetrating questions in class. Shortly thereafter, Edison Schools lost its contract to run Boston Renaissance because of abysmal academic performance. I'm only making that point to note that a PR video is not convincing evidence. I looked at the school's test scores and they're pretty good, though.