As education reformers eagerly await the premiere of Waiting for Superman, Mike Petrilli has issued a hubris alert. He cites a Philadelphia Daily News story by Dom Giordano, who interviewed Superman director Davis Guggenheim.
Guggenheim told me that we now know what to do to educate and advance every kid. He said, “In recent years, we’ve cracked the code. The high-performing charter schools, like KIPP and others, have figured out the system that works for kids in even the toughest neighborhoods.”
I echo this. And my mantra is – it’s a mystery? We know what to do. The only question is do we have the will to do it?
It’s not that simple, Petrilli writes.
1. Maybe we’ve “cracked the code” on making high-poverty schools more effective, but we’re far from cracking the code on how to scale them up to serve lots more kids. We have a few hundred excellent urban schools when we need tens of thousands.
2. There’s little doubt that one of the reasons these schools succeed is that they bring motivated kids from motivated families together. We know from decades of “peer effects” studies that kids learn more when surrounded by high-achieving, striving youngsters. This part of “the code” can’t be replicated everywhere.
Even the most successful charter schools aren’t “closing the achievement gap,” he adds. Matching suburban schools in “proficient” students is a huge step forward, but the “proficient” children of home health care aides and janitors aren’t earning the same SAT scores as the children of doctors, lawyers and CPAs.
Seven of the top 10 high schools in Los Angeles are charters, as are the top two middle schools, notes Eduwonk. Four of the lowest-scoring 10 schools are charters too. Aspire Public Schools, which just got $1 million from Oprah Winfrey, are basically the best large school district in the state, while the ICEF charter network in LA has “elementary school students outperforming schools in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, high performance overall, and the best SATs among charters and neighborhood high schools.”