KIPP = Nazi Germany?

In musing about democracy on Bridging Differences, Deborah Meier equates KIPP and other “no excuses” schools with Nazi Germany‘s schools.

What troubles me most about the KIPPs of the world are not issues of pedagogy or the public/private issue, but their “no excuses” ideology implemented by a code that rests on humiliating those less powerful than oneself and reinforcing a moral code that suggests that there’s a one-to-one connection between being good and not getting caught. It tries to create certainties in a field where it does not belong. . . . Life is never so simple that we can award points for “badness” on a fixed numerical scale of bad-to-good. As we once reminded colleagues, Nazi Germany had a successful school system—so what? I’d be fascinated to interview some KIPP graduates to learn how its work plays out in their lives.

KIPP schools don’t suspend students for misbehavior or send them out of class. Instead, they sit in a separate area with the school polo shirt inside out until they’ve apologized to their teacher and classmates and the apology has been accepted. I assume that’s what Meier means by humiliation.

The moral code that equates “being good and not getting caught” baffles me. What is she talking about?

Life is not simple, but surely it’s possible for teachers to award merit or demerit points to students for good or bad classroom behavior without turning into Nazis.

After all, very few schools try to operate as democracies.

About Joanne


  1. Years ago I went to observe a Kipp middle school and I was so horrified by what I witnessed (cruel teaching- screaming and harassment of young middle schoolers) that in addition to documenting the shame and humiliation that was equated with teaching, I personally contacted the founder of Kipp and threatened to go to the newspaper with my story. I had a run-in with the principal about what I witnessed (she is still there) and she had the gall to tell me that “perhaps we had a different educational philosophy” and I asked her “since when is shaming a child in a classroom considered a viable educational philosophy?”. Finally a meeting was set up with me and a board member to discuss the horror. But I know it is what goes on there and I find it sickening. As if poor parents don’t have real choices for their children’s education so they have to settle for abuse instead of love. Brow beating children might “work” in the short run but we can do better.

  2. Michael E. Lopez says:

    I asked her “since when is shaming a child in a classroom considered a viable educational philosophy?”

    Our best written evidence seems to suggest around 400 BC.

    You can question whether Socrates was a good teacher, though. I mean, they did kill him.

  3. Back in the dinosaur era, pre-1970, society expected people to be ashamed of bad behavior and stigmatized those who behaved poorly, so most people (kids and adults) behaved decently. Since we’ve now had decades of excusing rude, inappropriate, uncooperative and downright criminal behavior, we have lots more of it.

    • Except we don’t. We had a crime spike in the 60’s and 70’s, followed by three decades of global decline in crime.

      • Perhaps visiting an Anacostia (SE DC) high school, or its Detroit, Chicago, NYC or LA equivalent, would change your mind about the level of behavior in schools. I was referring specifically to in-school behavior – and, remember that admin pressure means that lots of stuff goes on that never gets reported.

        • You believe those schools are typical?

          • No, but they sure have lots of problems, starting with behavior that disrupts the class so that no one learns. If charters do nothing else, they provide a safer, orderly environment. I’d like to see better curriculum choices, but good behavior is the start point.

      • The decline in crime in the U.S. is largely due to two factors:

        1) The increased incarciration of chronic criminals

        2) The murder of “unwanted” unborn children in the womb.

  4. The linked article does not compare KIPP schools to Nazi schools. It suggests that the attitude of “If it works, we should do it,” would justify the position that as Nazi schools “worked” (whatever that means in this context) it would be reasonable to adopt their model.

    The logic fails on a number of levels, including the suggestion (unsupported in the essay) that German schools of the Nazi era did something materially different than the schools that preceded or succeeded them, that whatever change was implemented brought about success, that the assumed changes are necessarily tainted because they were introduced by Nazis, etc., and per Godwin’s Law it’s really not a good idea to bring Nazis into a discussion that’s not explicitly about Nazi Germany as the emotional and inflammatory aspects of any such comparison will almost always drown out the point you’re trying to make.

    A better point might have been, “In country X, rote learning techniques have resulted in good test scores, but students struggle with abstract concepts, don’t fare well in college, etc., so it’s important to consider what we define as ‘success’ and whether in fact the proposed measure of success will serve the intended purpose – and whether undue focus on that measure might be counterproductive.” I’m not sure if that was the author’s point, and it’s obviously a lot more nuanced than the one she made.

    • Michael E. Lopez says:

      It’s not clear to me that the author was making a point at all. This had the air of some off-the-cuff intellectual riffing, and so we probably shouldn’t take it too seriously on substantive grounds.

      We might want to ask her to develop and clarify a bit, though.

  5. Well, the Nazis did believe in “drill and kill” . . . .

  6. Bill Leonard says:

    From the comments thus far, I get the feeling that Amy and a small handful of others seem to think, in essence, that it’s just fine if the inmates run the asylum, just as long as they’re not “humiliated” or asked to actually be responsible for their own lack of preparation, or much of anything else.

    People, you are part of the problem; I hope you will be soon gone from the public education scene.

  7. It’s hard to know who to feel sorrier for–Amy and her bleating, or Bill and his pathetic grasp of reality.

    KIPP does indeed humiliate kids. It’s irrelevant whether or not their response to bad behavior is “deserved”. Anyone who doesn’t know that public schools are legally prohibited from engaging in KIPP’s behavior is far, far more ignorant–and much more of the problem–than the bleaters like Amy.

    • Peace Corps says:

      In my state KIPPs are public schools.

    • The sure didn’t used to be prohibited from such practices; mine used that sort of thing regularly, including use of the ruler or yardstick (aka board of education), as did every school I knew. And, guess what? Almost all kids behaved decently, almost all of the time. Typical infractions were passing notes, whispering and the occasional spitball. We all knew the rules and we knew the consequences for breaking them. Appropriately used, shame is a socially useful behavior. One SHOULD be ashamed of behaving badly.

  8. KIPP is an extension of the “reform eugenics” that survived World War II, even if millions of the “unfit” did not. And although the biological determinism has been dropped as a central element of the ideology, there remains the core impetus to change the cultural memes, even though we can’t change the inherited genes.

    KIPP and the No Excuses ideologues are out to protect the dominant culture from the defective cultural traits of defective cultures, and that is why these “defective” children are isolated, contained, segregated and culturally sterilized every day, all in the name of “social justice.”

    And even if only half make it through these total compliance KIPP camps and the KIPP knock-offs, and if only a quarter of those end up going to college, and if only half of those finish, not to worry. The rest will have been KIPPnotized along the way, learning the most important lesson of all: if you don’t succeed, boys and girls, no one is to blame except yourself–you just did not work hard enough, and you were not nice enough.

    There is a cold logic in Mike Feinberg’s admission that behavior at KIPP is more important than academics.

    That is the tragic truth.

    Recommended: Selden’s (1999) Inheriting Shame . . . .

    • Roger Sweeny says:


      You do not go nearly far enough. KIPP is just a small part. Our entire society is set up on the idea that the more school you successfully complete, the better person your are. You deserve to make more money than other people and you deserve to be able to tell them what to do because you know more than they do.

      It transcends left and right. Lefties believe just as strongly that their degrees should translate into higher incomes than what less degreed people get–and certainly more than high school drop-outs, who really don’t deserve much more than public assistance.

      And of course the credentialed should be able to tell the less credentialed what to eat and drink, what to put into their bodies, etc.

  9. I’m a great admirer of both Deb Meier and (in a semi-joking way) Godwin’s Law, so of course I’m of two minds about her post. Basically, the mention of Nazis or Hitler always, always invites a “gotcha!” like Joanne’s, though at least this one’s a gently worded “gotcha!” Meier is presumably less tuned into that inevitability since she doesn’t live in the snark-drenched world that I do, as a baby boomer and the mom of a high-schooler and a college student.

    I’m also a perennial questioner of starry-eyed “it’s a miracle!” press gullibility (and a former newspaper journalist myself who NEVER recognized how susceptible my colleagues were when I was working with them). in 2007, I did the first public research on KIPP attrition — or rather SRI International was doing its study at the time, but I didn’t know that, and blogged mine back when there was nothing else like that posted publicly. I also took my then-middle-schooler to try to enroll her at KIPP SF Bay Academy to determine if they would require her to take a test, which they did. (The working press, busy gushing effusively about KIPP, never troubled to do these bits of basic legwork.)

    I’m explaining this as context for the fact that I haven’t put much focus on criticizing KIPP’s practices in and of themselves. If parents approve of them, I’m somewhat nonplussed about whether I should be demanding that they get outraged.

    For what it’s worth, here are my observations on KIPP’s disciplinary practices.

    — The major impact on KIPP’s success is the fact that the disciplinary practices keep out or drive out non-compliant kids from non-compliant families. It seems to me that you would have to be unusually compliant, docile and passive not to have issues with those practices (and other KIPP practices such as the SLANT decree — SIt Up Straight, Listen Attentively, Ask and Answer Questions, Nod to Show that You’re Listening, and Track the Speaker with Your Eyes). So by definition there’s extreme self-screening going on, apart from any actual push-outs or kick-outs.

    — After following this type of so-called education “reform” closely for well over a decade, I feel increasingly strongly about this: It’s hypocritical to the most outrageous degree for advocates of those practices not to require that their own kids attend those schools. It should just be a given. In fact, of course, most advocates of those practices choose private schools that treat children in the exact opposite manner from the mandates those people impose on low-income children of color. I think this should terminally discredit those people — they should be publicly shamed and scorned for their hypocrisy, even racism: Treat THOSE kids harshly but nurture my precious, delicate flower. It’s my understanding that KIPP CEO/former Edison honcho Richard Barth and Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp (who are married) have four kids. If they aren’t sending them to regimented and for-profit “no excuses” schools and classes taught by beginner temps, they should be relentlessly showered with contempt for their racism and hypocrisy, and shunned in polite society. That goes for pols, pundits, editorial writers too. This won’t happen, but it should.

    • Michael E. Lopez says:


      That was a most excellent response, and I want to express my personal thanks for your continuing to elevate the level of discourse in our little comments community that we have here in Joanne’s shadow.

      I’d like to take a second to point out an assumption you’re making, though — an assumption that isn’t necessarily true. You said the following:

      It’s hypocritical to the most outrageous degree for advocates of those practices not to require that their own kids attend those schools…. I think this should terminally discredit those people — they should be publicly shamed and scorned for their hypocrisy, even racism.

      A hypocrite, of course, is someone who advocates one course of action or principle, but whose own life expresses something incompatible with that imperative or principle.

      The people you’re excoriating are only hypocrites if they are actually violating the principle that they advocate. So the question is, what principle are they really advocating?

      It’s tempting to say that they are advocating the KIPP policies as the best educational policy, and so refusing that treatment for their own children is hypocrisy.

      But what if what they are advocating instead is something like KIPP policies where KIPP policies are needed? In other words, what if something like KIPP isn’t really intended as a universally applicable educational philosophy, but is instead supposed to be a sort of environment-specific application designed to meet particular types of social challenges?

      Let’s imagine that I have a severely retarded child, but I advocate certain types of enrichment courses for gifted students. We don’t call me a hypocrite in such circumstances, because if I had a gifted child, I would want the principle that I advocate for gifted children to apply to my own gifted child. Because the principle that I am advocating is not a universal principle, the fact that I refuse to apply it in a situation where it is not (according to my advocacy) warranted, does not provide a basis for a charge of hypocrisy.

      (I should point out that hypocrisy is overrated as a flaw; ideas and assertions are either true or false depending on the substance of the idea or assertion. The hypocrisy of the advocate only goes to sincerity and credibility, which is only important if you’re taking the idea or assertion partially on the basis of the advocate’s credibility in the first place.)

      So it’s entirely possible that the KIPP people would *love* to send low-income students of color to the sort of private schools to which they send their own kids in an ideal situation, but believe that those sorts of environments will fail those students for various reasons, primarily because those ‘nurturing’ environments are structured to intentionally capitalize on the presence of certain advantages that may not be present in all cases.

      Now, the KIPP people may be factually wrong about this. Maybe every child can be treated exactly the same and get the same results regardless of family, social, or economic background. Maybe low-income children of color don’t actually need the sort of cultural remediation that the KIPP people may believe they need.

      We can, and SHOULD have those arguments. (For the record, I don’t have a position on this one way or the other, though I do accept as generally true the principle that at least some students require different types of treatment; I don’t think putting a Down’s Syndrome kid into an AP Calculus class, for example, is a very good idea. But I’m unsure about the degree to which the principle can be applied.)

      But their merely sending their kids to a different sort of school doesn’t mean they’re hypocrites (assuming, again, that you think hypocrisy really matters).

  10. Roger Sweeny says:

    Your comment echoes the classic libertarian criticism, “(Capital D) Democratic politicians are not “pro-choice” when it comes to education, but an extraordinarily large number of them send their children to private schools.” Should they also “be relentlessly showered with contempt for their racism and hypocrisy, and shunned in polite society”? I take it the same would go for the anti-choice reformers, pundits, and editorial writers, too.

  11. Kopp’s kids go to district schools on the Upper West Side. I don’t know that that makes them hypocrites or not–these aren’t ‘no excuses’ schools, but they certainly aren’t progressive “special flower” schools, either. There’s lots of test prep, large class sizes, shoestring budgets, barely any recess, etc.

    A single behaviorally challenged child can essentially make an entire elementary class’s academic year a wash. The appeal of a no-excuses environment is obvious in the face of how impotent many district schools are with respect to student/family behavior. I am pretty uncomfortable with the draconian measures some of the no-excuses schools take, and whether taxpayers should fund these types of schools is definitely a conversation worth having. But the bigger and thornier issue in my mind is how to give district schools (esp elementary/middle) something that at least resembles a threat of expulsion. “The inmates are running the asylum” is not too strong or exaggerated a phrase to describe what’s going on in many districts.

  12. Stuart Buck says:

    An analogy: Some kids are in high school but don’t know how to read. If I suggest a intensive remedial tutoring program, out of a desire to help them, it’s not an intelligent argument to say that I should be putting my own kids (who are reading just fine) into the same program on pain of being called a hypocrite.

  13. Those are valid points, @Michael. I retract my charge of hypocrisy.

    The principle that KIPP supporters are advocating is regimented, no-excuses education for low-income children and youth of color. The schools they advocate use shunning and humiliation as a punishment, emphasize strict test prep and offer minimal or no arts, music or other enrichments. They also advocate larger classes, and favor temp beginner teachers over experienced teachers.

    Then those KIPP supporters show by their actions that they advocate the opposite style of education for their own kids: creative, nurturing classrooms that stimulate imagination and critical thinking and develop leadership skills. Their schools emphasize very small classes, one-on-one attention, and highly qualified, experienced teachers.

    As long as they’re open about all that, I agree that you’re right. There’s no hypocrisy involved, but rather an extreme, rather cruel — but debatably justifiable and valid — double standard. And the press should be shining a bright light on that double standard and engaging in the debate.
    So, maybe this is the case, in @Michael’s words:

    “… what if something like KIPP isn’t really intended as a universally applicable educational philosophy, but is instead supposed to be a sort of environment-specific application designed to meet particular types of social challenges?”

    It should be a prominent part of the discussion. Very prominent. You’re correct: We can and should have those arguments.

    (It seems sad that kids who already are likely to have harsh, deprived home lives also should get harsh, regimented, bare-bones schools — while privileged kids with comfortable homes and supportive families should also get nurturing, enriched schools — but that’s part of the debate.)

    On the other hand, wouldn’t you think it would be obligatory at least for the Barth-Kopp kids to attend KIPP schools and be taught by beginner temps, as a gesture?

    @Roger, I don’t agree that those are parallels. The KIPPs, TFAs and other education “reform” fads are innovations being pioneered by these people, imposed throughout the land by the powerful and wealthy, and constantly touted as superior to public schools and veteran career teachers.

    The people behind them are in a different situation from officials supporting an existing institution. That said, I do think that the default expectation should be for pols and pundits to send their kids public and that they should be expected to explain themselves if they don’t. They may have sound reasons, but they should be expected (I’m not saying required by law but expected by community standards) to say so. It’s a bit equivalent to the discomfort of the fact that Al Gore was revealed to be living in a McMansion (I was a Gore supporter and am still an admirer, so it’s not that I’m trying to impugn him – it’s just the ideal example).

    @Tim, interested to hear that about the Kopp-Barth kids. Thanks. And yes, I totally understand about how one badly troubled kid can disrupt a class for an entire year. That’s a well informed view. Unfortunately, the massive public-school bashing and teacher-bashing that goes on constantly in aggrandizing the ed “reform” fads downplays or ignores situations like that and simply blames the teacher. I wish your informed viewpoint were more visible in the public discussion.

    @Stuart, I think you’re restating what the others said.

    So, to restate, I’ll retract the claim that it’s hypocritical. I just think that the “reformers” need to be really clear and open that this is the kind of educational environment that they advocate for low-income children of color, and it’s the opposite of the educational environment that they want for their own children.

    Also, @Tim, don’t you think you should be emphasizing the challenges that teachers in non-selective schools face, since you clearly understand, when “reformers” and those who are susceptible to their hype are promoting the story that teachers are the cause of “failing schools” and poverty?

    • Roger Sweeny says:


      You’ve read much more of the reform literature (and propaganda) than I have but does anyone really advocate KIPP et al. for low income “children of color.” Is anyone actually explicitly racial?

      You say, “It seems sad that kids who already are likely to have harsh, deprived home lives also should get harsh, regimented, bare-bones schools …” Many low-income kids have harsh lives but they are usually not regimented. In fact, a major problem is inconsistency and lack of order: harsh discipline some times, no discipline others; attention some times, ignoring others. Any number of boys who looked like “they wouldn’t amount to anything” joined the armed forces, thrived under the structure, and came out more focused and able to make a success of themselves. The military also cultivates esprit de corps and a sense of belonging, partly through harsh but consistent discipline. It sounds to me like KIPP is trying to do the same thing.

      (Some parents actually send their high school age children to military schools, though I suspect not many who live in San Francisco.)

      You raise an interesting point about deprivation. If KIPP really succeeds in getting its students to be able to read well enough that it isn’t a chore, and to understand math well enough that they can use it in life, those students will probably be less deprived than students who have art and music in school but come out illiterate and innumerate.

  14. Stuart Buck says:

    The schools they advocate use shunning and humiliation as a punishment, emphasize strict test prep and offer minimal or no arts, music or other enrichments.

    Really? That’s certainly not what KIPP websites claim — they mention lots of enriching activities, and stories like this are common: So that whole jazz band there, is that a fake? How about this KIPP band that has several tracks available online? Fake too? These KIPPsters must be really weird, to fill the Internet with fake webpages and fake songs and fake descriptions of extracurriculars. How do they have the time?

    Anyway, I’ve personally heard Mike Feinberg say that the whole reason KIPP has a longer school day/week was so that they can help kids get caught help in the vital subjects of math/reading WITHOUT sacrificing anything like arts, music, etc.

  15. Stuart Buck says:

    Check out this webpage on KIPP’s extracurriculars.

    But wait, Caroline says that KIPP has no extracurriculars, so that must all be fake.

    • It apparently varies. Here in SF, some students from both KIPP schools go to an after-school privately run orchestra program that happens to be located at my daughter’s public arts high school; there are no such programs at the KIPP schools, but at least the kids are made aware of the after-school orchestra.

      But in general, “no excuses” schools including (but not limited to) KIPP schools are promoted as concentrating on the basics (test prep) and avoiding distracting enrichments. It’s all about getting the test scores up. They don’t deny that; it’s what they’re about.

      Is someone saying that KIPP schools AREN’T promoted as targeting low-income minorities? They always claim they recruit in the projects and target the poorest of the poor. And of course other no-excuses schools, including the Harlem Children’s Zone, also specifically target low-income minorities. (At KIPP SF Bay Academy, they were pretty visibly startled to see me walk in and apply with my blond daughter.)

      And aside from that, the practices in KIPP schools are absolutely antithetical to the practices and attitudes in the schools attended by the kids of, oh, President Obama, for starters. The handbook of the SF KIPP school my daughter applied to (we dropped out of the process partway though) said that decibel meters are used in classrooms, and a set decibel level is assigned to different activities. One admiring account of KIPP schools said the students are taught to “walk briskly down the hall.” Again, I’m not critiquing those practices as deployed at KIPP, but if they were proposed at Sidwell Friends or the schools attended by the kids of other corporate-reform types (Whitney Tilson, Jonathan Alter, Davis Guggenheim), the parents would rise up in mass rebellion at the limits on their kids’ right to self-expression. So that’s my point.

      Don’t most people who send their kids to military school (for high school) do it because they’re screwing up in some way, or are obviously at risk, and need to be kept on the straight and narrow? These folks (the reformers above) are NOT choosing military school for their kids.

      Yes, @Roger, I get it. Doing fish prints or learning taiko drumming doesn’t help kids learn to read. But I’m still raising the question of the different schoolroom styles for the children of the poor and the children of the privileged.

      • Roger Sweeny says:

        “But I’m still raising the question of the different schoolroom styles for the children of the poor and the children of the privileged.”

        My wife’s best friend was looking forward to having kids and sending them to Montessori school. She had a son and, alas, he has fairly severe ADD. She realized that sending him to Montessori would be terrible for him. He needs a lot more structure.

        “The children of the poor and the children of the privileged” come into school with very different preparation and interest. To treat them all like kids at Sidwell Friends would probably condemn the former to failure.

      • I have known two families who have sent their sons to a well-known military (day) school in the DC area. In neither case were the boys screw-ups or at-risk; quite the contrary. One was the older brother of one of my kids’ friends and the others were sons of a colleague of mine, who babysat for my older sons. They simply liked, and thrived in, a no-nonsense, structured environment. In fact, I know many kids (not all boys) who very much like that kind of atmosphere (although perhaps not the full military aspect), particularly given the fuzzy, touchy-feely approach in many public schools.

  16. I neither know nor care about KIPP’s extracurriculars, but it does seem odd that all the examples you mention are from KIPP’s middle schools and high schools, which have no track record of success. It’s KIPPs elementary schools that won them fame.

    Not that it matters, really. The only reason people like Jay are pumped about KIPP is its test scores, and I don’t think anyone really disputes that they get their test scores by extended hours and really hard discipline for kids who misbehave, not because they have great extracurriculars.

  17. I’ve visited KIPP Heartwood in San Jose. Kids seemed to be enjoying their classes. There was no test prep. The math students were working well above grade level.

    Photography is a popular activity for students. The school raises money by auctioning students’ photos. All students take music for four years and play in the orchestra, according to this video.

    KIPP Tulsa students perform as steppers, an African-American blend of dance and marching.

    Here’s a dance performance at KIPP Infinity in New York. When the music goes off, the kids keep dancing and the audience sings the song.

    KIPP Diamond (Memphis) students sing and dance about “teenage life” in this music video.

    • So are you all now trying to claim that “no excuses” schools DO offer arts and creative enrichments that make them not so different from Sidwell Friends and Crossroads and Castilleja? That’s a new one, as is questioning whether KIPP and other “no excuses” charters target low-income minorities.

      And your friends in Palo Alto would be fine with a school that ordered their kids to SLANT and chant responses when the teacher snapped fingers, so KIPP really is just like their schools, @Joanne? Oh, and what about the temp beginner teachers and larger class sizes as espoused for poor kids by Bill Gates? High-SES parents are well known to have no interest in small classes or personal attention in their kids’ schools, of course.

      I perceive a little throwing **** at the wall to see if it sticks going on here. Also, @Stuart will be soon be chiming in with his usual denial of the attrition, claiming (inaccurately) that public schools have higher attrition etc.

      • Roger Sweeny says:

        Discussions often involve putting out different arguments. As the discussion proceeds, some may be shown to be good and some may be shown to be bad. I suppose you can colorfully call it “throwing **** at the wall to see if it sticks.”

        But the point should be to separate the **** from the shinola, not to insult the people making the arguments.

      • KIPP schools offer art, music and phys ed. So do other “no excuses” schools that I’ve visited or read about. Several commenters said or implied that they don’t.

        I didn’t argue that these schools — designed to educate disadvantaged children — are “not much different” from elite, very well-funded private schools for the children of the college-educated. That would be silly.

        Some Palo Alto parents choose a back-to-basics elementary school, Hoover, which they think is a good fit for their kids. I’m sure kids are taught to pay attention to the speaker. They probably chant too. (My daughter chanted the state capitals in fifth grade at her regular old Palo Alto elementary. The kids enjoyed it.) Other Palo Alto parents choose Ohlone, the progressive option. I met a man who had a son who loved Ohlone and a son who hated it, transferred to Hoover and loved it.

        I don’t think one sort of school is right for all students. When parents have choices, they can try to find a school that works for their child.

        • Michael E. Lopez says:

          For the record, I was just assuming that what Caroline said was true for purposes of discussing hypocrisy.

          I’ve got next to no knowledge of KIPP’s details other than what I’ve read in the colorful debates on this site and a few newspaper articles.

      • Stuart Buck says:

        I perceive a little throwing **** at the wall to see if it sticks going on here.

        Exactly, except that you’re the only one doing it, via inventing out of whole cloth the notion that KIPP schools don’t have extracurriculars. As (now) noted above, I’ve personally heard Mike Feinberg say that the whole reason KIPP has a longer school day/week was so that they can help kids get caught help in the vital subjects of math/reading WITHOUT sacrificing anything like arts, music, etc. That’s the whole design of KIPP.

  18. Stuart Buck says:

    I just remembered the “KIPP extracurricular” debate coming up before via that Horn guy.

    Just out of self-interest, it’s a good idea to Google first, make factual claims second. Doing it the other way around can be embarrassing.

  19. @Cal, slight corrections – actually KIPP’s basic model is grade 5-8.

    Oh, that’s right. I was focused on the high schools and somehow jumped to Rocketship.

    But I do agree, generally, that KIPP is not famous for its extracurriculars, and when you see them on TV, they aren’t offering the suburban dream of an education.

    And Joanne, Hoover is not KIPP.

    I would be really shocked if KIPP’s high schools didn’t engage in active selection of their students.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      KIPP schools select their students the way that California colleges discriminate against whites and Asians. Everyone denies it publicly so it has to be done indirectly. KIPP won’t refuse to admit certain students but it can tell them how difficult the school will be, how it may not be a good fit, etc. Then, students who don’t accept the discipline and long hours find their tenure difficult and unpleasant. California colleges say they look at “the whole person” and are careful to never publicly operationalize what that means.

  20. Shame and embarrassment are nothing more than an internalization of a moral sense of right and wrong. If I do something “wrong” by someone else’s definition, I will continue to do it as long as I’m willing to pay the price or take the risk to get away with it. If I believe something is wrong, the aversion of shame will prevent me from doing it.

    Regarding the less-frills approach, it works. These students have lost years of education. If you want them to be anywhere close to being on an even footing later on, this is the way to do it. Pushing other styles out of a distorted sense of equality only furthers inequality.

  21. Meier, like CarolineSF and other ideologues, have been handed a lemon and are doing their best to make lemonade out of it.

    What struck me about the piece was that it ignores the context within which KIPP schools reside: the extant public education system.

    If KIPP troubles her because of it’s “no excuses” ideology then to what ideology to the schools from which parents are running subscribe? The “reasonable excuses” ideology? The “any excuses” ideology? The “who gives a good G.D.” ideology? The question’s never broached and for good reason – Meier’s not interested in the larger context but in flogging heretics.

    You can see a similar attempt to guide the conversation along certain paths in CarolineSF’s posts. The attention fixed on KIPP schools, fortified by unsupported assertions about KIPP school practices and shortcomings, implies factors about the competing district schools that CarolineSF is clearly not anxious to have to defend.

    Fortunately, our discussion are irrelevant to the venue in which the decisions are acutally made – state legislatures. Among our elected representatives impatience with the public education system has clearly reached the point that all the usual excuses are no longer quite the barrier to substantive change they once were and unlike parents who may be similarly impatient, state legislators can implement their unhappiness.

  22. Stuart (EdOutsider) says:

    CarolineSF, what model do you propose? Who is serving our underserved better than KIPP? Who is building pathways to college for these children better than KIPP currently does?

    Please, don’t keep it a secret. Let us know so we can study them.

    Say what you want about KIPP, one thing is for sure–they are in the ring and they are fighting their hardest for these children.

    If there is a better way to do it, please SHOW US.

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

    • Here are some thoughts I have (and have voiced along the way, quite frequently).

      First, I agree that many KIPP schools are high achieving. They also tend to experience extremely high attrition, and their admissions practices tend to self-select for motivated and compliant (preternaturally compliant, in my opinion) students with supportive families.

      It’s not invalid for families, especially from low-income communities, to want their kids in schools where the unmotivated, oppositional students have been screened out. And it’s perfectly understandable.

      I’ve broached the idea of establishing a setup like this, though it would work only in a large district with an assortment of schools. As I envision, it’s a large-scale pilot program: Every student has a default school of assignment, School B, and an optional school, School A, to which he or she is guaranteed admission if he or she applies and follows the application requirements. These are regular public schools functioning as they always have, except for this new admission setup.

      So, all students who apply to School A and follow the rules of the process get in. School A also requires the students and families to follow certain rules and continue to meet certain requirements or be dismissed. Anyone who doesn’t request a school gets School B (as does, of course, anyone who asks for School B).

      Now we track the relative achievement. In a large-enough-scale experiment, there are many School A’s, and they can test imposing different degrees of admissions hurdles and requirements for remaining in the school.

      Does this result in achievement levels similar to KIPP’s at all School A’s? Or only School A’s that impose a certain level of admissions hurdles? Or no School A’s at all as long as they continue to follow the same practices they did as regular public schools?

      Of course this results in writing off the students who wind up at School B, as well as the students with special needs and English-language learners who won’t wind up at School A, but that’s what the entire current concept of education reform does anyway. And it’s certainly possible to argue that it’s worth it to improve the options for selected low-income students.

      Also, the vast number of studies of KIPP schools really don’t disaggregate the different practices and separate out the effects of selectivity and attrition (as KIPP and its supporters veer back and forth erratically between acknowledging and denying the selectivity and admission; they’re certainly not ready to acknowledge them consistently enough to make them part of a study). A study that DID disaggregate them and examined the different impacts of the different KIPP practices would be enlightening.

      Back to the question of what improvements I would support — I’m a big backer of community schools (wraparound services for students and families who need them), smaller class sizes and increased funding. I further support the policies that you can find on the Parents Across America website, Still, the issue boils down to high child poverty and the lack of a social safety net. So as a nation we need to rethink our values and commit to providing an adequate social safety net and fighting poverty if we want to improve schools.

      • (And also, KIPP’s attrition shows that they are only fighting their hardest for the select few of those children and casting the rest out. So is that admirable or not? It takes an ethicist.)

        • Stuart (EdOutsider) says:

          Do it.

          Right now, at a national scale, KIPP is the only organization increasing achievement levels for (at least some) of these children living in high poverty.

          Everything else here is talk. And, before KIPP and other high performing charters came around, I imagine everyone here was mostly just talking.

          There is a lot of research now coming out of the Harvard Econ. & Policy schools that these schools make a phenomenal difference.

          And, CarolineSF, I don’t think there is any ethical ambiguity about any organization creating a pipeline out of poverty where there previously didn’t exist one.

          Why don’t you create a charter specifically designed for your most aggressive and oppositional students?

  23. Roger Sweeny says:

    Can we all agree on two things?

    1. KIPP gets results for some poor kids, kids who otherwise would be screwed.

    2. KIPP cannot get results for 100% of poor kids–or 80%, or 50%, or even 30%.

  24. Stuart Buck says:

    The problem with the debate is that:

    1. People who agree with your number 1 sometimes imply that KIPP-style schools would work at scale for everyone.

    2. People who agree with your number 2 spend so much time and fury attacking KIPP that they come across as not giving a damn about the poor kids that KIPP does help.

  25. Stuart is largely correct, but I would modify your #1

    1. KIPP is able to get results for motivated poor kids by isolating them away from unmotivated poor kids. The results, when compared to motivated poor kids who weren’t able to attend KIPP are better but not phenomenally so. Thus, it’s wrong to say that kids are “screwed” by not being able to go to KIPP, but rather that motivated kids could do slightly better if public schools were able to dump unmotivated kids.

  26. “Right now, at a national scale, KIPP is the only organization increasing achievement levels for (at least some) of these children living in high poverty.”

    This is not true.