KIPP’s Teaching Demands are Stringent

This is the continuation of my previous post regarding a local KIPP school.  If you haven’t had a chance to read that, it is located here.

In this KIPP school, it’s hard work for the teachers too.  They promise to follow through on returning phone calls and e-mails.

All KIPP schools are designed to prepare students for college.  So each classroom has the school symbols of the college the teacher attended.  And there are college flags throughout.

Students receive constant feedback, not just on their classes, but on their behavior.  They receive merits or demerits.  With merits, they get to participate in extracurricular activities.  With demerits, they have detention.

Nevertheless, this is hard work but doesn’t always produce magical results.  The first year did not produce the progress that is needed or expected.

But the elements appear to be in place.

Tom Majdanics, executive director of the KIPP Jacksonville schools, reported that the first-year Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores were not good enough.  What follows are excerpts from his e-mail:

“Overall, we were disappointed with our FCAT results.  Our first year FCAT goals were higher.  Now that these results are in hand, we are in the process of analyzing the scores at the subject and student level and making adjustments for next year.

We are also analyzing the additional student performance data.  All KIPP schools administer national norm reference tests at the beginning and ending of each year to major growth.  So that we can benchmark progress vs. schools in the KIPP network.

Most KIPP schools take the computer adaptive MAP (Major of Academic Progress) test.

Based on preliminary data from these tests, our students made 1.4 grade levels of growth in math and about 1.0 grade levels of growth in reading.  This math figure is very solid; the reading figure needs to be a couple of notches better, given most of our students need to catch up to grade level.

And we also need to work harder to make sure that student learning is more directly visible through our FCAT scores.  And we need to do that in a manner that doesn’t unheathily over emphasize the FCAT.

We are in for the long haul.”

I have mixed feelings about the KIPP initiative.  First of all, KIPP is a charter school, and as such, receives some of the funding that would’ve gone to local public schools.  In these challenging economic times, every single dime counts.

If those dimes are spent on an alternative school that seems to be failing to produce adequate progress, I question the purpose of such an endeavor.

The emphasis on music and its connection to discipline seems to me to be a little bit gimmicky. But, if it works, it works. I just don’t see any hard evidence to support it, however.

To be entirely fair about it, the KIPP school is a new school. Perhaps they should be given time to see if their formula for success is viable.

What do you think?

Coming Tuesday: Changing Gears a Bit: Returning to a Familiar Category