Responding to Criticisms of KIPP
There’s a discussion of KIPP’s drawbacks and merits in the comments section of the Talk of the Day blog. One of the comments links to a San Francisco education blog, which criticizes KIPP on three points:
1. Attrition, especially among male students. In other words, some students try KIPP and then find it’s not for them. KIPP requires long hours in school and a tremendous commitment, so it’s not surprising that some students choose not to stay. In general, boys have fallen behind girls academically and are dropping out at higher rates. So, KIPP isn’t immune to that problem. But the fact that KIPP isn’t for everyone doesn’t mean that no one should be able to choose KIPP.
2. Discipline. When KIPP students act out, they have to sit on a special bench away from their group and then write a letter of apology. (At least, that’s the policy at the particular KIPP school the blogger is writing about.) That might seem harsh, but KIPP schools accept kids who have failed in inner-city schools and may have behavior problems. Ideally, kids will behave and won’t need discipline. But if they’re disruptive, separating them temporarily could be a reasonable way to teach them which actions won’t be tolerated while maintaining an orderly learning environment for their classmates. Most importantly, KIPP schools are up-front about classroom procedures and make both students and parents sign contracts that they will abide by the rules. Families that want a softer discipline system don’t need to send their kids to KIPP.
3. Lack of mindless adherence to arbitrary grade levels. OK, that’s not exactly what the blogger says, but that’s the gist of it. KIPP schools assign students to grade levels based on academic achievement, so a student who enters KIPP in seventh grade could be assigned to a sixth-grade class. In other words, kids study in groups of students with similar abilities, and aren’t forced to struggle in classrooms where everyone else’s achievement level is a grade or more ahead. I don’t see the problem. If grade level is important to parents, they won’t choose KIPP.
No one is suggesting that all students should attend KIPP, or that KIPP’s unique educational approach is right for everyone. But SLPS isn’t right for everyone either. St. Louis students should be able to choose.