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Jay on the Web: What's the Best Model for School Reform?

Dwayne Betts, a D.C. school teacher, has an interesting and thoughtful post on school reform on Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog over at The Atlantic. Betts has a small quibble with Jay Mathews, who profiled the Knowledge Is Power Program of charter schools, or KIPP, in his latest book, "Work Hard. Be Nice." Betts wants to know what happens to kids that aren't in these programs.

Kipp's model is a little different. David Levin and Michael Feinberg began working in the Houston schools with teach for america and when they weren't getting the support they expected - and after a few disturbing incidents that you can read in the article - they began Kipp. Kipp relies on rigorous standards and teachers who are willing to work longer hours and students who are in school for longer hours over longer periods of time and commit to two hours of homework each night. Kipp has been able to sustain achievement over the 19 states and 66 schools.
But this is the trouble with this manner of school reform - only a limited number of students have access to these kinds of programs. What of the other students? When Forman brings this question of pockets of success to Jay Mathews, author of Work Hard. Be Nice., a book about Kipp's history, contends that a school like Kipp proves the idea that kids from low income neighborhoods can't achieve success is a lie. The assumption behind his statement is that the underlying reason money, resources and time aren't put into public school systems is because the larger society sees them as hopeless. I tend to think a large number of the public, especially the educated public, believe this. It might very well be a false assumption but it seems the American myth of pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps infects many minds, to the point that Mathews would even assert that there is a need to "prove" students from low-income neighborhoods can succeed. But that's the narrative of the underdog - do it to prove you can do it is what people are sold again and again when the evidence says that the solution goes way beyond a lack of work ethic.

By Washington Post Editors  | July 8, 2009; 3:48 PM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags:  KIPP, The Atlantic  
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Next: Jay on the Web: Middle Class Children in KIPP


What they usually say involves two things where the quality over the quantity of students is a determining fact. First is the question, 'Teaching or babysitting?', and second, 'Who's paying the bills where the law is written so as to fall short before getting any money to spend?' Thus opening another stinky kettle of fish, we soon realize that if very poor children in war torn Africa can do better with free laptops, how does that affect any facts which arguably don't resolve the problem in the first place. How many are getting by on looks only? How about timely wiiticisms? Muscular development or martial arts? The list of the competition goes on. I don't even want to discuss music on this point. But push me and I may add more sarcasms mixed with History.

Posted by: hillhopper | July 9, 2009 7:53 PM | Report abuse

This just posted on the BBC: Sometime in the future someone will probably write a pulp novel (or pulp script) about the statistical unfairness of easy living. Easy living with it's instant answers and instant solutions. The monkeys and typewriters model which proposed that if an unlimited number of monkeys with an equal number of typewriters were given an unlimited amount of time, they would produce the greatest and least works of all ever done by men. Absurd problem. One might just as well say aliens from an unknown planet, or miracle children on science diets. The bootstrap theory is fundamental to the way a computer boots itself into the workable (for humans) operating systemm, and is probably a product of learning research itself. Yet an older version is still used in more remote and bucolic regions of this country. It is the hoisting up of oneself by one's own petard. Probably will outlive the bootstrap theory since that implies having boots and straps to begin with. Having a petard comes with life at birth. I enjoy watching the Pink Floyd concerts and the movie "The Wall". Show that and school will be out for lack of attendance.

Posted by: hillhopper | July 9, 2009 8:10 PM | Report abuse

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