KIPP school leader rejects charge of narrow teaching
Last week an erudite reader of this blog who signs on as mcstowy posted a provocative comment in response to a column of mine on the KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) schools. He quoted from the Web site of the KIPP middle school in Lynn, Mass., as evidence of what he said was KIPP's failure to encourage imaginative, independent thinking.
I told him I would ask the leader of that school, Josh Zoia, to reply. You will find Zoia's response below, but first the quotes from the KIPP Lynn Web site cited by mcstowy:
"KIPP Academy Lynn Charter School will create an environment where the students of Lynn will develop the academic skills, intellectual habits and character traits necessary to maximize their potential in high school, college and the world beyond."
"Students learn to be active participants in the classroom by following the SLANT motto: Sit up straight, Listen, Ask and Answer questions, Nod your head if you understand, Track the speaker (i.e. make eye contact), whether that speaker is a fellow student or a teacher."
"Academic Skills - Calculate accurately - Read fluently - Write effectively - Comprehend fundamental knowledge."
"KIPP Academy Lynn will relentlessly focus on high student performance on standardized tests and other objective measures."
Mcstowy said: "Note: Nothing about intellectual creativity, critical thinking, imagination, reflection, or independent thinking. Nothing of cultural diversity or tolerance. Nothing about the value of the individual or freedom of conscience. I've compared the KIPP (and Teach For America/New Teachers Project) philosophy to Bureau of Indian Affairs schools. Ira Socol has made the comparison to the British colonial schools. Both models emphasized, as does the KIPP philosophy quoted above, that the students were members of an inferior culture that needed to be civilized and assimilated. The education provided emphasized the skills and values needed to survive (not prosper) in the dominant culture, but never, ever to question it."
Mcstowy, in another post, said the KIPP Lynn Web site "describes a philosophy that provides the barest semblance of an education while enforcing a behavioral program aimed at ensuring a docile underclass." It was, he said, "a punitive mission statement that claims it has a method of controlling the children of the dangerous poor (Much like the philosophy of the first juvenile courts in the early 1900's; poor immigrant children could only be 'saved' if they were removed from their families so that the corrupting influence of their parents could be overcome.)" The site seemed designed to "attract interest from corporate and wealthy donors," he said.
I told mcstowy that picking quotes off of a Web site was a poor way to judge any school. I recommended he visit KIPP Lynn. There is also a new, independent research paper on the school. But I promised to post Zoia's reply as soon as I received it. Here it is:
"I apologize for the delayed response. I have been focused on opening a new HS next year, applying for a K-4 in Lynn, applying for a K-8 in Boston, building a 26 million dollar facility and trying to do right by our kids! I haven’t had anyone question how we present our students on our website before. I looked over it. There is definitely room for improvement. As with anything, if you look at things in isolation, you can draw almost any conclusion you want.
"With that I just can’t understand how a person could draw the conclusion, 'a punitive mission statement that claims it has a method of controlling the children of the dangerous poor (Much like the philosophy of the first juvenile courts in the early 1900's; poor immigrant children could only be 'saved' if they were removed from their families so that the corrupting influence of their parents could be overcome.) on its website in an effort to attract interest from corporate and wealthy donors' from our website …
"What I do know is the following:
"In our mission statement it talks about maximizing the potential of ALL of our students.
"We had a 2.8% student attrition rate last year…the lowest in the KIPP network and one of the lowest in the charter school space.
"We have 150 parents (over half) engaged in our adult education classes. We keep the school open until 9:00 at night 3 nights per week for English classes, computer classes in both English and Spanish as well as a citizenship class.
"We offer recess every day and have 20 different elective offerings including sports teams, several types of dance … African dance, a step team, a Latin Dance team, and Jazz dance, as well as art, music, Tae Kwon Do and yes knitting.
"All students are part of an advisory with 12 or less students that meets at least 2 times per week so each kid gets a personal touch.
"But most importantly, fun is one of our core operating values. You see it and feel it in every classroom throughout the day. So the best answer is that he needs to come and see our school in action before casting judgment. It is possible to interpret our website in a negative way if that is what you are bringing to the table, but that is not what is happening every day at our school."
| October 13, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories: Jay on the Web | Tags: KIPP Lynn, KIPP day is full of art, KIPP school leader Josh Zoia replies, blog reader mcstowy suggests KIPP teachers prepare students for domination, music and fun, school is growing
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