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How to end a dispiriting fight over learning time

By Jay Mathews

Here in Washington, well-meaning advocates of after-school programs are fighting with well-meaning advocates of longer school days over a big pot of federal money. It distresses me, but does not surprise me, to discover that their arguments seem to have more to do with clout in Congress than the well-being of the schoolchildren they say they are trying to help.

I have a solution. But first, let's examine the dispute.

A couple of weeks ago, my blogger colleague Valerie Strauss embraced the after-school program side of the argument and ran a piece by Jodi Grant, executive editor of the nonprofit Afterschool Alliance. "Research doesn't support the notion that kids automatically learn more if they sit longer in a classroom each day," my colleague declared. "Quality after school programs that engage kids in learning in ways different from the regular classroom experience have been shown to work wonders."

They made a good case, almost. They didn't mention that the highest-performing charter school networks have data showing that longer school days can have very beneficial effects. Charter school organizations such as KIPP, Uncommon Schools, Achievement First and YES have rejected the idea of cooperating with separate after-school programs and instead pay their teachers more so that they will stay an extra two or three hours each day to deepen and broaden the coordinated lessons that will determine each child's academic success. They don't have to persuade the after-school people to cooperate. They do everything themselves, including after-school sports and cultural activities.

The two sides are fighting over $1.25 billion in federal funds that have until now been reserved for after-school programs. The Obama administration wants to allow school districts, if they choose, to use some of that money instead to make school days longer.

Each side refers to studies that make the other side look bad. The longer-school-day people cite an old Mathematica study that made after-school programs appear so ineffective that, when I wrote about it, after-school devotee Arnold Schwarzenegger (before his governorship) called me to complain. At first I thought somebody was playing a joke, but it was the Terminator, deeply annoyed.

The after-school people in turn offer a March 2010 study by Abt Associates prepared for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. It looked at 22 public schools providing an additional 300 hours a year under the Massachusetts Expanded Learning Time program. Abt found no statistically significant gains in test scores the first two years except in fifth-grade science.

The research, and my experiences, suggest that teaching skill does more to raise achievement than increased learning time. But the length of the school day and year seems to have some effect. We lag behind nations with higher achievement rates in instructional hours per year---just 799 for us compared to 861 for Finland, 1,079 for South Korea and 926 for Japan, according to school time expert Elena Silva of the Education Sector think tank.

Both sides in the debate have impressive statistics in their favor. A 2007 study involving University of California and University of Wisconsin scholars and funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation reported gains of 20 percentiles in math achievement for elementary school students "who regularly attended the high-quality afterschool programs." Those were 35 after-school programs the researchers picked as the best out of 200 possibilities.

On the longer-school-day side, we have programs such as KIPP, whose charter middle schools usually have nine-hour school days that last until 5 p.m., plus required three-week summer school and many Saturday sessions. A survey of KIPP students who completed the middle school program showed a 42 percentile gain in math and a 28 percentile gain in reading over four years.

Yet each side acts as if the other has nothing going for it. In her piece on the Answer Sheet, Grant said there is "little or no evidence to show that lengthening the school day alone has a significant impact on student achievement." In an e-mail to me, a leader on the longer-school-day side says, "there has been very little evidence that voluntary after-school programs can drive academic gains of any scale."

Really? Please notice that the favorable data each side emphasizes comes from after-school and longer school day programs of the best sort -- high-quality after-school programs and high-performing charter schools. Gains appear unimpressive or nonexistent when all schools providing longer school days or after-school programs are assessed.

Why don't the fine people leading these organizations look for a sensible way to divide up the $1.25 billion and make sure it is spent ONLY on programs that have the quality factors associated with achievement gains?

That will of course be dismissed as unworkable and discouraging to programs that need time to develop their staffs and procedures. The people asking for a 30-minute increase in the D.C. public school day, for instance, know that there is little evidence of achievement gains from such a small change in instructional time, but they don't have the funds for more and hope that, in time, that small step will lead to more increases.

Such wishful thinking has gotten many other school-fixing measures in trouble. It would be refreshing if both the after-school and longer-school-day people took seriously their own research and agreed to share the Obama administration's money. The rule would be it could only go to programs that had the skilled staff and sensible rules shown to have produced success.

Okay, I know -- that might be a first on Capitol Hill. But these school innovators are very smart and caring. Chris Gabrieli, chairman of the National Center on Time & Learning and a longer school day advocate, says he likes the idea. If anyone can make this happen, they can. They just have to use their time wisely.

Read Jay's blog every day, and follow all of The Post's Education coverage on Twitter, Facebook and our Education Web page.

By Jay Mathews  | November 12, 2010; 5:30 AM ET
Categories:  Trends  | Tags:  afterschool programs, each praises studies showing the best of their programs succeed, each trashes the other's research, longer school days, two sides in increased learning time debate fight over $1.25 billion in federal funds, why not agree to fund just those high quality programs?  
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Please also include that charter schools require parental involvement--a big factor in student achievement.

The general public is under the impression that charter schools operate just like public schools--THEY DON'T!!!

Charters select the students who enroll. Public schools MUST TAKE ALL STUDENTS WHO ARE IN BOUNDARY.

Charters can AND DO dismiss students and send them back to their neighborhood public schools for any number of reasons--usually be behavior. By law, public schools MUST EDUCATE ALL STUDENTS even when there are serious behavior issues which prohibit other students in the classroom from learning.

If public schools could operate with the same parameters, we would see a drastic improvement.

In fact, if you study the history of charter schools, this is what they were intended to be: alternative schools which would ease the "burden" on neighborhood public schools. Charters would find new ways of educating "difficult to educate" students. That was Shanker's vision. However, it has become a nightmare.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | November 12, 2010 8:28 AM | Report abuse


Did you conveniently forget to mention that the Obamastash is only made available to Title I schools?


Posted by: lisamc31 | November 12, 2010 8:51 AM | Report abuse

"They didn't mention that the highest-performing charter school networks have data showing that longer school days can have very beneficial effects." Jay Mathews

And there are many more public schools who are successful within the traditional school day.

The success with the longer school day in charter schools may have less to do with what is going on in the school than what would be going on outside of school. One can argue the pros and cons of charters vs. public schools, but, in essence what charter's are doing is extending control over students, acting as secondary parents. My job is not to assume parental responsibilities for my students. It says more about our society than public schools if that is philosophy we need to adopt. the comparison's often made between public schools in America and those in other countries...the comparison's usually focus on one or two statistics. Left out are variables that define those societies: Personal attitudes, along with the way the people are governed, respect for teachers, real planning time given to those professionals, the importance of being educated, etc. contribute to those statistics.

Finally, money. We can talk about teacher salaries/merit pay, paying teachers for longer days and a longer school year, but the fact is...the $$$ just ain't there. And until it is, those discussions are going nowhere. Teacher's are always the ones who see their salaries frozen and their benefits cut when a special project comes before city government. In my city, teachers, police, and firefighters haven't had a raise in 3 years and have only seen a 1.5% inc in 5 years. And the city has taken over $16M from the school's in the last 2 years to balance their budget.

We are wasting alot of valuable time discussing pie-in-the-sky ideas about what is best for students. The literal bottom line is: Supportive parents, respected qualified teachers, competent leadership, and a society that doesn't just pay lip service to education but truly sets education as a priority...not an after thought.

Posted by: ilcn | November 12, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Rather than re hash the debate about Kipp and its likes selecting for students who are more likely to be successful, could you at least acknowledge that in "Real" science control groups are never self -selected.

Posted by: mamoore1 | November 12, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

But Jay, are these high performing charter schools counseling children out who do not do well? That's the issue.

If the high performing charter schools are having the lower performing students leave, of course their after school program will be successful.

Posted by: jlp19 | November 12, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

I don't see how the expereince of charter schools, even if one acceptes their self-promotional studies, are applicable to this debate. Charters are a niche in education that is appropriate for some students, but to suggest their experience as a model for public education is like suggesting that because some students grades improve when they (choose any) take up an instrument, play a sport, join the scouts, study a martial art, study a language, start painting, volunteer at the animal shelter, play chess, etc., etc., etc…, therefore EVERYONE should…(choose any of the above). We have other niche schools that may be appropriate for some, self-selected students: religious schools, same-sex schools, military schools, boarding schools, performing-arts schools, self-directed learning schools, Montessori, schools without walls, even homeschooling. None of them could appropriately be adopted to a large school district and applied to all children. They are specialty schools with no legitimate claim to having an “answer” that could succeed beyond their walls and their student body. On the other hand, as I’ve mentioned before, there are many, ready examples of inner-city PUBLIC schools that have been successful: Richmond Virginia public schools have gone from being one of the worst in the state in 1999, to matching or exceeding wealthy, suburban counties like Fairfax on the states SOL’s since the mid-2000’s. Brockton, MA High School is among to best in the state after once having the worst graduation rate in the state. If you’re looking for best practices for public schools, look to successful public schools, not specialty schools like Lyman Ward, Andover, Sacred Heart or KIPP. I will say this, a 9-hour school day would be a disaster for my kids. You're welcome to it for yours.

Posted by: mcstowy | November 12, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the comments. We have been over this before, but it is worth rehashing.

For UrbanDweller---Charter schools do NOT select the students they enroll. They must take all that apply, and if there is a surplus of apps, must pick via a random lottery. I accept the possibility that there are charters that dismiss and send back to regular schools a lot of kids, although I have yet to see that documented, and would be happy to write about evidence of that. I do know, however, that the KIPP schools DO NOT do this except for extreme cases of a kid who is a threat to other kids. Keep in mind that regular public schools dismiss kids all the time and send them to the special schools maintained for behavior problems. It appears that KIPP, and a few of the other high functioning charters, do this far less often than the regular schools in their neighborhoods, but I have seen no data on this. The charter schools pick their kids thing is an Internet myth that I hope readers of this blog will help kill.
At KIPP schools, the parental involvement required is minimal. If you look at the whole picture, KIPP parents need to be LESS involved than parents at regular schools. KIPP parents have to provide much less day care because the school hours are so long. They do not have to help with homework--the kids call their teachers for that. The only thing they have to do is make sure the kid gets to school, and gets picked up, and in many cases that is a burden that regular school parents also bear.

For Lisamc31---I didn't think it was worth mentioning. The only kids that usually need and arent getting the extra time they need to learn are low income kids. You think Scarsdale High is bereft that it can't get federal funding for after school programs?

For ilcn---If you know of a regular public school that gets the same results with the same population of students that KIPP gets, please tell me about it. It would make a great column.

For mamoore1--- Please tell me a little more of what you are talking about. The control group in the KIPP Lynn study, and in the upcoming Mathematica KIPP study, as well as the Carolyn Hoxby study of NYC charters, were not self selected, but were those students not selected for admission in a randomized lottery.

For jlp29---KIPP and the other high performing charters I have studied are NOT counseling students out, and none of the independents studies of KIPP say they are. They want every kid, no matter how far behind, to stay because they believe, and I know the teachers well enough now to know their belief is sincere, they have a much better chance of raising that kid's achievement than any other school. As I have said, some parents take their kids out because they think KIPP is too tough academically, despite KIPP pleas that they not do that. The only kids that KIPP expels, and they are very few, are those that proved to be a danger to other kids. At KIPP DC last year that was 1 percent of their 900 middle schoolers.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | November 12, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

I follow Jay's posts quite closely. I'm a math teacher in a tough school in Las Vegas. I'm curious about the types of parents who bring their children to KIPP, if they are any different from parents in the school I teach at. I have incredible control of classes I'm teaching. I'm using a lot of the techniques in books like Teach Like a Champion, which I think I've seen Jay support. But I can't get the horses to drink the water. So we still have incredibly low test scores. So I always wonder if the parents of kids at KIPP are a little different. I have had counseling sessions where parents are afraid to take the cell phone away from the kid, and who have said they have tried everything and have given up. It's almost as if they have no authority over their kids, and the kids rule the roost. So I'm wondering if KIPP attracts these kinds of parents too, and maybe they have programs to train parents to re-establish authority which is why they are so successful.

Otherwise, if this is not the case, the only solution I see for troubled public schools, which is a pie in the sky idea, (why I don't know), is meaningful, interesting, beautiful curriculum, the kind that geniuses would chase after, but on the kid's level, where the focus is reasoning rather than recall, with a textbook to support it. The minute chances I've had to slip in curriculum like that seems to completely change the students, even the most troubled. Dan Meyer puts it best in his video Math Class Needs a Makeover. He says, "I sell a product to a market that doesn't want it, but is forced by law to buy it." And I think this goes for all subjects. Why not learn to become like Shakespeare rather than recalling that this is a metaphor or senechdoche. Why not learn to be a newsreporter right at the outset? Why not learn how to be creative and use your reasoning skills. The only reason I see this not happening is either bureaucracy, politics, or some extremely unscrupulous people at the top. These kids aren't dumb. They rebel against the falseness of what's heaped on them.

Posted by: Playitagainsam | November 12, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

A great post from Playitagainsam---You havent described the culture of yr school, the support you get or dont get in setting rules of behavior, of doing homework, of all the stuff that parents in the burbs insist on, or at least try to. I think the KIPP parents are mostly just like yrs, but they get better because the school, the whole school, from principal on down, backs up their best instincts. And that's when good curriculums succeed too.
Please comment again on this.
we love input from real teachers in real classrooms.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | November 12, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

As to KIPP "creaming" and attrition, KIPP could easily silence this debate by allowing an independent audit of its student population. In the absence of that, here are numbers from the KIPP schools in California from the Dept. Of Ed. via a study by SRI International (
"Of the students who entered fifth grade in 2003-04, 24 percent left KIPP during or immediately following fifth grade. Similarly, 18 and 12 percent of students
who entered in fifth grade left during or immediately following sixth and seventh grade, respectively, and 6 percent left during eighth grade. Overall, 60 percent of students who had enrolled in fifth grade left KIPP before the end of eighth grade." (p.13)

"On average, those who leave KIPP before completing eighth grade have lower test
scores on entering KIPP than those who stay." (p.15)

Please note, this was a report that was generally supportive of the KIPP schools, but the attrition rates were undeniable.

Posted by: mcstowy | November 12, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

The afterschool community embraces the value of additional learning time and supports piloting programs that expand learning time during the school day. We strongly believe that this additional time should be used in ways that innovate, involve community and faith based partners, offer opportunities for hands-on engagement, and strive to motivate and engage children, complementing rather than replicating the traditional school day.

The cost to lengthen the school day is incredibly expensive. Using the Massachusetts’ model, for each school that lengthens its school day, seven afterschool programs will lose their funding. Instead of working together to advance opportunities and create quality programs for more children, this creates a situation where federal dollars that are now shared by many communities will be given to a much smaller number of schools. Working parents and children in the communities that lose out will struggle to find new places for their children to be safe and inspired after the school day ends.

In the end, we’re working for the same thing: Strong schools, strong teachers, strong families, and strong quality programs that will put all our children and youth on the road to success in work and life, and help ensure our nation’s strength and competitiveness in the future through extended learning opportunities. A vigorous debate about how best to get there in the real world is healthy – and so is a focus on what is best for all our children and families.
Jodi Grant, Executive Director
Afterschool Alliance

Posted by: jgrant3 | November 12, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

I had to go back over your conclusions three times: is your solution that after-school-profiteers and longer-day-profiteers should "agree to share the money"? You know they come into the building and end longstanding activities like school papers and drama club, don't you? They don't seem inclined to share.

I'm thinking about the response I got when I asked for after school transportation to our salt marsh for my environmental service club - is there some way I could get $3000 of that money, for ten field work days this spring?

How about letting the Title I schools just have the money for our own after school activities? We could offer athletics, without even fees. Two years ago, our gymnastics team worked well for college references for our street-dancer culture minorities, and we won some regional championships. They shut it down, to make way for gym club entrepreneurs from San Diego, but then when the grant to get tax $$$ for them fell through, there was nothing at all left for the kids.

I love "after-school community" profiteers like After School Alliance the most - they are a marketing association all dressed up in child advocacy costumes.

My superintendent is leading the drive for a public-private partnership, and he took the precaution of shutting down our after school activities last year, so we would be prepared to demonstrate a need for the federal $$$. His private partners always know what direction public money will flow, and are there ahead of it, with baskets and buckets.

Posted by: mport84 | November 12, 2010 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Jay, please get your facts straight. Charter schools DO interview students and their parents--at least KIPP schools do. One of my best friends is an asst. principal at a KIPP school so I know this for a fact. One parent is required to come to the interview. Besides this, KIPP and other charter schools are already ahead of the game with the kinds of students and parents they attract. If a parent is enrolling their children in a charter school then they already have a greater interest in their child's education than many (not all so don't everyone jump all over me!) parents at regular public schools.

Just for kicks, ask KIPP schools in DC how many special ed. and English language learners they serve out of the total enrollment in KIPP DC schools. That data will tell you something.

As for regular public schools dismissing students all the time...that's only for serious, violent behavior. I know. I teach in Anacostia. Expelling a student is rare.

As for parents being less involved: same in regular public schools. Parents at regular public schools can drop their kids off for "before care" and kids can stay for "after care." Most schools, kids can be there from 7:30 a.m. until about 6:00 or 6:30 p.m.

The operative word is "required" when talking about parental involvement. Students at KIPP schools sign a contract. I'm not sure if the parents do or not but I can find out.

Bottom line is that charters and public schools are NOT equal so please don't try to paint the picture that they are and that the only real difference is better teachers at charter schools because that simply isn't true.

As for longer school days at charters: yes, but the teachers get far more planning time and that time is guaranteed unlike the 45 minutes/day in regular public schools which many times teachers don't get because one of the special teachers is absent. That time is lost. Teachers are supposed to get paid for that lost time according to the collective bargaining agreement but they rarely see the money.

You might want to draw a distinction between the policies of charter schools and then what is actually practiced.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | November 12, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

We appreciate this article and the opportunity it provides to discuss the afterschool/extended day “debate.” As the piece suggests, quality and results should be the primary considerations when it comes to learning, and we should all advocate for the things that make a difference for kids: sufficient time, quality programs (with excellent school-day and community educators) that lead to real results, and the community resources necessary to provide them.

The best “expanded learning opportunities” (ELOs) can include high-quality afterschool and summer programs, as well as extended day and year programs. But they have to live up to the principles that expand when, where, and how kids get the academic and youth development opportunities they need for success in school, work, and life.

This does not happen by accident. First, the best programs provide enough time for meaningful learning through support, enrichment, and acceleration opportunities. Second, the best programs do learning differently. We know “more of the same” does not produce results, particularly for at-risk youth. High-quality programs expose youth to new subjects, skills, and mentors, and give them opportunities to learn and grow in ways that are unique from the traditional school day.

Finally, the best programs tap the expertise of community educators and resources, because most schools and school systems cannot do everything themselves, nor should they have to. While it may be true that high-performing charter schools “do everything themselves, including afterschool sports and cultural activities,” it is unclear that such an approach is realistic, sustainable, or scalable across public school systems.

Our collective focus should be on what kids need: enough time for engaged learning, opportunities to learn and get support in any number of school and community settings, and exposure to caring adults from all walks of life. This should not be about choosing one model or approach over another, because if done right, both afterschool programs and expanded day programs are capable of ensuring student success.
Sanjiv Rao
New York State Afterschool Network

Posted by: srao1 | November 12, 2010 9:35 PM | Report abuse

Hello, NYSAN.

Jay, do srao1 and jgrant3 represent the two "sides" of this "debate", who are supposed to achieve a truce by agreeing to divvy up our public education money between them? Or, are they two faces of one marketing drive for their hidden for-profit partners?

I challenge you to follow the public after-school money to its final for-profit pockets in New York State, as it passas through the corrupted bowels of BOCES to be digested. There is no way to do that.

We accord non-profit service groups freedom from public financial oversight on the premise that they are spending their own donated money. We exempt them from democratic political control on the premise that they do not wield the coercive power of the state. The monstrosity that calls itself a "public-private partnership" violates our trust on both accounts.

No assocation that won't even disclose its actual clients is deserving of the public trust. This "partnership" with elected and appointed public guardians is a coordinated effort to sieze private control of public resources, through institutionalized string-pulling and self-dealing. Before we hand our governance over to them, we have to wrap our minds around the new form of control they exert. Daylight, transparency and simple truth are our only defense against systematic financial corruption and the twisting of public policy for private gain.

Here is the spin from NYSAN's website,

"New York State Afterschool Network (NYSAN) is a public-private partnership of organizations…"

"NYSAN provides a forum for public and private sector partners at the state and local levels to work together to develop public policies … creates communication channels, shares information and promotes a common policy agenda among afterschool stakeholders."

We have an "association" like that in Massachusetts, too. At a campaign fundraiser, my own clueless Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, asked me, "How could we have all these for-profit contracts in the schools and nobody even knows about it?"

Bless his heart, as my Grandma would have said.

Posted by: mport84 | November 13, 2010 6:17 AM | Report abuse

Jay didn't think it was "worth mentioning" that this entire topic only applies to Title I schools. Did it ever occur to you, Mr. Mathews, that probably 90% of your readers have children who are NOT attending Title I schools? Did it ever occur to you that those of us in non-Title I schools who want after school activities have to pay even higher school taxes to provide those activities?

I for one, am damn sick and tired of this class warfare being perpetrated by Progressives like Jay and WAPO.

Posted by: lisamc31 | November 13, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

I urge anyone who's interested in "education reform" to read John Merrow's opinion piece and google the two movies he writes about. This is what real education is!

Posted by: chicogal | November 13, 2010 9:57 PM | Report abuse

The usual school day has lots of wasted time; both on non-academic activities (assemblies, announcements etc) and on inefficient instructional methods (groupwork, discovery learning), and is likely to use weak curricula. Better curricula in math, reading and the disciplines would help, as would more effective instruction. However,what really might help would be specific instruction in the behaviors and habits that enable success; self-control, hard work, delayed gratification, good manners, organization and specific academic expectations. That used to be the norm, both in public and private schools. I remember a relative being introduced to the "Puritan/Protestant work ethic" in college and realizing that his Catholic ES (many first-generation immigrants whose parents had little education) was based on it; it just didn't use the term. Middle-class families already teach and reinforce these behaviors, but at the lower SES levels, the habits and practices that enable success in school and in life are notable by their absence. Dysfunctional behaviors and bad choices are the norm; if kids are to do better, they need instruction in and reinforcement of desirable practices.

Posted by: momof4md | November 14, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Jay insipidly asks:

"You think Scarsdale High is bereft that it can't get federal funding for after school programs?"

"Bereft"? Bereft of what, minorities? Yeah, it is, so WHAT? It's not a Title I schools and therefore it is not "entitled" to Federal funding for "innovative programs".

Why don't you conduct a survey on how much parents in wealthier districts spend on Math tutors? Forget about after-school activities. I think you would be shocked.

Posted by: lisamc31 | November 14, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Lisa is right; there's a LOT of tutoring of kids in "good, successful" schools, in the DC area (like the ones my kids attended) and in areas like Scarsdale (50% of the first-graders is the number a resident told me). Whether it's by parents, by private tutors or by Kumon etc, it's driven by the really, really poor curriculum choices and instructional methods in reading, math, grammar and composition. The latter two topics are likely to be all but ignored; Writer's Workshop concerns itself with neither. The schools take credit for the kids who do well but they are either really naive or deliberately unaware of the out-of-school interventions that enabled their success. As far as the administration is concerned, I put them firmly in the latter category; they don't want any awkward questions asked.

Posted by: momof4md | November 14, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

For the record - the New York State Afterschool Network (NYSAN) does not represent any for-profit entities, nor do we compete for any of funding that is the subject of Mr. Mathews piece (or any other public funding, for that matter).

Our vested interest in this debate is what works best for kids, so we try to find and advance the common ground across public and nonprofit groups that fund, support, and/or advocate for effective high-quality afterschool programs and expanded learning opportunities.

Posted by: srao1 | November 15, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

For mcstowy---As I have pointed out several times, the Bay Area KIPP drop off figures were an anomaly from several years back, caused in at least one case because KIPP had to move the location of a school to the other side of Oakland. KIPP has been allowing independent groups to audit its student data for several years. It is by far the most studied charter school chain, and there will be more data coming from the big Mathematica study.

For UrbanDweller---You said:

Jay, please get your facts straight. Charter schools DO interview students and their parents--at least KIPP schools do. One of my best friends is an asst. principal at a KIPP school so I know this for a fact. One parent is required to come to the interview.

I plead guilty to sometimes getting facts wrong, although I try to prevent that by showing everything I write to my sources before publication, and when I do slip, I own up to it. But in the case of KIPP, I almost always know what I am talking about because I have had a lot more time to investigate than other reporters and the erudite readers of this blog.
KIPP leaders DO interview families, but the timing of those interviews is crucial, and you don't mention that in yr post. They interview the families AFTER they have been admitted to the school. And they usually don't demand that parents come to the interview. The KIPP practice is to go to the families' home. The purpose of the interview is to get to know the family in the most comfortable setting, and to explain how the school works. And they do have the family sign a contract, but as I said above it gives that family fewer obligations, such as not needing to help with homework, than they had at their regular school.
Your post leaves the impression that if the family says something wrong in the interview, they are not allowed into the school, the reverse of what is actually going on. That would be a violation of both the law and KIPP's purpose in having family interviews. They want to know the kid better.
Your view that the KIPP parents have to be better parents because they chose the school is shared by many, but there is so for little or no evidence for that, and I am skeptical. You teach in Anacostia, so you know that there are many parents with kids in regular schools who care deeply about their kids' educations, and choose the regular rather than a charter school because they know the regular school much better and have decided many of the teachers---I assume this would include you given yr good comments on this blog--are very good, and don't expect that the charter school teachers are any better (and in many cases they would be right.)
I did ask the KIPP DC people for their pecentage of special ed kids at their new high school. They had 29 kids with IEPs out of a total enrollment of 214. That's almost 14 percent. I am not sure what the percentage is in regular DC high schools these days, but 14 percent is not a negligible.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | November 15, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

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