Guest post by Jim Ryan
I’m a fan of KIPP schools and impressed by their performance, though I appreciate the points made by some critics regarding attrition and selection. I also admire the goal of KIPP schools to show that demography is not destiny and that all kids can learn.
But I’ve often wondered about KIPP and integration, either racial or socioeconomic.
Here’s the question, which I recognize is a little delicate: Would KIPP’s methods work in integrated schools? For example, would the famous SLANT method (sit up straight, listen, ask and answer questions, nod your head, track the speaker), work in schools where a substantial number of kids might not need instruction in how to interact with teachers or other adults?
Does KIPP’s approach, in short, depend on segregation?
Before anyone takes offense, I’m not suggesting, even for a second, that KIPP schools are designed to perpetuate segregation or that they have this effect. I’m just curious if the methods of the school would work if the schools were more diverse, especially socioeconomically. If KIPP’s methods are, in part, explicitly designed to teach poorer students what (most? many?) middle-class students learn at home, would KIPP schools have to change if middle-class students attended them? Or would all kids benefit from the same methods, even if for some it was old news?
In thinking about that question, I wonder if it’s worth considering the experience of urban Catholic schools. Sure, there is a religious component to those schools, but the emphasis on discipline, high standards, buy in from students and parents, etc., does not seem much different from the KIPP approach. Catholic schools, for a long time, were attractive to lower- and middle-income white families, including many families who were not Catholic. Might KIPP be as well?
If so, why are KIPP schools not becoming more diverse more quickly?