KIPP and Catholic Schools

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?

138 Replies to “KIPP and Catholic Schools”

  1. I agree that this is an important question to consider but one that is largely untouched by the academy because its a political hot potato – and political correctness on the subject of ‘acting white’ is likely to come into play.

    Some very interesting work has been done in this area by Roland Fryer – the Harvard Economist – who because he is African American is able to ask some of these questions without being slammed a racist (at least not by everyone).

    The Importance of Segregation, Discrimination, Peer Dynamics, and Identity in Explaining Trends in the Racial Achievement Gap, March 12, 2010; forthcoming in the Handbook of Social Economics Volume 1.

    Fryer finds in his research that “getting good grades” and demonstrating exemplary behavior toward teachers and school leaders costs Black kids more in terms of peer acceptance than White kids, but that the condition is totally contingent upon the degree of integration in the school. The results are also robust to a myriad alternative specifications and suggest that these are questions policy-makers will have to think about.

    Though given our political leaders’ penchant for demagoguery on issues like busing, affirmative action, and diversity/integration I have little hope that the discussion will be serious. And I have no doubt that it will have a lot to do with “trolling for votes” and absolutely nothing to do with “what’s best for kids.”

  2. KIPP schools won’t work for white kids because their white parents wouldn’t put up with it for a second! And some of us think black parents shouldn’t put up with it either. But what else is an impoverished, concerned family going to do? If they want their kid to be in a “good” school, they must leave their poverty, even just for a few hours a day so they can enter the KIPP warehouse–and get whitened. It’s a white supremacist’s dream.

    Also, given the KIPP method of tossing out anyone who doesn’t conform, they clearly can’t scale anything up unless they provide a place for their rejects, which right now are the public schools. Not much of a plan.

    Your question illuminates the attitudes of people like you who apparently have no idea what you are talking about when it comes to schools, children, or the causes of poor academic performance. You love KIPP because KIPP means you don’t have to address the cause of the problem KIPP attempts to solve, namely Poverty.

    Instead of creating prison-like institutions such as KIPP, maybe we should consider making a more fair society so impoverished kids can have the same advantages as my kid.

    Equality. What an idea!

  3. I don’t think you need to hypothesize that segregation is necessary, but we should recognize that people make choices for all types of reasons, including their diverse personalities. I admire KIPP, and I’m an “authoritative traditionalist” type when it comes to discipline but an old hippie when it comes to instruction so I don’t know if KIPP would be for me.

    I was glad that thenofunzone had already addressed research included in the following:

    http://www.ets.org/Media/Research/pdf/PICBWGAP.pdf

    The new ETS study reinforces James Heckman’s stress on noncognitive skills.

    The sad fact is that neighborhood schools are not allowed to address noncognitive factors like the Catholic Church and KIPP. It has nothing to do with religion, and it is largely a legacy of political correctness. The Ed Trust et al. have won the battle arguing that schools should only address cognititive testable skills, and addressing the whole child is just an “Excuse” and “Low Expectations.” But school systems bought their arguement primarily because its cheap and easy. Just write a memo, tell teachers to do “whatever it takes” to build cognitive skills, and magically kids will rise to the challenge.

    But getting back to the diversity of personalities, that’s another reason why we need the full diversities of adult personalities in schools.

    Where I might disagree with Fryer, is that he’s describing dynamics that were real, but I think the trend has corrected itself. Hip hop, for instance, is now a much more constructive force. So, I don’t so much blame the attitudes of today’s kids. Neither do I blame busing, affirmative action etc., but the refusal of adults to talk about those issues.

  4. No, the KIPP approach would not likely work well at my school which is quite integrated. My school district might be somewhat unique in that generally speaking, the most problematic kids are mostly Anglo. My district covers a relatively affluent suburban area of single family homes and extends out to some more rural pockets of Central Texas. The district is maybe 50% Anglo, 25% Hispanic and 25% black but almost all the black and Hispanic kids are suburbanites from middle class or affluent communities. The parents of the black students I have are typically a mix of college professors, doctors, bank managers, city and school district employees. And a lot are retired military on 2nd careers (Fort Hood is just down the road). When mom is a retired Sergeant Major and principal at a neighboring high school you don’t even have to call home, only hint that you might.

    Now while a majority of the Anglo kids are also affluent suburbanites, there are some real pockets of rural poverty on the fringes of the district that are almost exclusively Anglo. People living with their guns and dogs in beat up trailers out in the scrublands. Some of the kids coming from those areas are really tough to handle. Dad might be a violent racist meth dealer who bounces in and out of prison. Mom might work at a bar at night and the kids are left to fend for themselves much of the time. Kids from those circumstances bring a LOT of baggage into school. And when I think back to the serious discipline problems I’ve had over the past 4 years, and the kids who must made me tear my hair out, they were almost exclusively Anglo.

    Would KIPP work in a school like mine? I seriously doubt it. A lot of it would be pointless and counter-productive as the kids are generally well behaved and more likely to be bored as anything else. Their lives are also regimented enough as it is with school, sports, music, church, and helicopter parents. Fostering creativity and independent thought are bigger concerns I think.

  5. “If they want their kid to be in a “good” school, they must leave their poverty, even just for a few hours a day so they can enter the KIPP warehouse–and get whitened. It’s a white supremacist’s dream.”

    Care to elaborate on what you meant by this statement, TFT? I fail to see what is “white” about the KIPP method? Is it scoring well on tests? Is it doing well in school? Is it following directions with good behavior and listening to adults? Is that “acting white?” … I don’t want to ASSUME that’s what you mean, but the statement is a bit obtuse so I’d be curious what you meant.

  6. “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?”

    What suggests that some students wouldn’t benefit from an added focus on this?

  7. KIPP relies on the premise that kids of color learn differently and require an almost prison-like atmosphere in order to be shaped into well behaved, unquestioning bots.

    KIPP founders, who are very white, seem to think the inner-city needs a good kick in the ass and some discipline, then they will act how they are supposed to act–like white kids, like KIPP founders did when they were in their nice, safe, white schools.

    So, when one lives in a hell hole, but has high hopes for their children and are aware of options, the only option they have, since we as a society choose to ignore poverty, is the KIPP military. A place where indiviaulism is shunned, “white” behavior is the model, and kids get booted because of their parents shortfalls.

    I call it a white supremacists dream because they would prefer to whiten everything, especially people of color. KIPP is a way to do that under the guise of helping primarily students of color.

    Maybe we would serve these impoverished communities better by providing things they need to reduce their poverty, like health care, and a fair wage, and for wealthy people to pay their share of taxes, and for business owners to set up shop in these neighborhoods–like say, Safeway, so these people can get some real food instead of the fast food that fills up these communities at the expense of grocery stores.

    You can ASSUME whatever you want.

    Relax and play your race card somewhere else.

  8. TFT your response is amazingly hypocritical. What is “white” about the behavior in KIPP schools? Specifically?

    “A place where indiviaulism is shunned, “white” behavior is the model, and kids get booted because of their parents shortfalls.”

    So shunning individualism is white? Discipline is white?

    We black folk want the same things white folk want. Safe, constructive environments where kids can learn to read and write and respect elders.

    Why don’t you relax and play your race card somewhere else.

  9. I just finished looking at your website. It strikes me that much of what you profess to support is actually being done within those nasty charter schools you seem intent on demonizing.

    Emphasis on non-cognative skills? Check
    Vocabulary & Core-knowledge focus? Check

    Yes high-quality early education would be great, but by the time they’re in middle school it’s too late to provide early education.

  10. (I really dislike Chris.)

    Charters are selective. In America, education is supposed to be publicly funded and available for every child. Charters make a mockery of that, regardless how much some people love them.

    Just because they may be good for some does not mean they are good for all. But you guys work that way–get yours, and screw the rest. That is the charter way. When KIPP tosses a kid, where does that kid end up? In a non-charter.

    My complaint, or for Chris, my trolling, is not that charter schools are bad at schooling, it’s that their bad at fairness. Which is why I say we need to look at root causes, not band-aids like KIPP and TFA.

    Yes Toby, by middle school it’s too late. No time like the present, then, to address poverty. We can provide universal health care and a free, high quality early childhood education for all American kids. That will do more than KIPP or TFA could ever hope to do.

  11. TFT:

    Descriptors like “prison-like environment” and “unquestioning bots” and “indiviaulism [sic] is shunned”, or inferences that high expectations translates into “a good kick in the ass and some discipline” make it sound like you, again, have no idea what you’re talking about, but are just saying it anyway to grate on people’s nerves or to garner attention (I will refrain from responding after this to quench that desire). I don’t know what else to call it other than trolling. Do you?

  12. Chris, that you can’t find the appropriate word to describe what you want to describe is not really something I can help you with, I don’t think. I certainly don’t think I am trolling. I am responding, maybe in a way you don’t like, but it’s not trolling. And I am far from the only person who thinks KIPP schools are how I describe them. Need links?

    I have visited KIPP schools. I know teachers who quit KIPP schools. I know kids who have left public schools to go to KIPP schools and then got kicked out of KIPP schools.

    KIPP schools are very militaristic.

    This: [sic] shows how you are a pedant.

  13. KIPP schools are designed to promote segregation, as US Catholic Schools were. But though they may appear superficially connected, there is a massive difference. US Catholic Schools were created and operated by the minority group in order to (a) make Irish immigrants “white” (see Ignatiev) while (b) preserving the Catholic religion. KIPP Schools are created and run by the white elites in order to (a) make Black and Latino kids “white” while (b) ensuring that Black and Latino kids do not get the same opportunities as wealthy white kids.

    Let’s just take “SLANT” – the white Calvinist indoctrination of non-white kids into Protestant notions of gaze and attention (see Sobe). This is the same indoctrination into white Protestant culture which too many American Catholic leaders embraced in the 19th Century (which is what drove the massive cultural wedge between Irish Irish and American Irish). Yet, even in US Catholic school it was softened by the Mass (with its opposition to single focus, and lack of dependence on print), and by Irish literature.

    Though in the US Catholic School there was a driving tension between the Irish and Catholic cultures on one side and white American “norms” on the other, in KIPP, minority culture is wholly wrong, and white attention systems are entirely “right.”

    In the end both are colonial legacies. Irish immigrants found themselves caught between the desire to become white and their non-Protestant culture. Today’s minority communities are offered their choice of KIPP/TFA or nothing at all for their kids.

    These are the choices forced upon people without power by societies which seek to keep them unequal forever.

  14. Ira Socol:

    You need to better substantiate this claim: “KIPP Schools are created and run by the white elites in order to (a) make Black and Latino kids “white” while (b) ensuring that Black and Latino kids do not get the same opportunities as wealthy white kids.”

    Why does “sit up straight, listen, ask and answer questions, nod your head, track the speaker” suggest “whiteness”?

    How is KIPP limiting opportunities of black and Latino students?

  15. A troll will post inflammatory and off-topic responses with the intent to disrupt the discussion and make people angry, for no other reason than to make them angry. Disagreeing with you and using terminology that you dislike, while still staying on topic, does not a troll make. Just FYI.

  16. The question really is, why doesn’t it to you, Chris?

    You really don’t see it. Neither does Toby, who is apparently black.

    From my friend’s perspective, who happens to be black, KIPP’s “way” is for kids to “act white” and shun their culture.

    I understand if you two don’t see that, as it takes a rather large view and some experience to see.

    If we simply addressed factors that lead to poverty we would see similar or greater gains in the wellbeing of the impoverished class (yes, they are a class. Moynahan is currently being vindicated).

    Imagine being black and seeing your fellow citizens pay their fair share of taxes, resulting in better services (that whites take for granted) in your neighborhoods, better materials at the local school, good jobs nearby, and places to buy decent food.

    KIPP founders think they are doing a service, and I suppose they are, but only to a point. But they do a disservice too. They de-culture people. They place demands on families Chris’s parents wouldn’t have allowed for their precious little boy or themselves. Besides, Chris’s family got where they are by their own savvy, intelligence and hard work!

    Oh, and they’re white.

  17. Purity:

    It’s more than disliking the terminology, it’s the fact that the terminology suggests he’s never seen a KIPP school before, or he has but chooses to post incendiary comments that challenge constraints of logic and/or what he actually might have seen. He needs to clarify what “prison-like” means to him, and how pushing for students to ask clarifying questions labels them as “unquestioning bots”, or why high expectations leads to a charge of “white supremacy”.

    And FYI, the responses need not be off-topic for it to be considered trolling.

  18. Chris, now you are trolling. Your comment has nothing to do with the post. Nothing. In fact, it’s all about me!

    While we’re trolling:

    What my terminology suggests to you, an intelligent, well educated, bright young man, has nothing to do with my terminology, it has to do with how you choose to interpret it, and you choose to interpret it erroneously. Or maybe you really don’t understand my complicated words. Here:

    Prison-like seems a simple concept, but I’ll clarify it for you. You see, in prison you have little freedom and you must do what you are told, or face serious consequences. You must line up and remain silent. Just like KIPP.

    Asking questions is not what makes them bots. It’s when they have to stand in line, hands at their sides, in their uniforms, waiting for their classmate to finish peeing, and they all better be quiet. It’s when they have to track their teacher with their eyes, and face some sanction for not doing so. It’s the squashing of spontaneity, free will and joy.

    School was fun for me, and probably for Chris too! Not so much these KIPP kids.

  19. TFT,
    Remember this about Chris’s arguments:

    https://www.eduwonk.com/2009/10/more-dc-3.html#comment-114670

    He wrote that one doesn’t need evidence to prove something to be true.
    Just saying it is enough.
    An absolute URL: So when Michelle Rhee, former leader of the New Teacher Project, puts out lies on her resume about her students’ progress and the acclaims she received from the national new media, Chris believes her in spite of the lack of evidence supporting her and, in fact, directly contradicting her.

    She said, he believes.
    (And he got quite agitated when I pointed that that’s the way creationists think.
    Perhaps he believes that if people associate fraud and Rhee with Teach For America, it will reflect poorly on him, another Teach For America alumni.)

  20. ed,

    Chris is young, smarmy, and a bit too bright for his britches. He’ll either grow up, get taken down, or remain the pedant he is and become one of America’s leaders. Unfortunately, I fear the worst.

  21. Chris:

    Though you are not likely to be convinced by what I say, the notion of “attention” you desire to force onto KIPP students is Calvinist, and Calvinist only. It is the essence of “whiteness” as that is expressed historically in the United States (citations for which are provided above). Why can’t a learner recline and look out the window while learning? Because John Calvin thought it was disrespectful. Why can’t communities learn in group conversation rather than listening to a “master”? Because John Calvin believed in a single truth transmitted through a hierarchy.

    Now, I assume you are not actually asking if elites created and run KIPP, obviously these are elite-designed projects for the poor. As for the purpose, well, why don’t the kids in KIPP schools get the same things that the kids in Scarsdale and River Forest get? Why don’t they get the creative education needed for the best jobs in this century? Is it because they are “genetically inferior”? Or because we won’t spend the time and money to get the best teachers? Or because we’re training them – as the British Empire did – to be “lesser whites” who will be “ok” but not challenge the children of the elite for the best jobs?

    http://www.openeducation.net/2008/12/11/ira-david-socol-on-teach-for-america-kipp-schools-and-reforming-education/
    http://speedchange.blogspot.com/2009/11/colonialism-of-michelle-rhee-or-tfa-v.html

  22. TFT:

    1) Look up the definition of “troll”. Or are we arguing “informally” and that’s acceptable?

    2) There’s no deep interpretation needed for assuming that “prison-like” means “little freedom… do what you are told… remain silent”. That is easily understood. What’s laughable is your argument applies as much to KIPP as it does to any other public school classroom. Every teacher in America expects that students will do what they are instructed to do (and face consequences appropriately), and will remain silent during certain parts of instruction. As in KIPP, however, students in various classrooms appreciate diverse strategies of instruction that are not just “sit and listen”. You ought to know this if you’ve done observations at a KIPP school before.

    3) “Track their teacher with their eyes” is a skill taught as early as kindergarten in most schools, and it is normally encouraged in all grades when the teacher is doing direct instruction (although many teachers will lower their expectations to allow a few students to not pay attention). Again, a lousy argument biased against KIPP.

    4) “It’s the squashing of spontaneity, free will and joy.” This makes a lot of faulty assumptions, like that students do not get to share these things when they are at KIPP, or that KIPP teachers are robots who are programmed with only one teaching strategy and seek out a way to promote a lifeless education for all.

    5) KIPP espouses white supremacy! …I just wanted to bring that gem up again.

  23. 1) We are arguing informally, sonny. BTW, I wanted to look it up, but I wasn’t sure which dictionary you would approve of, you little pedant.

    2) In non-KIPP schools, kids don’t get tossed for not adhering to a KIPP-style code of conduct. Charters are, shall we say, extra-legal in their ability to remove students. Traditional public schools can’t do that. They take, and pretty much keep, all comers.

    3) I have never, ever, in my nearly 30 years of working with children, heard any teacher talk about having student track the teacher with their eyes. We do teach young readers how to utilize text, and make clear about left to right, top to bottom on the page, but it is up to the teacher to be engaging enough to get their attention, not rely on young kids tracking the teacher with their eyes. Besides, it harkens back a “look at me, boy!” sentiment.

    4) You may think my assumptions are faulty, but they are not even assumptions. They are observations.

    5) As Ira and I both already pointed out to you, KIPP schools operate based on the assumption that kids of color are different and need different styles of pedagogy in order to be successful. Indeed, KIPP requires its students ignore who they are and conform to what KIPP thinks they should be–well dressed, well behaved, quiet, always paying attention to the authority without fail–and that is the white supremacist’s dream. The funny thing is, you are a lefty who buys this shit and thinks it’s just great!

    lagniappe) That you and many others are enamored of KIPP illuminates you, not some misunderstanding/trolling on my part.

  24. TFT, get a life. You sound like you are burned out. Have you ever been a part of something successful? Offer something productive — there must be something you can point to in 30 years — and you might be worth reading, but name calling and complaints is a waste of every one’s time.

  25. 1) If you’re still unsure of what “informal logic” entails, you really should stop referring to it. Again, also look up what “troll” means, if you’re still curious– Wikipedia is fine.

    2) You’re changing the argument again. If you are stepping down from the prison analogy, say so instead of ignoring the counterargument.

    3) That you have never, ever have seen it doesn’t make it so (again, authority claims don’t hold for long on the internet). Here are a few links for you to gander at, suggesting that increased eye contact pays off for students, and an example of maintaining eye contact in pre-K standards:

    1. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1475753?seq=4
    2. http://jrm.sagepub.com/content/29/3/209
    3. http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=15&ved=0CB8QFjAEOAo&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.sde.ct.gov%2Fsde%2Flib%2Fsde%2Fword_docs%2Fcurriculum%2FELA_Prek_8_GLEs_EDITED1.doc&ei=UgViTOXkKYXQsAPamOm8CA&usg=AFQjCNG-WHp3e2qU-Np_6kL_Pd18KbrjhA

    4) So you’ve observed that “all Kipp students do not experience joy”, and that “KIPP teachers are robots”. That would be funny if you weren’t actually serious about it.

    5) Both you and IRA neglected to substantiate the claim, and you are again avoiding it. You are suggesting that KIPP students are “ignoring who they are”, which I’m guessing you assume to be the opposite of “well dressed, well behaved, quiet, always paying attention to the authority without fail”.

    That KIPP promotes instructional strategies that have proven success in getting students to learn more does not imply that it is “whitening” the students, unless of course you make the asinine assumption above of what it means to be white and non-white.

    Furthermore, the mission of KIPP (“demographics do not define destiny”) is probably the polar opposite of any movement toward white supremacy, which I imagine would seek to reinforce achievement gaps, to culture students into becoming unthinking automatons, and in general to squelch any form of dissent to the notion that white students are the better, more deserving type of students. You’ve failed completely at supporting the claim that KIPP is doing any of that.

    Honestly, that you might genuinely feel that KIPP equates to white supremacy is a vile thought and I am disgusted to know that you are someone’s teacher.

  26. TFT:

    1) If you’re still unsure of what “informal logic” entails, you really should stop referring to it. Again, also look up what “troll” means, if you’re still curious– Wikipedia is fine.

    2) You’re changing the argument again. If you are stepping down from the prison analogy, say so instead of ignoring the counterargument.

    3) That you have never, ever seen it doesn’t make it so (again, authority claims don’t hold for long on the internet). Here are a few links for you to gander at, suggesting that increased eye contact pays off for students, and an example of maintaining eye contact in pre-K standards (add the http:// tag in front of each–links get lost in moderation):

    1. jstor.org/stable/1475753?seq=4
    2. jrm.sagepub.com/content/29/3/209
    3. google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=15&ved=0CB8QFjAEOAo&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.sde.ct.gov%2Fsde%2Flib%2Fsde%2Fword_docs%2Fcurriculum%2FELA_Prek_8_GLEs_EDITED1.doc&ei=UgViTOXkKYXQsAPamOm8CA&usg=AFQjCNG-WHp3e2qU-Np_6kL_Pd18KbrjhA

    4) So you’ve observed that “all Kipp students do not experience joy”, and that “KIPP teachers are robots”. That would be funny if you weren’t actually serious about it.

    5) Both you and Ira neglected to substantiate the claim, and you are again avoiding it. You are suggesting that KIPP students are “ignoring who they are”, which I’m guessing you assume to be the opposite of “well dressed, well behaved, quiet, always paying attention to the authority without fail”.

    That KIPP promotes instructional strategies that have proven success in getting students to learn more does not imply that it is “whitening” the students, unless of course you make the asinine assumption above of what it means to be white and non-white.

    Furthermore, the mission of KIPP (”demographics do not define destiny”) is probably the polar opposite of any movement toward white supremacy, which I imagine would seek to reinforce achievement gaps, to culture students into becoming unthinking automatons, and in general to squelch any form of dissent to the notion that white students are the better, more deserving type of students. You’ve failed completely at explaining how KIPP is doing any of that.

    Honestly, that you might genuinely feel that KIPP equates to white supremacy is a vile thought and I am disgusted to know that you are someone’s teacher.

  27. Chris,
    I’m not sure it serves this discussion for me to continue, but just for the sake of further clarification: Calling somebody a troll who is not trolling is simply name calling; and just because somebody disagrees with you, no matter how adamantly they make their case, does not make them a troll. I looked it up in Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_%28Internet%29

  28. Ira Socol made several excellent points, complete with a reference to Sobe. I think he assumed that writers here were familiar with basic sociological literature of e.g. Bourdieu, Foucault, the Frankfurt School people, the kind of thing that ought to have been gotten out of the way in grad school. That way when he mentions terms of art like the “gaze,” there should be some glimmer of recognition in those who are defending KIPP and SLANT.

    But no.

    This is pretty much what happened to me a couple of threads ago.

    After reading here for about a year, my impression is that the writers are generally in over their heads. They don’t seem to have mastery of any thick description of teaching (that is, they are generally reductive about it) at any level that I recognize, and they don’t seem to know much about theory. When it is mentioned, the points either pass by unrecognized or are sloughed off in a way that indicates that the writer lacks even the most general grasp of the argument.

    Mr. Smyr, your cut-and-paste “research” in your riposte with TFT does you no credit. In fact, it’s a prime example of what I’m writing about here. For example, your first link is to a 1971 article about the utility of eye contact. I think that you might agree that it’s total fluff, the sort of thing that gives educational “research” its bad name. The rest, so far as I can tell, is of of a piece. One of the links I could not make function.

    Compare this lightweight stuff to the depth of field in, just to pick an example out of the air, the classic essay on observation by Clifford Geertz “Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture”. In The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. (New York: Basic Books, 1973) 3-30, an essay that every teaching student still has to read and discuss so far as I know at my alma mater. Or take the correspondence between Adorno and Walter Benjamin. Or . . . we could go on.

    My question to the group is . . . what does it mean when the people who claim the mantle of leadership and the interpretation of data are not particularly suited for that office? When their argument is that, well, no one really thinks that there is a “conspiracy” (no one used that word) to destabilize and privatize public education, and so discussions of the larger policy implications of charter schools etc. ought to be out of bounds?

    What does it mean when teachers are called “trolls” by people who do not evince any particular charism to be an educator or even a grasp of the basic dialectic of what it means to be in a teacher?

  29. Purity:

    I appreciate that you want to clarify, but I disagree. Using the Wikipedia definition:

    “In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into a desired emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.”

    And also this:

    “The content of a “troll” posting generally falls into several areas. It may consist of an apparently foolish contradiction or common knowledge, a deliberately offensive insult to the readers of the news group or a broad request for trivial follow-up postings.”

    Inflammatory and extraneous are the key words here. It matters not if the person considers himself a troll. “Arguments” that can be described as inflammatory and extraneous, where some sort of extremist claim is leveled that not only denigrates a person or group, but that also proves impossible for the person to justify with some kind of factual evidence or logic, should be called troll postings. Even *IF* one thinks the posting was on-topic, the muddy nature of the claim and the inability of the poster to adequately defend the claim only soils the internet forum and lowers the possibility of actual thoughtful discourse. If the author knew full well that the tone of the posting was inflammatory and would likely disrupt/intercept a potential discussion with others across the aisle, particularly with little basis on which to make the claim, the word is justifiably used.

    The list of such postings runs LOOONG on this forum: Labeling KIPP as enablers of white supremacists; Reassuring others that TFA teachers have no dedication; Asserting that Andrew Rotherham is only in it for the money and doesn’t support students; Implying that reformers (and Rhee in particular) hate teachers. We just had another thread with all sorts of comments like these, with lots of vitriol and little desire for factual support. One might as well just repeatedly post, “Refomers hate America,” over and over again, as it would save readers time. These are all examples (albeit to different degrees) of troll postings. I understand that the definition is sometimes considered a subjective one, but honestly there shouldn’t be any one here who thinks any of these example claims aren’t both inflammatory and extraneous. They add absolutely nothing to the discussion, regardless what side one is perched.

    From my experience, there have been countless times on this blog where I’ve been interested in something that Andy or a guest blogger will post, and will click the “COMMENTS” section to add to the discussion, only to wince that several commenters are already braying like donkeys about how useless this blog is, or how terrible the ideas espoused in the blog post are, and they themselves will drop all sorts of obtuse arguments and derisions about any and all opposing parties, and it’ll make me quickly decide on lurking instead, as I’d rather not get involved. I imagine this might happen to others, as well.

    The rules of internet forums tend to stipulate that one should rather ignore postings that one knows are big on bite but small on substance, but when comments like these nearly outnumber those that *are* substantive, therein lies the dilemma. What’s the solution? Remaining silent is a good bet, but the rigor of the discussion falters when this kind of thing keeps up–and it definitely has kept up. Maybe responding to it is a bad thing in its own right, but maybe it’ll also help remind some readers to think before they post incendiary comments?

    Tom Conry:

    1) The links were stuff I found after maybe 5 minutes on Google. I’m sure we could all find better, but the point was that TFT refused to believe that eye contact is a skill that is practiced in classrooms, and one that may also help students learn. It’s on several standards I browsed through, there’s research done on it, and it seems to work pretty well for KIPP.

    2) There’s not much else that I can respond to there. The rest of your post was a lot of hot air, and a jab at my use of the word “troll”. Read my reply to Purity if you don’t understand my usage of the word.

  30. A leader at KIPP in Houston told me recently that KIPP is emulating what urban Catholic schools have always done well, a strong and decisive school culture where all students are expected to excel and all faculty and staff are on board with a certain vision and mission in the school that manifests itself in particular ways that leads to strong student performance. Though Jim raises an interesting point about KIPP and their predominantly minority enrollment, one has to inquire about the other obvious point here: Why not preserve the urban Catholic schools that were doing such a good job for these children in the first place.

    “Catholic schools, for a long time, were attractive to lower- and middle-income white families, including many families who were not Catholic.”

    Unfortunately, urban Catholic schools have been closing in droves because of any lack of political commitment to provide greater accessibility to the urban poor that they are so effective at serving. Vouchers and tax-credits would keep urban Catholic schools in operation, would provide greater access to quality schools for low-income children, and would provide a religious option currently denied to the poor for their children’s education.

  31. I’m not sure why this site has blocked my second comment from last night: Let me try to repeat it:

    Chris:

    Though you are not likely to be convinced by what I say, the notion of “attention” you desire to force onto KIPP students is Calvinist, and Calvinist only. It is the essence of “whiteness” as that is expressed historically in the United States (citations for which are provided above). Why can’t a learner recline and look out the window while learning? Because John Calvin thought it was disrespectful. Why can’t communities learn in group conversation rather than listening to a “master”? Because John Calvin believed in a single truth transmitted through a hierarchy.

    Now, I assume you are not actually asking if elites created and run KIPP, obviously these are elite-designed projects for the poor. As for the purpose, well, why don’t the kids in KIPP schools get the same things that the kids in Scarsdale and River Forest get? Why don’t they get the creative education needed for the best jobs in this century? Is it because they are “genetically inferior”? Or because we won’t spend the time and money to get the best teachers? Or because we’re training them – as the British Empire did – to be “lesser whites” who will be “ok” but not challenge the children of the elite for the best jobs?

    http://www.openeducation.net/2008/12/11/ira-david-socol-on-teach-for-america-kipp-schools-and-reforming-education/
    http://speedchange.blogspot.com/2009/11/colonialism-of-michelle-rhee-or-tfa-v.html

    And add this:

    Chris still wants “substantiation” but he is replacing (as Tom notes) the kind of academic work which should lie behind this discourse with “five minutes on Google” (and not, it should be noted, Google Scholar, where actual substantiation might lie).

    Tom is right, there are basic “grad school knowledge” issues here that make some of the arguments absurd. I do understand that most Americans are never exposed to theories of colonialism or post-colonialism, so I referenced Ignatiev’s “How the Irish Became White” (one of the essential bits of literature for anyone discussing the question at the top) as well as Noah Sobe’s brilliant look at the concept of “Gaze” in the classroom (focused heavily on Marie Montessori’s research at the turn of the 20th Century). I would also list Edward Said’s work as essential reading (Chris, you can not challenge what TFT and I are saying without understanding the theories behind our statements), and one might even want to take a deep reading of Kipling’s works. You can also spend a week with Google Books and learn “why” these concepts were introduced into the American classroom by Henry Barnard and Elwood Cubberley. The purpose, as Cubberley was fond of saying, of American education was “deCatholicification” (then) as it often is “deBlackification” and “deLatinofication” now.

    I’m a post-modernist, and I do not believe that everyone must accept the same sense of reality, but I do think those who argue loudly need to do the actual work behind intellectual argument before opening either their mouths or keyboards.

  32. I’m not sure why this site has blocked my second comment from last night: Let me try to repeat it:

    Chris:

    Though you are not likely to be convinced by what I say, the notion of “attention” you desire to force onto KIPP students is Calvinist, and Calvinist only. It is the essence of “whiteness” as that is expressed historically in the United States (citations for which are provided above). Why can’t a learner recline and look out the window while learning? Because John Calvin thought it was disrespectful. Why can’t communities learn in group conversation rather than listening to a “master”? Because John Calvin believed in a single truth transmitted through a hierarchy.

    Now, I assume you are not actually asking if elites created and run KIPP, obviously these are elite-designed projects for the poor. As for the purpose, well, why don’t the kids in KIPP schools get the same things that the kids in Scarsdale and River Forest get? Why don’t they get the creative education needed for the best jobs in this century? Is it because they are “genetically inferior”? Or because we won’t spend the time and money to get the best teachers? Or because we’re training them – as the British Empire did – to be “lesser whites” who will be “ok” but not challenge the children of the elite for the best jobs?

    And add this:

    Chris still wants “substantiation” but he is replacing (as Tom notes) the kind of academic work which should lie behind this discourse with “five minutes on Google” (and not, it should be noted, Google Scholar, where actual substantiation might lie).

    Tom is right, there are basic “grad school knowledge” issues here that make some of the arguments absurd. I do understand that most Americans are never exposed to theories of colonialism or post-colonialism, so I referenced Ignatiev’s “How the Irish Became White” (one of the essential bits of literature for anyone discussing the question at the top) as well as Noah Sobe’s brilliant look at the concept of “Gaze” in the classroom (focused heavily on Marie Montessori’s research at the turn of the 20th Century). I would also list Edward Said’s work as essential reading (Chris, you can not challenge what TFT and I are saying without understanding the theories behind our statements), and one might even want to take a deep reading of Kipling’s works. You can also spend a week with Google Books and learn “why” these concepts were introduced into the American classroom by Henry Barnard and Elwood Cubberley. The purpose, as Cubberley was fond of saying, of American education was “deCatholicification” (then) as it often is “deBlackification” and “deLatinofication” now.

    I’m a post-modernist, and I do not believe that everyone must accept the same sense of reality, but I do think those who argue loudly need to do the actual work behind intellectual argument before opening either their mouths or keyboards.

  33. Chris for the love of G-d, leave it alone. We all know you’re right. Don’t engage with these Trolls!

  34. because this site is blocking my links (but not those of other posters) I will suggest Googling “ira socol” + “teach for america” for more of my thoughts on this topic.

  35. I kind of like it when Ira and TFT write. It shines a spotlight on how utterly wacky the farthest left has become when it comes to education policy. Gee – it is shocking that President Obama has chosen a different path! I have no idea why he wouldn’t want to be associated with these viewpoints!

  36. well dressed, well behaved, quiet, always paying attention to the authority without fail–

    It’s you guys who are the white supremacists. You’re full of patronizing condescension towards black people, so much that you think that being well-dressed and well-behaved and quiet is something beyond the capacity of black kids and that somehow doesn’t serve them well. It doesn’t occur to you that 99% of employers out there, like it or not, are wary of hiring people (black or white) who have their pants hanging halfway off their butts and who won’t look them in the eye and who can’t talk standard English.

    Black kids are not being done any favors by having privileged white people pat them on the head and say, “There, there, now, your true nature is to act like a gangster and a thug, but don’t you bother trying to act like me, because I’m a white person who is by nature capable of being well-dressed and well-behaved.”

    You guys are racist to the core. You’re hurting black people, or you would be hurting them if you knew any.

  37. But do you remember that time Michelle Rhee said something completely irrelevant? Look at this quote I pulled from an youtube comment:

    “i wont get of the internet, its not ur choice 2 decide weather or not i can use the internet and u dont even no how old i am so dont be calling me little girl. u dont even no me so y are u hatting? o thats right cause u have no life, u h8 on justin and me,wow u sure do have a fabulous life. LOZER!”

    Chris S. is a cyclops (and now i’m going to finish my post with a run on sentence in parenthesis as an aside to everyone who is reading this right now as i type it)

  38. edconsumer:

    Belittling others without making any kind of argument suggests that while you may have been exposed to education, you have hardly “consumed” it.

    Do you have a point-of-view based in knowledge? Do you have an argument?

    If so, as I would ask any student, please attempt to express it.

  39. John Doe (if that is your real name):

    Understanding human cultural differences and working with them is not racism. Assuming northern European Protestant culture is the highest form of human expression is.

    You have decided that the way John Calvin wanted 16th Century white people to behave is the top of the human evolutionary chain, but I, and most of the planet, might disagree.

    Like the English teachers in the 19th Century who destroyed the Welsh language (and tried to obliterate Irish), like the Protestant preachers who stripped music, incense, and stained glass out of worship places, like those who led America’s “Indian Schools” and their destruction of Native American culture, you accept the racist viewpoint that “white = superior.”

    Please remember that there are many ways of learning in the world, and many ways of learning among the students in any classroom. We succeed as educators when we find the best ways for individuals to learn and succeed in the world, not when we attempt to mould every child in our image.

    And it is a fairly obvious fact that the biggest winners in this century’s economy will be those who are better at creating their own learning, those collaborating across cultures, those able to see what those staring at the teacher cannot see. Of course that is the education being provided to the white elite which you seem to wan to keep from those currently in the underclass.

  40. Jim Ryan’s question was why KIPP schools have not attracted larger numbers of White students. I may be wrong but it seems to me that the simplest explanation is that KIPP puts its school where there are large concentrations of Black and Hispanic students and makes special efforts to reach out to students in schools with large minority populations. That said, the example of Catholic schools seems more a red herring than a true comparison. In any event, the KIPP web site says that 3 percent of KIPP students are White and 2 percent are Asian.

  41. Assuming northern European Protestant culture is the highest form of human expression is.

    No, it’s racist to equate being dressed neatly and being well-behaved with “northern European Protestant culture.” If you had ever met any older black people, you’d know how ridiculous and racist it is to suggest such a thing — many older black folks will proudly talk about how they had to dress up for school and church, etc.

  42. Hi John Doe,

    I’m not sure if you intended the irony in the photo you posted.

    As the caption cites, the school pictured was created by Sears retail magnate Julius Rosenwald in an effort I would think not too dissimilar from that of the Gap retail magnate Donald Fisher and the KIPP schools.

    A seeming repetition of history. But why? and why did those historically black schools fall into disrepair?

  43. anyone who is an empiricist stop replying to tft and ira. ira said it all, he’s a post-modernist. he doesn’t believe in objective reality. my god, the man cites foucault, and then lashes out that people haven’t “read the literature.” I’m an academic – dude no one cites Foucault anymore except for some hippies who did too much LSD in the 70s that are on their deathbeds in the ivory tower at berkeley. i love how ira comes in here and acts like all superior in his knowledge of “the literature.” to that i’d say 1) sociology is the weakest social science there is – hardly empirical and no causal claims about human behavior are made – or rarely so. The literature worth citing is the hard stuff – American Economic Review, American Political Science Review, stuff that is experimental and can be replicated by natural science. I seriously can’t believe people buy this fluff anymore. And yes, edconsumer, you are right of course Obama and the Dems are going to embrace KIPP-style education reform because the public likes results and they pay for the schools. Schools are democratically run and the public should get what it wants. Obama and Duncan aren’t going to create ed policy by developing grandiose theory about Calvinism that is buttressed by some theoretical case study that appeared in the journal “Social Forces” in volume 33 subvolume 12 in 1971 that earned some radical loser tenure at Oberin.

    You are so far out of the mainstream of intellectual discourse its a joke. In social science we care about causal inferences, not your pet theory. I wish for one week posters (no matter their politics or view) on eduwonk were required to cite PEER REVIEWED research everytime they made a claim – PEER reviewed from a top journal in the field that is somewhat recent. Also, that they actually apply the research correctly. So if the class size research in STAR (TN) shows improvements for kids in grade 0-3, don’t say dumbass stuff like The research says all class size reducation policies work – um no it doesn’t… like read the footnotes hoss.

  44. I’m not sure if you intended the irony in the photo you posted. As the caption cites, the school pictured was created by Sears retail magnate Julius Rosenwald in an effort I would think not too dissimilar from that of the Gap retail magnate Donald Fisher and the KIPP schools.

    No, Rosenwald donated “seed money” to build several thousand schools, but the black communities themselves had to put up most of the money, and then they were obviously in charge of running the schools after that. Very different from KIPP — except that, marvel of marvels, they seemed to think of good behavior in school as something that they were capable of, not as “white” oppression.

    Black people who knew what REAL white oppression was like aren’t typically amused by white leftists pompously telling them that it’s oppression for kids to learn to sit still in school, etc.

  45. i have an idea john doe, ira, steve f. and the entire gang:

    why don’t we stop attributing stuff to “what black people think” (oh let me guess steve f….”you have black friends?”

    Why not, instead, go to the research and survey data. As far as I can tell:

    1) African Americans support school vouchers FAR MORE than whites and this is confirmed in tons of studies
    2) African Americans support Merit Pay for teachers based on increases in, you guessed it, standardized test scores (citation: Public Policy Institute of California, Annual Education Survey, April 2010).

    Okay, we could also survey about whether Black people believe as Bill Cosby does that ghetto culture and “thug life” does not represent true black culture. Maybe such a survey has been done. I’d wager that most African Americans would vote for more discipline in the schools (what y’all call acting white or Calvinist according to our resident sociologist of unpublished musings) – just based on the fact that Blacks tend to be more conservative on social issues than whites (e.g. Abortion, School Prayer), but why not test this with data rather than just say:

    Black folk think X cuz I know someone Black and gosh he agrees der wit me

  46. Edconsumer says, “…it is shocking that President Obama has chosen a different path!”

    Finally, something I can agree with on this blog. Look for the following developments in the fall:

    Most laid-off teachers back on the job;

    Michelle Rhee and other teacher-bashers silenced (If it hasn’t happened already);

    More presidential speeches expressing gratitude for teachers;

    More presidential speeches on the need to improve standardized tests before they can be used to evaluate teachers or anyone else;

    Teachers “becoming part of the executive team charged with the responsibility of improving schools” (Walt Gardner’s Reality Check, August 11);

    Bill Gates investing more in teacher empowerment (Teacher Plus, Boston);

    Life-long educators being consulted more than people who have taught fewer than three years;

    Sharp oversight of the financial dealings of charter schools (Thank you, New York Times);

    Significant improvements (preschool, healthcare, school and social supports) for our poorest children.

    Yes, at last we have a president with real brains, in addition to being the consummate politician. Way to go, President Obama!

  47. In Rhode Island, Mayoral Academies are answering precisely the question you’re posing here, essentially, does the “no excuses” charter school model work in racially and economically diverse schools. Rhode Island Mayoral Academies brought in Democracy Prep Public Schools to operate its first schools on the heels of their success in Harlem, where the overwhelming majority of their students are low-income students of color.

    In their “Democracy Prep Blackstone Valley” schools, approximately 67% of students are low-income and 50% are students of color. They are some of the most diverse schools in the state. And everyone is thriving. In its first year of operation, DPBV effectively CLOSED the achievement gap in its own building according to Terra Nova, DRA2 and STEP assessments. The students’ achievement growth was extraordinary.

    Perhaps just as interestingly, parent satisfaction rates were sky-high among all socio-demographic groups according to a detailed school environment survey conducted by Brown University. Imagine that! All parents appreciated a school environment where their children were focussed on learning, achieving at high-levels and respectful of each other!

    I certainly applaud Democracy Prep for operating schools in Central Harlem, and its beyond laughable to imply that they are somehow culpable for the lack of diversity in their Harlem schools. I would also anticipate that we will see more and more “no excuses” schools operating in socio-economically diverse enrollment areas. In Rhode Island its a done deal.

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