Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The boundaries of school reform

James Forman, Jr. reviews two book and reflects on KIPP and the Harlem Children's Zone
Before KIPP, there was Harlem’s Central Park East, which flourished under Deborah Meier’s leadership in the 1980s and 1990s. For many years, Central Park East was the icon of “what works” in inner-city education, and Meier’s account of the school in The Power of Their Ideas remains one of the wisest books ever written about teaching. But Central Park East did not revolutionize education, because efforts to transplant what worked there into schools with different cultures and less-skilled educators often failed. (Boston Review).


  1. Michael FiorilloMay 12, 2009 at 8:55 PM

    I'd like to point out a significant difference between Central Park East and KIPP: the former developed organically within its community, in a democratic process that involved teachers, administrators, parents and students, while the latter is being capitalized - in addition to to its initial capitalization with taxpayer dollars - and franchised by private venture capital, and aggressively inserted into minority communities in cities where the school systems are under mayoral dictatorships.

    David Brooks' hosannah to Geoffrey Canada in last week's New York Times somehow failed to point out that Canada expelled the first crop of students who didn't "make their numbers," and that the current student body has virtually no special ed or ELL students. Not a very fair comparison with the local neighborhood school, which must take all comers, is it?

    I'm continually amazed at the he degree of willful ignorance and/or misinformation in the charter debate, where the cheerleader for KIPP works for a publisher (Washington Post Co.) that derives its profit from a test prep mill (Kaplan), is part of the Orwellian discourse where the people who actually work with inner city children (teachers), are cast as the enemy, while the people who were busy making their billions while public schools were systematically under-funded (Gates, Broad, Bloomberg, etc.) ,get to purchase policy.

  2. Michael,
    You are right about the differences in origin between KIPP and CPES. They reflect the fundamental differences between top-down and democratic reform. I also agree with your comments about Brooks' NYT "Miracle" piece. Diane Ravitch takes on many of the same issues in her "Bridging Differences" column this week.

    (http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/)but does so with mixed emotions. She actually admires KIPP's "make-'em-middle-class" approach to discipline.

    Of course, all this replicable-models debate evades the question of what we do about the millions of kids stuck in under-resourced, segregated and racially-isolated schools that don't get the extra millions a Promise Academy gets.

  3. Of course, the CPE moel, without official support, did proliferate with others--in NYC and around the country. But it ran into a steam engine going the other way. Still there are hundreds of schools still doing the good work a few of us started--with a lot of good luck and guts--and have run with it successfully in countless places. Unheralded, on the whole.

    The trouble is that some of our potential allies in reform also want to segregate--by "academic" ability they would argue, not race or class. Magnet schools "of excellence". In doing so they also make it harder for the rest of the schools to benefit from the self-motivated kids and more middle class families. Then they boast about their successes.



Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.