Selected readings on US charter schools
As the debate over charter schools heats up in Mississippi, successful charter schools across the river in Arkansas have been placed under the microscope. With understandable urgency, elected officials and journalists have focused their lenses on organizations like KIPP Delta, to determine whether there are valuable lessons that can be applied to Mississippi public education.
I, for one, am glad. In the decade since I founded KIPP Delta, I have watched our methods grow and adapt to serve 1150 students at four schools. We are proud of our results, most recently our high school being named one of five exemplary schools in the state, but we also consider it a healthy development that Mississippi leaders are asking us the tough questions. We are playing our part by inviting visitors from the Magnolia state to our schools, to see charter schooling in action. But, since not everyone can visit, I would like to clear up some of the myths and misconceptions that have been circulating.
There is an established sentiment among charter skeptics that charter schools are open-enrollment in name only, and that we are really exclusive institutions working to attract the highest-achieving students—the “cream of the crop.” At KIPP, the reality is very different. A recent report by Mathematica Policy Research, from perhaps the most comprehensive study to date on KIPP charter schools, found that students actually come to KIPP with lower average test scores than their peers in neighboring districts. Often, KIPP Delta’s students come to us two to three grade levels behind.
Another perception is that charter schools like KIPP have strict rules designed to force out students who are troubled or don’t conform. This is the exact opposite of KIPP’s philosophy. We are dedicated to preparing all students who come through our doors for success in college and life—regardless of their academic or behavioral background. We commit to getting these students to and through college, and that means keeping as many of them with us as we can. Over the years, KIPP Delta has focused on bringing down our student attrition rates to 15 percent, and over the past two years we have expelled only three students at any of our four schools.
At KIPP Delta, we are proud of the work we do to support students and families from traditionally underserved backgrounds. We are honored to be considered a model for charter schooling in Mississippi, and we hope that advocates and skeptics alike will rely on facts instead of fictions in drawing their conclusions about us.
Source: ClarionLedger.com – by Scott Shirey (Executive Director of KIPP: Delta Public Schools)