Thursday, April 14, 2011

An Ex-KIPP Bronx Parent Speaks Out

I would like to share this with the world. People have to know. I feel charter schools could be an excellent alternative to private school for the poor. But not the way they're doing it. They have to change with the times.

After reading an article about the entry tests that KIPP Baltimore was giving to incoming students, I became angry and I needed to share my story. I feel every child deserves a chance at KIPP with the proper treatment, help, and chance. It's not fair what they are doing.

As a parent of a former KIPP student, which I fought tooth and nail to keep my child at the NYC, Bronx area school because of the structure and academics, I must share with you that the school does many unethical things of which the outside world is not aware of. Students that are accepted and who have IEP's do not get the correct services and or help so that they can be successful. The school would rather make it difficult for both parent and child, leaving the parent frustrated and helpless forcing the parent to remove the child.

I was KIPPs worst nightmare and made sure that my daughter got the help and services so that she can have an excellent chance at being successful in her academics. Boy it wasn't easy. I have kept a log showing the hell the school put me through and the unethical behavior demonstrated towards my child and myself by the school for 4 years. For the amount of funding that the school gets, my child had no up-to-date science or math books during her 4 years. Everything was copies of book pages, or premath worksheets from long, long ago with problems out of a book. And sometimes, incorrect math work. But no books.

The activity that the school did that bothered me the most was the corporal punishment, having students write repeatedly 100 times what they should do right, and pulled students out of the classroom forcing them to stand outside of the classroom on the black line on the floor with their notebooks open to complete classwork for the entire period. I always showed up unexpectedly which gave me the opportunity to see many things that were not so nice. I would question them and remind them that that was against to law and everyone would ignore me.

The 4 years that my daughter was at the school I venture to say, were KIPP's worst years because there were many students that had academic challenges. I certainly did not let the school know that my daughter had an IEP because I knew they would find a way of not accepting her. I wanted them to see the academic potential in my child and I knew them knowing she had an IEP she would not have had to chance to attend KIPP. I can see where the testing [to weed out some kids] is now being used. They want perfect students. What do I mean by this perfect student? Well students who will not question the school's unethical behavior towards them. Who will not be discouraged when they are not given a chance to show their true character, when they are not allowed to vindicate themselves when the school is favoring a "good" student over them - a "bad" student. I can go on, and on.

Just to give you a picture of how students see KIPP, the true meaning of KIPP, as per the students is "Kids In Prison Program". I truly believe they have developed the testing to keep students who are somewhat academically challenged out of KIPP. But knowing them, they will find a way to show that is not the case.

The principal always invited me to take my child out if I did not like it. My response was always, "she has a right to be here (at KIPP) just like any other child who went through the lottery system and was chosen to be here and she will stay until she finishes."
There were two reasons why I kept my daughter at KIPP besides that she needed to learn how to deal with these types of "people" and each situation as it occurred, and that was the structure and their academics. My strong presence at the school made them think twice about things and how far they knew they could go with my daughter. My daughter spoke up and didn't allow them to mistreat her, but when it got bad, I stepped in and made sure I handled it in a professional manner that actually made them see their errors but which they would never admit to.

The students, even the quiet, high performing students knew that I would advocate for all of them, not just my daughter. I had repeated meetings with the principal, teachers, and even the superintendent when there was inappropriate teacher behavior directed at any student. I made sure that I never attended a meeting by myself which I knew they were not happy about but couldn't stop me. My argument was the unfair treatment of students and parents. They knew if I took this public it would bring a tremendous amount of problems to the KIPP image. They know, I was ready to take them to court. I did bring a complaint against them when they were allowing a male student to continuously bother my daughter and teachers kept turning their heads not to see. The school was working hard at making it impossible for my daughter and myself. I was lucky, that the students always told me everything, even their best students of what actually was taking place. I always investigated before I brought anything to the schools attention, which was always shocking to them how I knew what was going on.

I have e-mails that shows the repeated battles I encountered with teachers. Shocking, even a social worker was very insensitive towards my daughter as well. Their focus has been to accept students that are quiet, do not talk back, and have families that will not believe inappropriate behavior is happening at their child's school. Students are more aggressive and are more outspoken now than years ago and KIPP has not changed with the times.

I always brought my concerns to the PTA meeting and parents were shocked. The funny thing about all this was that the 10 to 15 parents who attended the PTA meetings were the parents who were holding a position as officers of the PTA, and the parents of students who were the school's top favorite, and maybe one or two who were experiencing the same problems I was but would not say anything because they were afraid of having their child kicked out of the school. KIPP made parents understand that because they were a charter school and not a NYC public school, they can kick any child out if they want and parents could not do anything about it. Follow KIPPs rule or get out. I am happy to say, that after two years, parents began to see what I was saying but parents wanted me to fight their battles. I told parents I will back them up and attend any meeting with them, but I was not fighting for them. Parents decided to take their child out rather then put their children through what they felt was painful and would give themselves headaches to continue the fight.

I advocated like hell for my child. I am happy that I did not allow her to go to the only KIPP high school. She begged me not to send her there and I know high school would probably have broken her down. She shared something very important with me that shocked me. She said mom, "when I was going to KIPP I always had a lot of pain in my body in the morning. But I don't have the pain any more." I always ask her if she is happy with the school she is at now. She says, "I love it." She is now attending a NYC pubic high school. By the way, my daughter has ADD. I fought and made sure that my daughter got the services she needed. The outside help that came inside the school to provide the services to my daughter did not get the support from my daughter's teachers, they were even shocked of what they saw. The school worked very hard to implement their own staff to provide the services to the students this way no outsiders. Not all the students got the actually help. Only the students the school were really fond of and had a close relationship with the parents got the best help.

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