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KIPP SCHOOLS PUBLIC MEETING IN CHRISTCHURCH TONIGHT!!!The charter-mongers
Tonight, Mike Feinberg will speak at a public meeting in Christchurch about the amazing success of his KIPP schools. The ‘Knowledge is Power Programme’ runs 125 schools across the US enrolling 40,000 students. It was mentioned by John Banks as the kind of programme to be encouraged here.
Feinberg’s visit has been funded by the Aotearoa Foundation, which is the local arm of the right wing USA-based Robertson Foundation. The philosophy of this new breed of ‘philanthrocapitalist’ is to use corporate giving to influence government policy, in particular towards the privatisation of public goods such as education. There is therefore a hidden agenda underlying this visit.
After 20 years of charter schools and thousands of new schools opened, the overall position of American schools on international league tables should have improved dramatically if the policy had been successful. It has not, and the USA is many places below New Zealand schools on scores of literacy, numeracy and science.
KIPP claims excellent results for its students. With a school day from 7.30am to 5pm, and several hours compulsory, supervised homework each night, plus half a day on Saturday, there is certainly plenty of time for learning. The emphasis is on learning to pass standardised tests, and on good behaviour. Concern has been expressed about the boot-camp mentality. One researcher, Howard Berlak, noted the following:
When I was there children who followed all the rules were given points that could be exchanged for goodies at the school store. Those who resisted the rules or were slackers wore a large sign pinned to their clothes labelled "miscreant." Miscreants sat apart from the others at all times including lunch, were denied recess and participation in all other school projects and events.. . . . I've spent many years in schools. This one felt like a humane, low security prison or something resembling a locked-down drug rehab program for adolescents…
The dropout rate is high. Children who fail standardised tests at each year level are kept back, and many leave and return to the public system. Thus unsuccessful students are weeded out early. The dropout rate before Year 9 (age 13) is around 30%, compared to 6% at public schools.
Most of the teachers are young and lack experience. Many are graduates of the ‘Teach for America’ programme which fast-tracks teacher education. The dropout rate is very high. Typically, they leave after two years, because they work unsustainably long hours (up to 70 or 80 hours a week is common) on relatively low pay. They burn out.
KIPP schools are very well resourced with government funding and tens of millions of dollars in corporate donations. The average public school child in the US attracts eleven thousand dollars, while the KIPP schools have per capita funding of $18,000.
In his visit so far, Mike Feinberg has been surprisingly muted about the stated success of his schools. He says they are not a silver bullet but another ‘choice’ for parents. This is a very revealing statement, as the Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, is also using the ‘no silver bullet’ analogy, as has the Secretary for Education, Lesley Longstone, the head of the now-rebranded Business Roundtable and the head of the charter schools NZ initiative Catherine Isaacs. This feels like subtle political management to me.
Those living in Christchurch might ask the question why, if choice is so good, it is being reduced here through proposed school closure or merger. Is this a dastardly plot to soften us up for charter schools? Are we being prepared for a new menu of ‘choice’ in education here? Is the Christchurch rebuild going to be used to import new models of privatised education into the city?
Choice, by itself, does not raise educational standards. I am highly suspicious of models of assertive discipline in schools that treat children in ways that none of us, as parents, would treat our own.
The National Standards data released this week has revealed for all to see (teachers have always known it) that there are big educational and social gaps between our children. But is the upshot of that the need to enrol poor kids in school boot camp? Isn’t that a little dire? And does it work, anyway?
In recent years the Ministry of Education and low-decile schools have worked tirelessly to overcome the educational gaps. Here in Christchurch there are some fabulous low-decile schools and teachers that break their backs to help their students. I do not believe that the KIPP model, or charter schools generally, offer anything better for us. Not a silver bullet indeed – rather a shotgun that will fragment our high quality public education system.
Mike Feinberg will speak at 6.30 Wednesday night at Undercroft, basement of University of Canterbury main library, James Height Building
KIPP Schools? No thanks we’re kiwisMedia Release - 19 September 2012Wealthy “philanthro-capitalist” Julian Robertson has brought Mike Feinberg from the KIPP (Knowledge is Power) charter school programme to New Zealand to promote charter schools and prepare the way for the privatisation of public education.