Jay Mathews offers up this very interesting take on research done to assess the effectiveness of the KIPP (knowledge is power program) charter schools.
Pay close attention to his discussion of the parental role in getting kids enrollled in a challenging charter school in the first place. If a kid has a parent with that much on the ball then I can promise you that the kid is nowhere near the bottom of the at-risk population.
Mathews sums up the debate with this:
The point is, if we can’t get the less motivated parents to come to KIPP, isn’t it time to consider bringing KIPP, or programs like KIPP, to them? If their neighborhood school challenges their children in the same way, and requires all parents at least sign the homework, they are going to have much more difficulty keeping their kids from getting the good education they deserve.
Bingo. We need to get the kids on the bottom and pull them up, not to simply skim the cream off of the at-risk population thereby leaving the worst schools even worse than they were before.
Anyone who argues that school choice – or using public funds for private schools – is the whole answer for the kids with the longest uphill battles is ignoring the fact that the kids at the bottom usually can’t count on their parent to make the right choices or even any choices at all.
And anyone who argues that there are no programatic changes that can make a significant dent in a hopeless problem might want to visit a KIPP school.