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KIPP: Making the most of extra time

By Paul Jablow on Mar 19, 2014 01:56 PM
Photo: Harvey Finkle

KIPP West Philadelphia Preparatory Charter School teacher Josie Santiago helps 8th graders Julian Starcha (left) and Myles Harley (right) with their homework. KIPP students spend nine hours in school each day. 

It’s 3 p.m. on a Monday, and all around the city – or the country for that matter – kids are filing out of school, headed for waiting parents or the bus.

Not, however, at the KIPP West Philadelphia Preparatory Charter School. Here, teacher Josie Santiago walks about a room with a dozen 7th and 8th graders, helping them with homework in Spanish, history, math, or other subjects, or with life in general.

“Make eye contact with me,” she tells one student as part of a mini-lecture on slacking off.

A room away, teacher Amoreena Olaya talks with advanced students about Macbeth: “We’re really challenging them,” she says.

Elsewhere, other teachers convene a documentary film club, tutor math, prepare students for the upcoming state standardized tests, drill the step team, and preside over a study hall for students who have been acting out and need a “quiet space.” The students will stay until about 4:45.

KIPP West Philadelphia is one of a small but growing number of schools around the country to use “extended learning time,” expanding both the regular school day and the school calendar beyond the traditional framework of 180 days that start between 8 and 9 a.m. and end around 2:30 or 3 p.m.

The schedule varies at KIPP’s four schools in Philadelphia – an elementary, two middle schools, and a high school. But in general, KIPP students spend nine hours in school each day and start school three weeks earlier than the norm. That compares to a seven-hour day in District schools. KIPP also has occasional Saturday sessions.

“We look at it as a pressure release,” says Marc Mannella, CEO of KIPP Philadelphia Schools. “Our students come to us largely behind. We’re taking more time to catch our kids up in reading and math without sacrificing art, music, social studies, and PE.”

Starting the school year earlier is seen as almost the educational equivalent of spring training in baseball, helping to assess student needs and orienting new students and parents to the school culture.

A few other charter schools, including those run by Scholar Academies, also have an extended day. Scholar Academies and Mastery Charter Schools also start their year in August.

A 2013 study by Mathematica Policy Research of 43 KIPP middle schools across the country found that students in the schools improved at a faster rate than a comparable group in traditional district schools. It concluded that the longer day was a likely factor.

For Mannella and others at KIPP, having the extra time works only if it is well-planned and geared to individual students.

“We want to see that we’re filling a need, not just filling the day,” says Santiago, who is in her second year at KIPP. She previously taught at Kensington High School.

“Every year it looks a little different,” Mannella says. “The mechanics change constantly. We moved middle school field trips to Saturdays. The middle schools used to dismiss at 5, but we found there was nothing magical about that.”

Mannella says that the ability to experiment with the extra time has proven invaluable. But such experimentation can also be difficult in financially strapped public schools like those in Philadelphia.

“In my observation, it takes schools a couple of years to find out how to use the extra time,” says Elaine Simon, co-director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Urban Studies program, who worked closely with University City High School for several years before it closed in June.

The school had been designated a Promise Academy – giving it a longer day and school on some Saturdays. But, Simon said, “There weren’t a lot of resources and guidance about what they were supposed to do.”

“It was trial and error,” recalls A.J. Schiera, who taught social studies at University City for the three years it was a Promise Academy. For students who took advantage of the time, “it worked really well,” he said. “There was a lot of opportunity for one-on-one interactions.”

But by the time the school began to figure out what worked and what didn’t, the District pulled the plug. So although University City had started to create a school culture that supported academics and student grades were improving, Schiera says, “We couldn’t build on that.”

Single parent Annette Strickland has five children in KIPP schools. Here she picks up (from left to right) Alyce, Chasiti, and Anthony from the KIPP elementary school in North Philadelphia. (Photo: Charles Mosteller)

 

For one KIPP parent, the extended day and calendar are a blessing in every way but one: School sometimes starts on her birthday – in August.

“In the beginning, it seemed crazy,” says Annette Strickland, who has five children in KIPP schools. Since it was still midsummer, “the kids were asking ‘Why are we in school?’”

But she likes that the earlier start includes programs that bring parents into the buildings and make family members feel like part of a school community.

And she particularly values the extended day during the year. “It’s been fantastic,” she says. “It gives them the extra time to learn.”

Strickland, a single parent, works as a parking garage manager at Delaware County Memorial Hospital in Upper Darby. She usually gets to her home in West Philadelphia between 4:30 and 5 p.m. after picking up her youngest child, Alyce, in kindergarten at the KIPP elementary school on Westmoreland Street in North Philadelphia. The others arrive from middle school or high school about that time.

While she would gladly help with homework after fixing dinner, she says, a parent is no substitute for a teacher: “Their homework is long and detailed,” and her own school years are well behind her, she said.

“I haven’t had algebra and geometry in years,” she said, laughing, as she waited in the hall for Alyce at school. “I’m sitting at the table, and all these Xs and Ys? Please.

“The less questions they have, the better for the parents,” she adds. With the extra time at school, she says, “They can explain to teachers what they need.”

 

Paul Jablow is a regular freelance contributor to the Notebook.


This story was made possible by a grant from the Ford Foundation, which has made More and Better Learning Time a priority in its philanthropy.

This article will appear in the Notebook's forthcoming print edition focusing on using school time wisely, due out next week.

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Comments (41)

Submitted by center65 (not verified) on Wed, 03/19/2014 - 14:53

Just out of curiosity, how much do teachers get paid at KIPP?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 03/19/2014 - 15:12

http://php.app.com/PAteachers11/results.php?pageNum_Recordset1=0&totalRo...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 03/19/2014 - 16:09

http://kippphiladelphia.org/files/dmfile/2012.03.06KPSSalaryScheduleFina...

Submitted by inthetrenches (not verified) on Wed, 03/19/2014 - 15:17

What if a teacher has a family? It is nice that KIPP fills in for parents and does homework with the students but there are few KIPP teachers who then go home and have to help their own children with homework. KIPP is another charter operator that burns out teachers.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 03/19/2014 - 17:49

Where are the facts that say "there are few KIPP teachers who then go home and have to help their own children?" Do you know how many of the teachers at KIPP have children? I happen to know that many of them do. In fact 2/4 of the school leaders have young children and many teachers on staff do as well. And, what evidence is there that KIPP is "another charter operator that burns out teachers?" Do you know the average tenure of the teachers and staff at KIPP versus a district school? Because I know many in Philadelphia have been there 4, 5, 6, 7 or more years. It sounds as though you are simply parroting back a few typical criticisms others have of charters with no real facts of this set of schools and how they operate.

Submitted by Ken Derstine on Wed, 03/19/2014 - 19:15

So could we have charter transparency please? Everything that is know about the public schools should be required of charters since they are funded by taxpayer dollars. Why is the teacher turnover kept secret? Why is their salaries for teachers and administration (including CEOs) kept secret? What is the pupil turnover? Do charters put out students before state tests as teachers anecdotally report? Have transparency. The we can have a true discussion!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 03/19/2014 - 19:57

http://kippphiladelphia.org/about/results/openbook

Looks pretty non-secretive to me and also pretty easy to find answers to all your questions Ken. But then again, you're not really looking for an actual conversation about these topics are you? More important to score points that fit your narrative.

Submitted by Eileen Duffey (not verified) on Wed, 03/19/2014 - 20:20

At least he used his name!
Why are you withholding yours?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 03/19/2014 - 20:24

Nothing in your link addresses the questions Ken raised.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 10:00

Did you look at the link? You click on each question and it tells you historical student and staff retention, salaries, etc. It absolutely answer's Ken's questions. Why discredit an actual answer?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 03/19/2014 - 20:29

And there is the issue of whether this is commercial spin or the truth:

http://tinyurl.com/k5l8pwd

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 03/19/2014 - 19:37

Love how this is sponsored by the Ford Foundation....corporate cronyism.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 03/19/2014 - 20:07

Sounds like babysitting.

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 03/19/2014 - 21:08

To the people who are defending KIPP in these comments: You should stop trying. The people who want to attack KIPP with tired, hackneyed, baseless accusations have no choice. Because EITHER they make the progress KIPP has made with its students illegitimate OR the entire house of cards... the mantra that it's the parents' fault, it's the "corporate reformers'" fault (whatever that even means), or most recently that it's Corbett's fault all comes crashing down. And we're left with the reality that in fact schools CAN work... but they don't as they currently are managed. And we can't have that. Too many jobs at stake.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 03/19/2014 - 21:32

So a KIPP supporter loves Corbett...interesting.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 03/19/2014 - 22:57

What I find most troubling about this article is the lack of questions asked.

Some follow up points that I would like to hear more about:
1. What does the “quiet space” look like? It seems like detention to me. How many students attend this per day? Do the students see this as an effective use of their time or do they see it as punishment? I wonder how many studies demonstrate detention as a positive use of after school time.
2. Many of KIPP’s well-known policies are built upon reward, punishment, and incentive systems. Is this enrichment time incentivized, as well? If so, doesn’t this go against Manella’s premise that enrichments should be provided for all students?
3. What is going on with the Saturday time? How many students attend the field trips? Where do they go? Is it open for all students or only certain students? Is this in lieu of field trips during the school week? If so, what does this say about KIPP’s commitment to learning enrichment opportunities.
4. The article also references KIPP’s “spring training” in August to acclimate students to KIPP’s school culture. What goes on in this time? From what I have heard, students have to “earn” a chair and sit on the floor until they do. New students wear plain white shirts until they “earn” a KIPP shirt; some students remain in white shirts well-beyond their peers.
5. The final part of the article references “long and detailed homework.” If the school day is extended for academics, is this degree of homework necessary? I wonder how Manella would respond to critiques of homework from scholars like Alfie Kohn who believe homework of this fashion is damaging.

It is not a revelation to say that KIPP’s policies and practices are controversial and debated in a number of circles. Certainly, KIPP makes contributions to our educational community - I applaud the theory behind their practice in recognizing the value of extra-curricular experiences for students.

However, the surface level exploration of this article is insulting to the Philadelphia education community. I find it deeply troubling that basic questions into KIPP’s practices were not analyzed.

Isn’t the role of The Notebook to provide an independent and thoughtful look into what is going on in Philadelphia schools? A critical analysis can and should ask reasonable questions and provide a fair assessment of a program. I encourage Mr. Jablow and Mr. Socolar to begin asking difficult questions in order to raise the conversation about Philadelphia schools.

Submitted by inthetrenches (not verified) on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 02:08

Thank you. This is another Notebook (following Newsworks) fluff piece that is PR versus investigative journalism. KIPP is a "by any means necessary" program - students either stay with it or they get dropped and sent to public schools.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 11:11

Shame on most of the posters here. You sound jaded and defeated. Maybe that's what you are. Kipp isn't sitting around blaming people. They're making progress with those they can. You're just whining. That's why you don't have parental support. They like the Kipp model.

Submitted by Headstart Teacher (not verified) on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 13:14

Of course parents like the Kipp model!

They don't have to do anything. Kipp parents the children, even on Saturdays AND they do the homework that is too difficult for the parent (s).

It is a foster school or a surrogate parenting school.

They do for the children they can and toss the rest back into the churn.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 15:17

That's why they get better results. Your honesty exposes your lack of commitment to the children you're paid to serve. Kipp is trying and achieving results. All you do is complain and blame. I suggest you keep your feelings to yourself. With every post you have less support. You're anti-parent. Not the right position for someone facing a 13% pay cut.

Submitted by Headstart teacher (not verified) on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 19:49

It is not my lack of commitment to being a teacher! THAT I am fully committed to. What I refuse to do is become my classroom's foster parent when the actual parent cannot even be bothered to do their child's HOMEwork (emphasis on home there!) with them.

I have my own children to raise. If you do not want to raise yours the. Please stop having them!

Submitted by Kipp Proud Parent (not verified) on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 20:33

Oh! You just want to have something, anything negative to say. I thought you wanted to be corrected about what KIPP really is--apparently not. Carry on! You obviously have a sack of sour issues that needs attention. Be well.

Submitted by Headstart Teacher (not verified) on Fri, 03/21/2014 - 08:51

No need to correct me on having an opinion, thank you Kippster of the cult of Kipp.

Just because we all have not drunk the Kipp Kool Aid does not mean we are incorrect. It just means WE have a differing opinion. So you can keep calm and carry on - I'll choose to form my own opinions and ideas and thoughts.

PS - Please don't delete this like my last comment, as it seems seriously hypocritical to flag posts that have differing points. It is an open forum here, right?

Submitted by KIPP Proud Parent (not verified) on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 11:55

As a parent of KIPPsters (and an educator of many years), I see just as many bright spots as I see flaws. Is KIPP perfect? No. Is it the solution to many of our social ills? No. Is KIPP for every family? Not at all. There were times when I thought that KIPP may not be a good fit for my children and wanted to "jump ship". I haven't. The truth is is that there are so many positive stories that I could offer. Ex-principals that invite you to their childhood homes to meet relatives because you are visiting that city, principals who offer to jump-in an assist with transportation to extra-curriculars, staff who treat the students as extended family, staff who are available to motivate children to take honors courses and assist with assignments--even after graduation. There's more. Staff who send home extensive emails explaining why I should be proud of my awesome child, a teacher who buy tickets to college alumni events for a sibling that he's never even taught. Staff who attend dance recitals. Text messages in early summer asking about my child's summer experience. An administrator who allows his students to be themselves and encourages expression. The allowance of programs that enhance talents--who doesn't need help. To even admit that "the perfect KIPP that many expect" needs assistance from "industry experts" is AMAZING and my children have benefited. Teachers who care enough to discover what works and develop that--even when children feel defeated. These are people that I can wholeheartedly trust with my most valuable gifts--my children--to the point where my child was able to travel across the country with a faculty member and not worry me sick. These things mean the world to me.

I must admit, I have some fundamental issues with the KIPP system and I've addressed them during a few welcomed and candid conversations. Will my issues be addressed by way of holistic change? Probably not! Do they warrant (at the very least) some level of change? I think so. I can say that those issues are minor in comparison to the positives. However, I have a choice and I chose to go through the process of sending my children to KIPP. It's easy to complain; yet, it's very difficult (for some) to accept that, on some level, that there are people who are willing to sacrifice to enhance the experience of others (even via compensation--the salary of a teacher can never accommodate the time spent on out-of-classroom tasks). That said, I challenge you to find a perfect school...or a perfect family.

Submitted by inthetrenches (not verified) on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 12:09

Do you teach at a KIPP school? If not, why not?

Submitted by KIPP Proud Parent (not verified) on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 15:35

I actually teach at a higher level. I taught children for some years and have decided to move on from that and add a few more things to my resume.

Submitted by annonym. (not verified) on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 13:54

I would have liked someone else to raise my children too. It would have been much easier to have someone else help with homework, take my children to extra curricular activities, etc. but as a parent, that is my responsibility. This is another example of parents turning responsibility over to the state - ironic that it is happening at a pro privatization charter school.

Submitted by KIPP Proud Parent (not verified) on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 15:31

You are more than welcome to ask a question but instead you let your ignorance prevail. Let me explain:
Child #1: a brilliant child!!! He attended the Haverford School and then developed a hip condition which caused us to decide to send him to KIPP to finish high school (due to therapy appointments--primarily). As a parent, I've driven to Chicago (24 hours round trip) to visit DePaul University. He's been accepted last week. He's had quite a few acceptances & some offers for full scholarships...with a full courseload. He's a wonderful child with such a humble spirit. His parent (me) has purchased oodles of audio engineering equipment to support his dream of creating musical scores. He attends drum and piano lessons of which I provide transportation as well as Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement. He's always been an excellent writer. He was also unanimous voted as NFTE alum of the year. You should check him out. Oh! His mother still helps him with assignments, especially quadratic equations!!!!

Child#2: KIPPster of the Year TWICE!!!! She's since graduated and was chosen to deliver a speech at graduation (not a dry eye in the building). Now she is at a city school as a dance major with all As and is now going to have all honors courses. She does this even dancing at 3 studios situated around the city afterschool. She takes 10 classes per week & works at one on Saturday. She's also in the company. Did I mention she maintains all As and her mother reads her books with her English class? She's gone to Houston with KIPP for a leadership summit. Everyone speaks so highly of her. She's being scouted by Drexel (biochem is the suggested major) in ninth grade and has received interest mail from Lycoming College. There are soooooooo many things that I could say. She is an all around great kid. She'll be cheering again starting the spring while she dances even in the summer at UPenn and then an intensive at another location. She's amazing and her mother transports her and buys all of her things. Do you know how expensive it is? No complaints. I work and have a very good job. I can certainly afford it. She aspires to be a criminal lawyer and the first, female black president--I forgot to add.

Child #3: excellent writer!!! She writes poetry and has a Shell Silverstein style. She plays lacrosse and dances as well. She hated math but her KIPP teachers have convinced her that she is great and now loves ALGEBRA. Who knew? Well, since she hated math, her mother paid for Mathnasium and took her three times a week. I'm so proud of her. She's starting to blossom and believe in herself. Her last report card was great. We're preparing for PSSAs. I asked her teacher for a list of math skills so that I could work with her at home.

Child #4 almost a repeat of child #2. She is so lovable. She dances at two studios and plays the cello at KIPP afterschool. She's fearless and the most amazingly compassionate child. Her teachers love her!!!! Her mother helps with homework and gives supplemental work as well. We read mostly every night on my iPad. We have the most amazing time.

This is just a snapshot of what goes on in my home, since you asked...
I'm not boasting but clarifying since you misspoke/mistyped. My babies are amazing because they've been raised properly by parents who love them and invest. By the way, last school year, child #2 needed to be picked up from school 3 days a week and whisked to dance but I loved every moment of it. I make plenty of sacrifices for my family but speaking well of my KIPP family is something that I felt I needed to convey. Don't you have family that helps you? It takes a village but make no mistake, I more than adequately raise 4 beautiful children.

Submitted by Headstart teacher (not verified) on Fri, 03/21/2014 - 10:02

Double post- as stated above.

Submitted by Paul Socolar on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 11:56

Thanks for the feedback on the story. We're interested in knowing when you think there are issues that call for deeper examination. Some of the questions raised about issues not addressed by the story are worthy of further exploration by the Notebook but were beyond the scope (and space constraints) of this piece, which was written as part of a package of stories for our upcoming about how time is used in schools. 

Bill Green, the new head of the School Reform Commission, has called for a longer school day and year, which is why our staff decided the whole issue of use of school time was important to devote an edition to right now. We know that more time does not automatically translate into more learning (the mixed results at Promise Academies point to that), and we wanted explore that.

KIPP has probably gone the furthest toward lengthening the day and year of any District or charter school in the city. There are certainly many issues that can be debated about KIPP, but researchers have found evidence that the extra time spent at KIPP has some demonstrated benefit. So we thought it was important to look at how KIPP uses the extra time - and what we learned seemed important to report ... that the approach is not just to double up on reading and math. Questions about KIPP's approach to discipline, to homework, staff and student turnover at KIPP schools, etc, are of interest to the Notebook but didn't fit into this project.

On the issue of transparency raised by commenters, KIPP Philaelphia is an outlier and wants to be a trendsetter among charters with their Open Book approach ... they  have committed to sharing a variety of data online that is generally hard to obtain for charters. This is another topic the Notebook could explore further. It would be interesting to hear what people think about the KIPP Open Book as an approach to the issues of transparency in the charter community - you'll see that KIPP says they are interested in feedback too and that their information-sharing is a work in progress.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/21/2014 - 14:14

I clicked through the questions in the "Open Book". With a few exceptions the contents of the open book are mostly marketing material and branding. The data on teacher turnover is reasonably transparent, though even there they can't resist marketing spin as the cite "72% retention". Another way of looking at it is 28% turnover. If they are truly interested in transparency they can provide much more de-identified raw data than they do, especially in areas like student retention. Of course doing so would significantly reduce their control over how they are perceived which is why the "open book" reads like an annual report; something typically written by a marketing department.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 12:01

Happy Reading............

http://watchdog.org/132881/philly-district-pay/employee-salaries-of-100k...

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 13:59

There is much food for discussion in this article and the comments. I have still never read any credible scientifically conducted study which shows that, in the long run, a longer school day or longer school year makes students smarter, happier, or better educated.

In our highest achieving schools and school districts, the students go to class for about seven hours a day and participate in extra curricular activities after school.

Time for play and exercise is essential for everyone's well being. I do recall reading a study or two or three that students who get exercise, learn better.

There is only so much children can stand of a classroom and homework a day.

My fear is that, in our test crazed mentality, that we are going to turn our schools into "sweatshops of test preparation" instead of "fields of enlightenment, fun and creativity."

Just thinkin'.....

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 19:46

Rich, I respect your perspectives on here, generally. But I think evidence is important, and I wish there were move good pieces of education research. But waiting for a scientific study before moving forward with education reforms isn't a great idea. Not trying new ideas is actually a choice to maintain the current system, which is fairly clearly not serving a large number of children. I don't think we need evidence to show that the education going on in many SDP schools isn't making students smarter, happier, or better educated.

More time without being used well, isn't necessarily helpful. That's true. The Promise Academies are an example of that. In the first year, they basically wasted the time and it wasn't helpful. But KIPP doesn't waste the time. And I have a hard time believing that more time, when put to strategic use, isn't helpful.

How do students get better at reading? They read more. How do they improve at math? More practice/exploration. There's obviously a limit at which point you need to rest, but to say that we need "more research" to confirm that more time would be helpful seems a more like reflexive resistance than an honest belief that more time, used well, isn't helpful.

I share concerns about too much testing, etc. That's why I find KIPP to be more appealing than many other charter options. They try to de-emphasize testing as much as they can. But if they don't get good test scores, they'll get shut down, so they have to pay them some mind. Part of the reason KIPP tends to lag behind certain other networks in Philly is that KIPP focuses less intently on test scores in order to offer a more diverse experience.

As for KIPP's various policies: I've never taught at a KIPP school. But I have volunteered during Saturday schools to help out a teacher-friend who had an emergency commitment, and I think that many of the policies that many KIPP critics paint as "controlling" or otherwise are really good ideas. I think it's much better to teach students social skills (like following directions) that, whether they are empowering or not, are frankly very useful in society. When trying to stay employed, it's usually wise to do what your boss says, even if it's restrictive. And when trying to teach, I'd love being in a school system that spent some time at the beginning of the year instilling clear systems, so that "classroom management" was built into the culture of the school, rather than left to each teacher to navigate on our own.

In any case, I certainly prefer KIPP's strategy of "controlling" students to the SDP's of basically ignoring behavior until it's too late, and then suspending/expelling students after it's too late to teach better behavior. Not to belabor the point, but I'd rather little Johnny get frustrated about earning his KIPP shirt in 3rd grade and fell a little stifled because he has to be quiet at lunch, than Johnny feel "empowered" by lax enforcement and not understand why he has trouble staying employed after graduation. This type of "control" is what many wealthier parents have often chosen by sending children to private or Catholic schools. The charters give a similar option to parents who don't have the means for that.

And folks saying KIPP is replacing parents: How do suburban kids spent their time? At school, then school-based activities. It's not mandatory, but most students do it. KIPP, in my view, is making available to Philly students what's already a reality for many suburban students: The opportunity to stay at school until 5:00 p.m. working on either academic, athletic, or enrichment activities. When I taught in a neighborhood school in the SDP, any student in the building after 3:15 p.m. would get cited for trespassing. But most didn't really have anywhere else to do. Other than caring for siblings, the average school-age child doesn't have anything constructive to do between 3:00 and 5:30 p.m., and employed parents can't be home at that time. I'd much rather one entity (a school) seamlessly provide activities and supervision that time than forcing parents to arrange alternative care and transportation.

As to staff turnover. This is an issue at KIPP, from what I understand. However, Philadelphia is one of the places where it's not a very good argument because the turnover in the SDP is huge, too. I started at a neighborhood school in the mid-2000s. Virtually none of my peers stayed more than 2 years (maybe 3) in the SDP before either leaving the profession, moving to the suburbs, or (the most common option, actually), voluntarily resigning from the district to take a position with a charter school because they felt it was where they'd be most empowered to educate their students.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 20:09

At our West Philly SDP school, many teachers spent their whole career there. Right now I can at least 8 teachers who have been there 7 years or more. Other teachers are new to the school but have been transferred in after working years in the district. We watch kids grow and move up. They know the teachers and feel comfortable with the staff because they know us. They come back for hugs all the time. They know we care how they do every year, even though they are not our students that year.

Think how that impacts the students. They see their old teachers who care about them and STAY in the community to help them and their siblings. Parents know us and have experience with us. Administrators come and go, but we stay because we care.

Having staff turn over every two years does not show a commitment to the families nor does it create a school culture that values or knows them.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on Fri, 03/21/2014 - 09:11

I agree with most of what you say. How we structure a school day, a school year, and life in schools over years are issues educators have been discussing and experimenting with for years and years. All of the issues are debatable.

I am a big supporter of "the whole child" and both structured and innovative learning programs. From my experience and study I believe it is -- a question of balance.

You are right about research. Cognitive growth is difficult to measure and in reality it grows very slowly over time. There is a difference between short term memory, long term memory -- and cognitive growth.

Cognitive growth is what makes us smarter and a whole bunch of life's experiences is what causes cognitive growth. It happens inside our brains and is very dependent on the learner. The question is one of balancing time in class, school, study and play. We all need play and exercise to be healthy individuals.

I am a big fan of the cognitive psychologist Piaget. I am also, as a trained reading diagnostician with 20 years of actual experience teaching reading, very well aware that standardized tests are very poor measures. They are at best approximations of cognitive ability. They have their uses and limitations.

There are some very smart kids who do not read well or score high on tests. That is why school grades are better predictors of academic ability and success.

There is a national issue that we are using the test-and-punish craze to turn our schools into test preparation factories at the expense of creativity and just providing our kids with a healthy, nurturing learning environment and climate in our schools.

I have visited a KIPP elementary school and was impressed. Marc Manella and I had a discussion of their longer day. He said, "We make it fun."

The best scores, the best programs, the best classes, in my experience and study, are those that are fun and inspiring. But you cannot take the root word "study" out of "student."

In a healthy life -- it is a question of balance.

Submitted by ParentCitizen (not verified) on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 19:07

How can you paint KIPP parents with such a negative broad brush? Just because that school attempts some different things doesn't mean the parents are neglectful. That's just crazy. Maybe their model is great, maybe it is not. But it's just awful how resentful and downright mean some of you "educators" are when a charter is noted as succeeding.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 20:07

It's clear that there is a strong anti-parent sentiment here and it's very sad to witness. Maybe you should learn what the Kippsters seem to have figured out. If you don't take a bigger role, you have less successful students. To paraphrase Biggie, that's why you're so broke (in character) and they're so paid (in student achievement).

Submitted by Headstart Teacher (not verified) on Fri, 03/21/2014 - 08:55

And its clear that all the comments that propose a differing of opinion here are being deleted!

Why is that?????

Notebook - does Kipp pay your bills??

Submitted by Paul Socolar on Fri, 03/21/2014 - 12:25

Any reader can see there's no shortage of anti-KIPP comments here - including several of your own and some quite vehement. This is an open forum but there are groundrules. Our terms of use do not allow name-calling and inappropriate language. Our staff delete those comments, regardless of the point of view.  

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/21/2014 - 13:36

There is to much name calling and not enough looking at facts. The fact is that many of you who denigrate the efforts of Kipp come from families that may have been in similar circumstances as some of the Kipp families are in today. Their children are being educated beyond their ability to help. They should not be the object of your scorn for being in what most Americans see as one of the great things about this country. Your children can have more opportunities than you.

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