Paul Tough in his blog write sort of a response that I don't think quite gets to the heart of what Ravitch was saying. Perhaps that's because the answer to Ravitch's questions is so obviously yes.
Look around at the discourse on education and listen to what the people are talking about. When both presidential candidates and school leaders across the country are talking about one school model, you can bet that the conventional wisdom is firmly established. Certainly in the popular mind it is.
Tough, though, pivots the question a little bit. Rather than ask if this is what everyone seems to be believing, he focuses on whether or not it's the right thing to believe. Ultimately, this is a more useful question. As he writes:
I think students from low-income families in blighted neighborhoods who enter middle school way behind grade level need something more than just extended hours and expert teaching (though they need that, too). They also need adults around them who believe in them and care about them and who can guide them toward the behaviors and the mental habits that will help them succeed in school and in life.Hard to argue that point. There's no question that in these underserved areas, the system we have in place simply isn't working. That's not entirely the fault of the schools (remember there are issues about family life, access to health care, nutrition, etc. that also come into play), but the schools strike me as the best way to reverse the situation. Educating children is providing them with the best chance to escape their circumstances and live a better life.
So, then are these schools the best? Is this the best possible model that we can use in order to give kids the tools that they need to succeed in life?
I can't help but think that the answer is no. While KIPP schools certainly have had success at boosting test scores, I firmly believe that there is more to education than the rote knowledge that enables passing scores on tests. The unanswered question in all this is whether or not the children from KIPP schools continue to succeed in education and in life when the chanting, no-nonsense discipline, and drilling end.
KIPP is the equivalent of educational shock and awe. No question it breaks the kids out of the mindset and educational culture that they knew. That's an unqualified asset to the system. But once they've broken out, what replaces it? Where do they go from there?
Like shock and awe, the initial result can be spectacular. But once the flash and bang have faded, do the kids really have the skills to take control of their lives and create the best possible lives for themselves? I'm not sure that a test-prep, firm discpline, drill-heavy regime is really the best way to go about do that.