Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Work Hard. Get Evidence.

Every so often I come across something that captures almost exactly what I think, but it explains it so much better than I would have been able to do. I hate it when that happens. So you can imagine my dismay to read Sarah Mosle's Slate article from Monday called "The Educational Experiment We Really Need." It's like she was reading my mind and translating into clear, persuasive prose.

The gist of the article is that the KIPP model of education reform is extremely powerful and may even be the best chance for affecting a widespread reform of the education system. However, it's premature to say that it would work for all (or event most) kids on a system-wide basis. So far the samples from within each district are too small and too self-selecting. So it provides promise, but we can't start saying yet that it is the answer that we've all been seeking.

I feel like I should be handing out this article on street corners or something.

The simple fact of the matter is that Mosle is absolutely right. The research shows that comparing KIPP schools to traditional public schools is not comparing apples to apples in terms of student achievement going into the schools, parental willingness to be involved, and even parental affluence. On all of these measures, KIPPsters start at an advantage that makes it harder to gauge how effective the school is at teaching as opposed to selecting students likely to learn.

And that's to say nothing of the fanatical band of teachers (god bless them all) who form a staff that it's probably not realistic to say could be replicated at every urban school across the country.

Like other charter schools, KIPP has yet to show that it can operate an entire system rather than simply in pockets. And until KIPP (or any other program) shows that it can operate the entire system better than what we're seeing now, it's premature to say that the answer has been found.

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