Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Marketing the Best Schools

A great article by Jay Mathews about how KIPP came to grow nationwide and its successes -- and challenges -- in doing so.  When I get a copy of the report referenced in the article, I'll send it out.  I love this line!
the Fishers handed Feinberg, Levin and Hamilton $15 million, since raised to about $25 million. Don Fisher told them, "I don't want to do something that just touches a few people. I want to be able to do something that can be expanded in size to do something major in public education." When Fisher asked if they really thought they could do that, Levin replied, "Well, Mr. Fisher, we're not sure, but we'd be more than happy to use your money to find out."
Marketing the Best Schools

By Jay Mathews
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 15, 2006; 10:54 AM

I try to avoid anything having to do with school district administration. I consider myself a classroom reporter, watching what the best teachers do to help children learn. To me, school board meetings are death. Interviews with school district superintendents aren't much better.

But a new report dissecting the KIPP Foundation, a very unusual kind of school administration, has reached me, and I am obliged to stifle my boredom with back-office details and reveal what it says. KIPP, short for Knowledge Is Power Program, is the most interesting initiative in American public education at the moment, and I have tried to be first with any important news about KIPP founders Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin and their growing number of teachers and students.

The intriguing part of this report, "The KIPP Schools: Deciding How to Go to Scale," by Howard Husock for the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, is its exploration of the relationship between the 52 KIPP schools in inner city and rural neighborhoods and the clothing store magnates, Doris and Don Fisher, who have bankrolled the foundation. They have left KIPP administrators a free hand and KIPP has set up an intriguing mechanism to rein in the schools that are not performing to the level they want. The Fishers created the GAP stores. I don't shop there, but I have worn some GAP items that I stole from my children's closets. They were comfortable, and I figure the Fishers must be smart because they are worth several hundred million dollars.

I did not realize until I read Husock's report, available at www.ksgcase.harvard. edu how powerful a brand name can be for a public charter school and how control of that name can be used to maintain high learning standards just as it is more commonly used to make sure the buttons on the front of my jeans don't fall off.

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