Thursday, September 30, 2010

'Waiting for Superman' shows what's wrong with urban education; Baltimore innovators know how to fix it

A nice review of Waiting for Superman in the Baltimore Sun, with well-deserved props to KIPP Ujima and a plug for an investing conference in Baltimore on Thursday to benefit the Children's Scholarship Fund Baltimore and Southwest Baltimore Charter School:

The only thing missing is a legal structure allowing it to happen. Baltimore's KIPP Ujima Village Academy, whose overwhelmingly poor and black students are consistently some of the highest achievers in the state, struggled to survive last year because the local union initially refused to let the school's teachers work the longer hours required by the curriculum. Jason Botel, executive director of KIPP Baltimore, says he hopes the movie pushes legislators to allow high-performing charter schools to have the freedom to extend their school days.

Damion Cooper is one parent who knows the power of KIPP. His daughter Alexis is a seventh-grader at Ujima Village Academy, where students and their parents have teachers' cell phone numbers.

Alexis used to struggle in math and stayed back a grade when entering KIPP because of her test scores, he said. She's now an A student and qualifies for entrance to elite private high schools.

"You see the care and concern of the teachers," said Cooper, who is the community outreach coordinator for City Councilman Bernard "Jack" Young. "I love that they say we are going to follow your kid from the time they enter school to the time they enter college."

Every state legislator should see this movie. Then they should give every child the chance to succeed like Alexis and her 369 fellow students at KIPP Ujima Village Academy by strengthening the state's charter law this year. They should also pass tax credit legislation that has stalled in the General Assembly for years that would make it easier for businesses to give to both public and private schools.

Those who would like to help all students achieve their potential do not have to wait for legislators, however. You can donate to KIPP and to other high-performing schools. And buy a ticket to the Next Generation Investing ( event Thursday, where attendees will hear exclusive stock tips from top investors including Brian Rogers of T. Rowe Price Group and Bill Miller of Legg Mason Capital Management. Proceeds will help the Children's Scholarship Fund (where I am a board member) to give more than 400 partial scholarships to low-income Baltimore City children and students at Southwest Baltimore Charter School.


'Waiting for Superman' shows what's wrong with urban education; Baltimore innovators know how to fix it

4:51 p.m. EDT, September 27, 2010,0,2997511.column

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