Friday, June 25, 2010

STOP THE PRESSES x 2: KIPP study by Mathematica

STOP THE PRESSES!!!  Mathematica just released the most comprehensive and rigorous study of KIPP ever (see and the results are STUNNING!  Here are excerpts from a letter from KIPP's CEO, Richard Barth  :


The study is the most expansive to date on KIPP, including demographic and achievement data from 22 KIPP schools in 14 school districts.   It is also the most rigorous study of KIPP charter schools, as the Mathematica team used a conservative research design to measure KIPP's impact on student learning.


You can link to an executive summary and more information on this report here.  The report was also featured in stories in today's Houston Chronicle and Education Week.


The Mathematica researchers found that for the vast majority of KIPP schools studied, impacts on achievement are positive, statistically significant, and educationally substantial.  These gains are large enough in many schools to substantially close the achievement gap within three years.  


…The research team at Mathematica has also made it clear that the gains by KIPP students were not achieved by selectively recruiting students who are high performers, or by encouraging struggling students to leave KIPP after enrolling in one of our schools.   In fact, the study shows that KIPP schools most often enroll students whose average fourth-grade achievement is lower than the average achievement of students in local district schools and that KIPP students make truly significant progress.   And, importantly, attrition is not a contributing factor in achieving these gains.  


We are still in the early stages of KIPP's development and of the Mathematica research study.  And as much as I want to emphasize respect and gratitude for what has been accomplished, I know that we can do even more, and KIPP can get better, even as we get bigger. 


This first report makes clear that we are serving higher proportions of children in poverty and students of color, though fewer special needs and ELL students.   As a national network, we know that there are KIPP schools that serve special needs and ELL students brilliantly, without any compromise in quality or expectations.   We know we are doing so right now in a number of our highest performing schools.   The message here is simple: we can do more and so we will do more.


…KIPP started 16 years ago as an idea.   The idea was simple:  to prepare kids to climb the mountain to and through college.  From the idea came a program serving 48 children.  And from there, two middle schools.   This summer, we will have 99 schools serving over 25,000 students in 20 states and DC.  This report should inspire all of us to continue to deliver on the sacred promises we make to children, even as the number of children to whom we are making those promises is growing dramatically. 

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KIPP Middle Schools Found to Spur Learning Gains

Here's the EdWeek article about the Mathematica study:


"The consistency of the effects across most of the 22 schools and the magnitude of the effects are pretty striking and impressive," said Brian P. Gill, a senior social scientist for Mathematica and an author of the study. "We do a lot of education studies, and often the effects are nonexistent or quite small."


At about half the KIPP schools, the study found that the gains in math for students after three years in the schools were equivalent of 1.2 years of extra instruction, and .9 years of additional instruction in reading, Mr. Gill said.


No Evidence of Skimming


Critics of charter schools often contend the schools "cream" higher-achieving students from regular public schools, but the study didn't find any evidence that KIPP is systematically enrolling more high-performers from their school districts. On average, the report says, KIPP middle schools have students who are more likely to be living in poverty and are more likely to be black or Hispanic than are students from the schools around them. Back when they were in 4th grade, the study also found, a majority of the KIPP middle school students had lower test scores on average than did students in their local school districts.


The study also looked at student attrition rates, which at least one previous study has found to be relatively high in KIPP schools. The Mathematica researchers found, however, that while attrition rates vary widely among the schools, KIPP middle schools don't have systematically higher or lower numbers of students leaving before completion than other schools within their districts.


"This report provides irrefutable evidence that KIPP is not getting [positive] results because of getting more able students in the door or losing students at higher rates than their counterparts," said Steve Mancini, the director of public affairs for KIPP, which operates a total of 82 schools serving 21,000 students across the country.


KIPP Middle Schools Found to Spur Learning Gains


EdWeek, 6/22/10

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Study supports KIPP success

And here's the Houston Chronicle article:

A common refrain among those who question the impressive test scores consistently posted by low-income children attending Houston-based KIPP charter schools is that school administrators game the system by skimming top students from traditional public schools and kicking out those who can't keep up.

But a study being released today concludes most students come to KIPP academically behind their peers and finds their average attrition rate is in line with other schools.

"What we're finding is results that are positive," said Brian Gill, a senior social scientist with Mathematica Policy Research Inc., a Princeton, N.J.-based nonprofit research group. "They're statistically significant in most cases, and they're educationally big."

…KIPP co-founder Mike Feinberg said he hopes the work reassures supporters and silences naysayers.

"This is great news for the people who have already had faith in us," he said. "For the people who have been on the fence, I hope this makes them true believers."

…Nelson Smith, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said there is already plenty of evidence to convince policy-makers to allow KIPP and other successful charters to expand. Texas, however, only has a handful of charters to issue before the state reaches its cap of 215.

"It helps demolish some of the myths that people hold about KIPP," Smith said. "Some of the ways people have tried to excuse or explain KIPP's success just don't hold water."

The report showed that KIPP schools are much more likely to hold students back a grade if they can't do the work, especially in the fifth and sixth grades. At KIPP's southeast Houston middle school, for example, 6.6 percent of fifth-graders were retained, compared to the state average of less than 2 percent.

"The differences likely capture KIPP's philosophy that students should be promoted to the next grade level only after they have demonstrated mastery of their current grade's material," according to the report.

Or as Feinberg put it: "I remind everyone all the time that climbing the mountain to college is not a race. It's not when you get to the top, it's what you know when you get there."


Study supports KIPP success

Review shows school isn't gaming system


June 22, 2010, 6:12AM

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support Michael Dee's race across the Gobi Desert for KIPP

STOP THE PRESSES #2!  If you are as inspired as I am by the incredible things KIPP is doing, I hope you'll join me in supporting my great friend, Michael Dee, who is doing something truly amazing to support KIPP: he is doing the second most grueling endurance event IN THE WORLD (the Tour de France is #9), a 250 km. foot race over seven days across the Gobi Desert, to raise money for KIPP NY and KIPP Houston.  I am inspired by what he is doing – I highly doubt I could ever do it! – and have already given $2,500, equal to $10 for each km.  Here's Michael's appeal:


When Whitney and I met for the first time this year, we immediately knew we had to do something audacious and impactful together to further our mutual passion for change-driven education paradigms such as KIPP. We hope you agree...


On June 27th I will participate in a 155-mile, seven-day foot race across the Gobi Desert at temperatures exceeding 120 degrees, carrying all equipment, food, medical and clothing supplies in a 22 lb. backpack only being supplied water, and a tent at night. This race was recently ranked #2 on Time magazine's list of the world's top endurance events (the Tour de France was #9).


Why such an extreme event you ask? Fair question...


Both Whitney and I feel it best symbolizes the unique spirit and character of the KIPP students and the challenges they overcome every day, with no excuses. It simply takes an outrageous effort to equal the cause.   


The region of the Gobi I will be racing is known as 'the oven' and is the furthest point from any ocean on the planet. The race involves roughly a marathon a day for four days followed by a double marathon and then a relaxing half marathon. There are no cheering crowds lining the route unless you include the local ethnic groups. Make no mistake, I'm a desk jockey like most of you, so this will involve its fair share of pain and grit.


While in Houston with Morgan Stanley I was on the Executive Committee of KIPP Houston and Chaired Teach for America Houston. Now I live in Singapore where I have seen that the relentless focus on education has enabled one of the greatest urban success stories of our age, predicated on the development of human capital. By virtue of living in Asia I have a front row seat at how America's post war educational advantage is being eroded and the amazing pace with which the developing markets of China and India in particular are catching up and exceeding our students. The KIPP model and others like it should be considered not just the civil rights issue of the 21st century, but an issue of national security.




We were both board members with the founders of KIPP, myself with Mike Feinberg in Houston and Whitney with David Levin in NY. We have seen, up close and personal, the power of inspiration in motivating kids to work hard and be nice. We've seen proof that the only limitations are those we put on ourselves. While a year ago I couldn't run five miles without an Iron Lung and an IV, now I've lost 30 lbs. and am just cocky enough to believe I can do this. I hope my efforts will inspire you to step up for the KIPPsters in a big way and enable them the opportunity to do the heavy lifting to change their lives.


You don't have to wear a tux, bid at auctions or attend a fancy dinner. I'll have a blog running daily so you can follow the progress from the comfort of home or work. When I hit the wall, and I will, I'll have two things to keep me going, first is the inspiration of the entire KIPP family who never give up and beat the odds every day, and second is you, for investing in this project with us and providing the means to change the future.  


Bookmark the Blog below and follow the adventure as the Gobi March approaches on June 27th:


Donations can be made online or by check:


Dedicated website online:


Or, checks should be made payable to 'KIPP, Inc.' and mailed to:


Gobi March 2010

Attn: Development

10711 KIPP Way

Houston, TX  77099


Want to know more about KIPP? Watch:


"KIPP is..."


"The Moment"


PS—Read this ( and then watch the 2nd video ("The Moment") – it's AMAZING!

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Formula for success

Some more incredible news from Rhode Island (which has received no attention to date): the General Assembly passed a bill ensuring that state education aid will follow the students.  To an outsider, this might seem obvious – of course schools and school districts should receive funds based on how many students they have (and what type of students – e.g., special ed), right? – but in the Alice in Wonderland world of our public school system, this isn't at all how it works in many (most?) places, so this bill in RI is important, both for RI and also (hopefully) as a precedent nationally.  Here's an editorial in the Providence Journal praising the move:

Formula for success

01:00 AM EDT on Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rhode Island should be pleased with a strong new — possibly historic! — school-funding formula that the General Assembly has passed. For the first time, starting in fiscal 2012, at least $850 million in state education aid each year will "follow the students" — providing a strong incentive to local communities to make their schools the best possible. This could be a milestone in the state's efforts to improve public education. Kudos to legislators.

The funding formula replaces a chaotic and highly political system that left some districts with declining school populations receiving far more money than they should have gotten — money that often merely went to boost already generous benefits for politically powerful teachers unions.

Now, the dollars more rationally follow the students, with extra help going to the poorest — those who present the toughest education challenges, because of language difficulties and other problems.

And community leaders will be pleased to be able to plan for their education aid under a more transparent and rational system.

Best of all, that funding is connected to students provides some built-in accountability. As parents move their children to better-performing districts and charter schools, the money will essentially go with them. Communities that are doing the best job, therefore, can, to some degree, expect the most aid. That will put stronger pressure on local leaders to do what is right for the students.

Because the "rotten boroughs" under the old system — places where money was outstripping student population — are no more, most students will benefit from the new formula. Indeed, 70 percent of the state's 140,000 public-school students will receive more aid under the new system. Communities that lose money may have to do some belt-tightening, shrinking their workforces or providing benefits that are not as generous.

The new formula won overwhelming support from the legislature. Rep. Steven Costantino (D.-Providence) argued it will "transform the state and put it on strong footing to be competitive nationally." (The opposition tended to be purely parochial, from districts facing steep — if justifiable — cuts.)

But it also won praise, this time, from passionate advocates of school reform in local communities, as well as from Education Commissioner Deborah Gist. Some school-reform leaders had worked to block past funding formulas, which tended to throw money at communities on the basis of politics, with little rational connection to students.

The formula may not be perfect. There are areas that may have to be refined in the years ahead, since it is a judgment call how much extra it costs to educate a poorer child, and what factors should go into the calculations.

We will be watching to see whether true accountability is built into the system, and whether extra money really will benefit students and the general public.

But the school-funding formula sure looks like a plan to put students back where they should be in questions of education — front and center.

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Local mayors, administrators launched new school funding formula

Here's an article by Daniel McKee, the Mayor of Cumberland, RI, on how the bill was conceived and passed (Commissioner Deb Gist played a key role of course):

In 2009, as momentum built for a new education funding policy, a new Commissioner, Deborah Gist, took over at the Department of Education. Almost immediately she indicated that RIDE would not be supporting the bills then under consideration at the General Assembly. For the next year, Commissioner Gist was steadfast in her insistence that funding should follow students to the public schools they attend.

Throughout the fall of 2009, the mayors and their policy advisers were in conversation with RIDE, with Brown University's Dr. Kenneth Wong, and with leaders in the General Assembly as Commissioner Gist developed her proposal. On Nov. 8, the mayors published a strongly worded opinion piece on state funding policy in the Providence Journal.

A strong education funding policy would be based on individual student need, establishing the base level of state support every student requires and providing additional support through an equitable and transparent formula for special needs that require costly additional services.

This measurable amount of funding would follow a child to any Rhode Island public school parents choose. Only in this way can we get taxpayers' dollars where they were intended to go. Only in this way can we avoid the practically comic system under which we now live, where a district can continue to receive tens of millions of dollars for thousands of students who no longer attend its schools.



Local mayors, administrators launched new school funding formula

Last week we all saw Rhode Island go from worst to first on something very important. With a 60-14 vote in the House of Representatives and a 26-9 vote in the Senate, Rhode Island passed the most forward-thinking education funding policy in the nation, a true money-follows-the-student law that can be the backbone for a new, better public education system in our state. At a time when so many people are struggling, this is cause for hope.

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Only 15 percent of HISD freshmen graduate college

Kudos to Houston for tracking and reporting this horrifying data: only 15% of 9th graders will earn a college degree of any sort within four years (the more common six-year number is certainly higher, but not much I'd bet).  Below is a blog post:

The Houston school board heard a sobering statistic this morning: Only 15 percent of the school district's ninth-graders had college degrees four years after high school graduation day. This isn't an estimate (UPDATE: It's partly an estimate. See explanation below). This number tracks actual students from HISD with the National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit that partners with public and private colleges. The only data we've had before is from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and that includes only those students who stay in state, so this is powerful information — which I'd like to see other school districts compile as well.

Page 4 of the plan shows what happens to Houston's 9th graders.  (Doing some simple math shows what a dead-end 2-year colleges are: only 8.1% of those who enroll in 2-year colleges have earned a postsecondary degree within four years.

 Page 6, shows how one can track whether students are on-track, and the massively higher college graduation rate for students who go off to college properly prepared (this reinforces page 45 of my school reform presentation (, which shows that virtually all college-ready students, across all ethnicities, are going to college – the problem is that so few students, especially low-income and minority ones, are properly prepared).


Only 15 percent of HISD freshmen graduate college -- UPDATED

See the detailed data on this on page six of the full presentation

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Missing in Newark: Its Teachers

Another great piece of reporting by the WSJ's Barbara Martinez (the first of three articles), on Newark's horrific teacher absenteeism:

Poor attendance has been plaguing the beleaguered Newark schools—but the teachers are the ones missing class.

Nearly half of all Newark teachers took at least two weeks of sick leave last year, and more than a quarter of them took three weeks or more off.

The district instituted an attendance-improvement program in October, but even so about 7% of the district's teachers are absent on an average day, nearly twice the urban-district average of 4%, said Valerie Merritt, a spokeswoman for the system.


I don't know whether it's more or less shocking to learn that the vast majority of this absenteeism is PERMITTED BY THE CONTRACT!  Regardless, it's infuriating and inexcusable that so many teachers (among the best paid in the country, with gold-plated benefits and ironclad job security) aren't even bothering to show up for work.


  • JUNE 15, 2010

Missing in Newark: Its Teachers


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Newark Teachers Face Tough Bargaining

Article #2 on the upcoming Newark teacher contract negotiations:

Joseph Del Grosso, the president of the NTU, said he's ready for changes, including merit pay and teacher evaluations, provided he has a say in the parameters.

"Whether we like it or not, changes are going to be made," he said in an interview at his Broad Street office, and it's better for the union to help shape the changes with its own ideas than to fight them.

No one expects Mr. Del Grosso to easily give up a lot of the teacher perks, but Mr. Del Grosso's stance on those issues are in stark contrast to the state's largest union group, the New Jersey Education Association, which is an affiliate of the National Education Association. The NJEA vociferously opposes Mr. Christie's call for merit pay and other changes. The NTU, meanwhile, is a local of the American Federation of Teachers.

Valerie Merritt, a spokeswoman for the Newark Public Schools, said last year's contract was an "excellent settlement" because "the mandatory teacher work year in Newark is now the highest in the state."

This year, however, some new players are planning to exert pressure on the negotiations.

"We have to have a performance-based model," said Shavar Jeffries, the newly elected president of the Newark advisory school board, who is also a law professor and civil-rights attorney at Seton Hall Law School.

Mr. Jeffries said that superintendent Clifford Janey told him he's on board with making bold changes to the contract, which expires this month. But Mr. Jeffries warned that he'd be a vocal opponent of a contract that falls short on those goals. Ms. Merritt had no comment on Mr. Jeffreies' remarks.

"Anything other than a groundbreaking contract is utterly unacceptable," said Derrell Bradford, executive director of Excellent Education for Everyone, a Newark-based, school-choice advocacy group. Starting next month, Mr. Bradford is sending groups of canvassers through the streets of Newark to educate residents about the teacher contract.

Mr. Del Grosso said he understands that there's very little money to work with for the next contract. As teachers, "we have to be realistic," he said. But, "I go into negotiations to get the best possible deal I can for my members."


  • JUNE 15, 2010

Newark Teachers Face Tough Bargaining

Union Braces for Leaner Contract in City Where New Jersey's Blunt-Talking Governor Has Control Over Struggling Schools


When New Jersey agreed last year to give Newark teachers a 5% raise for working an extra four days, the union announced the news in a memo that included two dollar signs in large type and declared: "no health benefits give-back!!"

One year later, the Newark Teachers Union is back at the negotiating table—and this time things may not work out so favorably. Gov. Chris Christie earlier this year implored taxpayers to vote down local budgets that did not freeze teacher pay. Because the Newark schools are controlled by the state, it is one of the few teacher contracts over which Mr. Christie actually has veto power.

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Newark Teachers Union Head Supports Merit Pay, Open to Abolishing Seniority

Article #3 is an interview with the head of the Newark teacher's union who, much to my surprise, seems quite open to real reforms – it could just all be talk though:

The New Jersey Education Association, the state's largest teachers' labor group, has been railing against Gov. Chris Christie's ideas for revamping the state's education system, particularly merit pay and tying teacher's evaluations to student test scores. (See related stories from The Journal on teacher absences and contract negotiations.) But the president of the Newark Teachers Union thinks those ideas aren't so bad. It could be because he is, like Gov. Christie, a Republican. Whatever the reason, Joseph Del Grosso shares his views on what are some contentious issues in education:

WSJ: What do you think of merit pay?

Del Grosso: I think it's good. We would have to negotiate it.

WSJ: Would you tie merit pay to student test scores?

DG: Absolutely. It has to be part of it. It can't be tied to a single test score, but it has to be part of it. It can't live without it. If that's not part of the equation we'd be fooling ourselves.


  • June 15, 2010, 10:14 AM ET

Newark Teachers Union Head Supports Merit Pay, Open to Abolishing Seniority

By Barbara Martinez

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Schools Face Test on Budget Math

A WSJ article about the major cuts and layoffs coming to school systems across the country:

The struggles at Downe Township School illustrate the challenges public schools face across America as a convergence of factors—ravaged state and local finances, tapped-out taxpayers and a reform push by the Obama administration—force wrenching change. As the school year winds down, educators are grasping for new ways to do more with less, and to remedy an embarrassing reality: Despite spending more per student than the average developed country, U.S. schools perform below average in core subjects such as math and reading.

"Where we are as a country in education is not acceptable," says Jon Schnur, a former education adviser to the Clinton and Obama administrations and now head of a training program for school administrators called New Leaders for New Schools. The goal, he believes, should be to bring performance up to the level of spending, rather than to cut the latter.

But in the wake of the worst recession in more than half a century, many communities find themselves with no choice but to cut.

Public education, unlike Social Security and national defense, depends on state and local financing. The federal government accounts for less than 10% of public-school funding, with state and local budgets roughly splitting the rest.


  • JUNE 15, 2010

Schools Face Test on Budget Math


DOWNE TOWNSHIP, N.J.—For seventh-grader Kyle Scarpa, budget strains affecting schools across the country are hitting where it hurts.

A Race to the Top?

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Video of NY Assemblyman (and ed reform warrior) Sam Hoyt

Here's a video of NY Assemblyman (and ed reform warrior) Sam Hoyt, engaging in a debate on the possibility that the State Regents would have veto power over the Charter School Institute at SUNY.  Following this debate, an amendment was voted on to clarify that section of the law that was just passed.  See:

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DFER Ed Reformer of the Month for June is Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Virginia):


It is with great pleasure that we announce today that Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Virginia) has been named DFER's "Ed Reformer of the Month" for June. We began this online fundraising feature a year ago this month, and in that time. nearly 200 of you have helped raise approximately $100,000 for reform-minded candidates for office around the nation.

Help us start our our second year of this experiment by showing some love to Rep. Perriello, even if you can't attend the reception in his honor later this month.

Perriello has spent his life serving the underserved and, in Congress, his bona fide progressive values have turned him into an avid education reformer. He is part of a new generation of federal elected officials who represent a dramatic departure from old-school obsession with ideology.

Perriello was a strong supporter of Rep. Jared Polis' All-STAR Act, which helps to replicate high-performing charter schools that serve at-risk students. The bill establishes new thresholds for data-driven accountability and transparency, helping to ensure that new charter schools maintain the high level of performance that today's most trusted ones achieve.

In 2008, Perriello pulled off one of the country's biggest electoral upsets, beating a six-term Republican incumbent. His reelection campaign is likely to be challenging as well, so every dollar of support is especially critical. Perriello is the kind of keen, progressive champion we need in Washington, D.C.

Please click here to join other education reformers aroundf the nation in supporting Rep. Perriello today!

Please join


Democrats for Education Reform


for a cocktail reception to support the re-election of


Congressman Tom Perriello (VA-5) 


With special guest


Congressman George Miller (CA-7) 

Chairman, Education and Labor Committee 

Chairman, Democratic Policy Committee


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

VIP Reception: 6:00 PM – 6:30 PM

General Reception: 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM


The Home of Michael and Kristina Caplin

8477 Portland Place

McLean, Virginia 22102


VIP Reception:

Host: $2,400

Sponsor: $1,000

General Reception:

Benefactor: $500

Patron: $250

Friend: $100


To RSVP, please contact Steve Hurvitz at (703) 340-4497 or


To contribute/RSVP online via DFER's "Ed Reformer of the Month" page, click here.


Contributions or gifts to Perriello for Congress are not deductible for federal income tax purposes.

An individual may contribute a maximum amount of $2,400 per election (the primary and general are separate elections) to a federal candidate. Federal multi-candidate political action committees (PACs) may contribute $5,000 per election. Contributions from corporations, labor organization treasury funds, foreign nationals, and federal government contractors are prohibited.


Perriello for Congress does not accept contributions from registered federal lobbyists.

Produced In-House and Labor Donated.

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The $600 billion challenge

Carol Loomis reveals the VERY important project Buffett and Gates have undertaken (it's a long article, so I've pasted the full text at the end of this email):
Bill Gates, Melinda Gates, and Warren Buffett are asking the nation's billionaires to pledge to give at least half their net worth to charity, in their lifetimes or at death. If their campaign succeeds, it could change the face of philanthropy.


June 16, 2010, 7:00 am

The $600 billion challenge

By Carol J. Loomis, senior editor-at-large

FORTUNE -- Just over a year ago, in May 2009, word leaked to the press that the two richest men in America, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, had organized and presided over a confidential dinner meeting of billionaires in New York City. David Rockefeller was said to have been a host, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Oprah Winfrey to have been among those attending, and philanthropy to have been the main subject.

Pushed by the press to explain, Buffett and Gates declined. But that certainly didn't dim the media's interest in reaching for descriptions of the meeting: The Chronicle of Philanthropy called it "unprecedented"; both ABC News and the Houston Chronicle went for "clandestine"; a New York magazine parody gleefully imagined George Soros to have been starstruck in the presence of Oprah. One radio broadcaster painted a dark picture: "Ladies and gentlemen, there's mischief afoot and it does not bode well for the rest of us." No, no, rebutted the former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Patty Stonesifer, who had been at the meeting and had reluctantly emerged to combat the rumors. The event, she told the Seattle Times, was simply a group of friends and colleagues "discussing ideas" about philanthropy.

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11 Phila. schools granted new charters

Some great news from Philadelphia.  Here's the update from KIPP Philadelphia founder Marc Mannella:



Today at the SRC meeting, the School District voted YES on KIPP's expansion proposal!  This means that we finally have the last piece of the puzzle in place, and KIPP Imagine Elementary Academy and KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy will officially both be opening this coming August.  Of course, there's a trick… we were only approved for 150 students combined, not the 230 we asked for… but despite the chaos that has thrown our budgets into, we will make it work.     

We need to call what happened at the SRC today what it was: A victory for the children of the City of Philadelphia.  We have many people to thank, and many reasons to be thankful, and over the coming days and weeks we will be sure to do so to each and every person appropriately.  But first, tonight, we will celebrate the fact that 150 more students will be able to attend a KIPP school next year.  Then tomorrow we will roll up our sleeves, and get to work.   

And here's an excerpt from the local news story:

Mannella and other charter officials contend that district staffers told them during a conference call Friday that the commission hadn't planned to vote on their requests Wednesday and would not consider their applications to add 1,515 spots until this summer.

The commission's next regularly scheduled meeting is in August, and angry charter school advocates had circulated e-mails, made phone calls, and mobilized supporters to turn out for Wednesday's meeting to urge the SRC to consider their requests so they could be ready for fall.

But Superintendent Arlene Ackerman insisted that the commission had planned to vote on the charter renewals as planned Wednesday.

"It wasn't a course correction," she told Mannella. "The SRC never, ever directed the staff that this vote was not going to take place on June 16."

After the SRC meeting, Benjamin W. Rayer, who oversees the district's charter office, denied that he had told charter officials in a conference call Friday that the SRC planned to delay voting and took responsibility if there was a misunderstanding.

Charter officials said their own efforts had led to the vote.

"Through a lot of efforts, including through our coalition, we were able to impress upon the staff and the SRC something had to happen" Wednesday, said Guy Ciarrocchi, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools.


11 Phila. schools granted new charters

The Philadelphia School Reform Commission said Wednesday that 11 charter schools would receive new, five-year operating charters once they met a series of conditions.

And, in what one charter operator called a welcome "midcourse correction," the SRC voted to allow 17 other charters to expand in the fall.

"This makes a huge difference in the lives of a lot of children," Marc Mannella, chief executive officer of KIPP Philadelphia Schools, told the commissioners.


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Microsoft's Philly High School Traveled Rocky Road

Here are three articles about Microsoft's School of the Future, and it's hard to believe they're about the same school.  I don't know anything more about this school than what I've read here, but it smells suspiciously familiar to the Stanford Ed School/LDH/loosey-goosey mess – and there's even the same attempt to paper over the failure by boasting that each graduating senior was "accepted to an institution of higher learning" (with no further details):

When the Microsoft-designed School of the Future opened, the facility was a paragon of contemporary architecture, with a green roof, light-filled corridors and the latest classroom technology, all housed in a dazzling white modern building.

It might as well have been a fishbowl: Educators and the media from around the world watched to see whether Microsoft could reform public education through innovation in technology.

Although the school's creative ambitions have been frustrated by high principal turnover, curriculum tensions and a student body unfamiliar with laptop computer culture, the school graduates its first senior class Tuesday with each student having been accepted to an institution of higher learning.


Published Online: June 15, 2010

Microsoft's Philly High School Traveled Rocky Road

By The Associated Press 

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Microsoft High School's First Graduating Class Has a Bright Future

Here's a very favorable piece by Fast Company…:

Today is graduation day at The School of the Future, a high school started in 2006 by Microsoft as part of its U.S. Partners in Learning program and the School District of Philadelphia. We covered the school in 2007, while this graduating class was in its sophomore year (there they call it "second-year"). How have the students fared in this experimental new environment? We talked with Partners in Learning executive director Mary Cullinane to find out.

Out of the 156 students who started school in 2006, 117 are graduating today and 30 transferred away, which leaves only nine students who dropped out. That's better than the national graduation rate of 67% (for economically challenged West Philadelphia, where most of the students are from, it's a bit lower). But there's a still more impressive stat: Of the 117 who are graduating today, all have college plans, whether it's two-year technical school or a four-year state school. "In an urban education setting this is really unheard of," says Cullinane. "Not just in Philly but across the country."


Microsoft High School's First Graduating Class Has a Bright Future

BY Alissa WalkerMon Jun 14, 2010

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School of the Future Crashes and Burns

…and here is what I suspect is the real story:
As I predicted three years ago, Philadelphia's ultra-expensive, ultra-high-tech, and ulta-ironically-named School of the Future (SOF) would crash and burn.  Educators and edu-journalists believed otherwise.  They thought that SOF would revolutionize education by teaching 21st century skills.

What could possibly go wrong?  There was lots of technology.  Great facilities.  Community involvement.  Lots of money being thrown around.  There would be discovery learning and lots of inquiry.  In short there was a naïve over-reliance on all the accoutrement's of education that are irrelevant to student outcomes.  In fact, some of them are downright toxic.

But things have gone horribly wrong.  Take a look at last Spring's PSSA scores (Pennsylvania's easy state assessment) for 11th grade students at the School of the Future.
…In short pretty much everything went wrong and everyone blamed everyone but themselves for the problems.

But, the real problem is that you can bet that no one will learn from the failure of SOF.  You can bet that all those education technology bloggers won't address the problems of SOF that reveal to gaping holes in their vision of the wonders of education technology.  You can bet that all the poverty racers won't confront the failure of a mass infusion of money on student outcomes.  Will the union apologists address the real problems caused at SOF by their beloved unions?  And what about the progressive educators whose project-based curricula never live up to expectations in urban schools?

SOF is a microcosm of every dopey education reform that has come down the pike.  Oversell the expectations; ignore the predictable outcomes.

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Barth appeal for Sen. Bennet

KIPP CEO Richard Barth with an invitation to learn more about the great senator from Colorado, Michael Bennet (here's an excerpt from what I wrote about him last year:


Friends -


I am writing to you today to join me in an effort to ensure that Michael Bennet is elected to the US Senate this November.  I have only invested my time and energy in one candidate over the last decade – Alan Khazei – and a good number of you rallied in support of Alan's 90 day effort this past Winter.  So, this is the 2nd campaign I have ever reached out to others for help, and it is a really important one.


Here is my special favor: along with Jon Schnur and Lauren Dutton, I am hosting a phone call next Monday, June 21st, at 8:00 pm EST, to introduce you all to Michael, to hear from him directly regarding his vision and his campaign, and then to share how everyone can help get him re-elected.  The call will take 45 minutes.  So, that's the favor I am asking, that you commit 45 minutes in what I know is an incredibly busy time of year, to learn more about this great person who can make a difference for children growing up in some of our most challenging circumstances.


About Michael and Why this is Important


Some of you receiving this note know Michael from his past life as the Superintendent of Denver Public Schools, where he led one of the most promising school reform efforts in the country.  Michael was leading the district when he was tapped to take the US Senate seat formerly held by Ken Salazar, who is now our Interior Secretary.


As someone who has actually led a large urban school system, Michael is absolutely uniquely suited to advocate for all that we know needs to happen.  Knowing Michael as well as I do, I know he will bring both the passion required to advocate on our behalf, as well as a completely pragmatic approach to getting things done.   At a time when key issues seem to quickly breakdown due to partisanship, Michael is someone who can work with folks from all walks of life. 


As all of you know, we are at a critical juncture on the federal front, with I3, CSP and now the upcoming re-authorization of ESEA.  Michael is a sitting US Senator, serving on the Education Committee.   I know that many of us are getting approached my different candidates these days, all worthy of your support.  I am asking for 45 minutes of your time, next Monday, to consider a candidate – and a candidacy – that I believe is truly unique for all of us.  We have an opportunity to elect – and send back to the Senate – an individual who has lived the life of a Superintendent, who understands our reality like on one else in the Congress, and who sits on the committee that matters. 


Please follow the link below and register for the call. Once you are registered it will give you a phone number and pin number to use to dial into the call.  It will only take two minutes.  If you have any questions or need to reach the campaign, please feel free to call Halle Mayes at 202-543-8555 or email her at


Call Link:


Look forward to having you join us next week.





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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Study on Harlem Success

An AMAZING new study (posted at: about the incredible impact Harlem Success Academy Charter School is making.  Here's the press release:


What Difference Does Winning 'The Lottery' At A High Performing Charter School Make?

Everything, Say Researchers studying Harlem Success Academy


New York – June 8, 2010  – According to a new study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, students attending the Harlem Success Academy Charter School (HSA) in New York City dramatically outperform similar students who apply but are not accepted via random lottery. The study, by researchers Jonathan Supovitz and Sam Rikoon, also found that students who enrolled in the public charter school outperformed similar students in comparable public schools in the neighborhood by an even wider margin.  


Students who are selected via random lottery to attend the popular Harlem Success Academy end up dramatically outperforming similar students who apply but are not accepted.  "This is the kind of evidence that conjures up all sorts of powerful emotions for our teachers and staff," said Eva Moskowitz, Founder and CEO of Success Charter Network, which operates the school.


Compared with non-lotteried in students: "The HSA 3rd graders performed a statistically significant 48 points higher in mathematics than did the 3rd graders not chosen by lottery to attend HSA, and remained in New York City schools," the researchers wrote. "In [reading], the HSA 3rd graders performed a statistically significant 35 points higher than did the 3rd graders that were not chosen by the lottery to attend HSA and remained in other New York City schools."


Compared with students in comparable neighborhood public schools:  "In mathematics, HSA 3rd graders performed, on average, 58 scale score points higher on the New York state test, after adjusting for group differences. This represented a 19 percent higher level of performance associated with attending HSA. In [reading], the differences were just under 40 scale score points, which translates to just over a 13 percent difference associated with attending HSA."


"On the one hand, we can see that the hard work we perform in our classrooms proves that these students are capable of being educated at extremely high levels. On the other hand, it reminds you that we all need to do a much better job providing these kinds of opportunities for all students. A child shouldn't have to win the lottery to be able to attend a fantastic school," Moskowitz continued.


When comparing HSA students both with similar students who applied to the school but were not selected in the lottery and with similar public school students in the neighborhood, the researchers found that students attending HSA scored 13-19% higher on the same reading and math tests. Sophisticated regression-analysis was used to control for other external factors.  


Harlem Success students outperformed both students who applied to HSA and were not admitted through the lottery and students in similar comparison schools.


Harlem Success Academy, and its high-profile student enrollment lottery, are the subject of two independent, documentary films. "The Lottery" by filmmaker Madeleine Sackler, debuted this spring at the Tribeca Film Festival and that opened nationally today. "Waiting for Superman," by filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, debuted earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival and will be distributed by Paramount Pictures in September.


Both films view the enrollment lottery from the eyes of parents who believe that winning a spot in the high performing public charter school is the key to their child's future. The UPenn researchers found evidence that these parents are onto something:  Winning a seat in the school does indeed make a statistical difference in terms of how the students are educated.


But winning a seat through the lottery remains difficult because of the lack of quality public school offerings in neighborhoods like Harlem. This past year, 7000 students applied for 1100 slots in Success Academy schools in Harlem and the South Bronx.


The study can be found here: 


About Harlem Success Academy Charter School


Harlem Success Academy Charter School, which opened in August 2006 on 118th Street and Lenox Avenue, was the first of four Harlem Success Academies founded by Success Charter Network (SCN).  SCN will open three more in 2010, for a total of seven schools in New York City.  Success Charter Network plans to open a total of 40 high-performing charter schools in New York City over the next ten years.

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KIPP Philadelphia appeal

Even (or, perhaps, especially) when charters are successful, the anti-charter folks want to kill them, which is exactly what's happening in Philadelphia.  Here's an email from KIPP Philadelphia founder Marc Manella.  Please support KIPP and charters in Philadelphia by making two quick phone calls (see below):


Dear KIPPsters, friends, and supporters:


All 26 charters who have applied to the School District of Philadelphia for permission to expand next year, including KIPP Philadelphia, got bad news from the District on Friday. A District official told us all on a conference call that NO expansion requests would be voted on at the June 16th ...School Reform Commission (SRC – Philly's school board) meeting, despite the District previously telling everyone the vote would be in June. As many of you know this has been a 2-year fight for us, and we are staring defeat squarely in the eye. If there is no vote on June 16th, KIPP Philadelphia's high school and elementary school will not open in the 2010-2011 school year.

If you have ever wondered "I like KIPP, but I don't know how I can help" - here's your chance. We are asking for anyone who can help us in this effort to please do so today, Tuesday, or Wednesday, in one of two ways:

1.) We believe the most impactful thing we can do now is have as many people as possible tell Superintendent Ackerman and the SRC that you believe they should honor the wishes of our families and community by voting on KIPP's expansion request. If you don't directly know these folks, you can call Dr. Ackerman at 215-400-4100, and Commissioners Girard-diCarlo, Irrizary, Armbrister, Dworetzky, and Archie at 215-400-4010. Please be respectful and polite – you will most likely get their receptionist after all, and this mess isn't his or her fault. Ask them how denying children who wish to go to KIPP is acting in the best interest of students. Then ask them to make it right, and vote on our charter expansion on June 16. You do not have to live in Philadelphia, or have children you are trying to enroll in a KIPP Philadelphia school, to help. The more calls are made, the more we are hoping they realize the enormity of the consequences of their refusal to act.

2.) The second-most impactful thing you can do is to join us at this Wednesday's SRC meeting. Two months ago 80+ KIPP parents joined us at District headquarters for an SRC meeting to show support for our expansion request – despite the meeting being held at 2:00 on a work day. This time we are hoping even more parents and supporters can show the District that our voices are not to be dismissed, and that we need to be heard. Details on how to join us at this meeting will follow in a separate message.

While Friday's news was bad, this is not over. We are not going to sit idly by as the desires, hopes, and dreams of our families and communities are ignored. On behalf of the over 300 students on our high school and elementary interest list and their families, potential KIPPsters who's chance to attend a KIPP school is in danger, thank you in advance for your help. There is no second chance for these 300 children to attend a KIPP school – this is their final shot. Please help us send more children to college – if you have a phone, please call the School District of Philadelphia right now.


Marc Mannella, CEO KIPP Philadelphia Schools

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