Friday, July 01, 2011

KIPP Ascend

I'm aware of a number of schools in which all or most graduating seniors are going to college, yet this is covering up extremely high dropout rates – a good indicator is that the 9th grade class is twice the size of the 12th grade class.  For example, consider the charter school in Palo Alto run by the Stanford Ed School and Prof. Linda Darling-Hammond that I wrote about in April 2010: it trumpets its college acceptances, but was denied a full extension of its charter because in reality it's a deeply troubled school with poor overall results.  Here's an excerpt from what I wrote then (the full post is at:

Normally, a low-quality charter school being denied a full extension of its charter isn't worth of a STOP THE PRESSES, but this isn't just any charter school: it's the one started by Stanford's School of Education (where my father earned a doctorate, by the way) and, in particular, Linda Darling-Hammond, author of the infamous Teach for America hatchet job (my full critique of her is posted at:  LDH (along with Ravitch, Meier, and Kozol) is among the best known of your typical ed school, loosey-goosey, left-wing, politically correct, ivory tower, don't-confuse-me-with-the-facts-my-mind's-made-up, disconnected-from-reality critics of genuine school reform.  (Forgive my bluntness, but I can't stand ideological extremists of any persuasion, especially when kids end up getting screwed.)

LDH and Stanford's Ed School decided to test their educational theories in the real world, starting a charter school in 2001 to serve the low-income, mostly-Latino children of East Palo Alto.  I credit them for this – in fact, I think EVERY ed school should be REQUIRED to start and run, or at least partner with, a real live school.  What they set out to do is REALLY, REALLY hard, so I also credit them for having the good sense to start the school via a joint venture with a proven, first-rate operator, Aspire.  However, their anti-testing ideology soon got in the way of their good sense:

The two cultures clashed. Aspire focused "primarily and almost exclusively on academics," while Stanford focused on academics and students' emotional and social lives, said Don Shalvey, who started Aspire and is now with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Five years ago the relationship ended amicably and Stanford New School was on its own.

It doesn't take much imagination to guess what happened when, freed of Aspire's rigor and focus on the critical basics (like teaching children to read properly!), the ivory tower theories ran head on into the reality of East Palo Alto kids.  The results were easy to predict: the school fell on its face:

…test results for Stanford New School students are almost uniformly poor. On last year's Standardized Testing and Reporting Results only 16 percent of the students were proficient or advanced in English and math, an improvement from the previous year. And in a three-year comparison of similar schools in 2007 and 2008 — the most recent state results — the school scored 6, 7 and most recently a 3 out of 10.

LDH cynically tries to explain away this failure by – surprise! – blaming both the evaluation system and the kids:

Ms. Darling-Hammond — who told the board that the school "takes all kids" and changes their "trajectory" — was angered by the state's categorization of the charter as a persistently worst-performing school. "It is not the most accurate measure of student achievement," she said, "particularly if you have new English language learners."

And here's further info on this school by Sandy Kress (

LDH is, of course, furiously spinning things her way, but fortunately Sandy Kress has been doing some digging and has posted what he's found – and it's not pretty (Kress "served as senior advisor to President Bush on Education with respect to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Mr. Kress previously served as president of the board of trustees of the Dallas Public Schools. He has served on two statewide committees to recommend improvements to Texas public education."; his bio is here:

Kress (and I) are spending a lot of time analyzing this school because it's the embodiment of very influential (unfortunately) thinking perpetuated by LDH, Ravitch and similarly fuzzy-minded ed school types that is largely hostile to the rigorous measurement systems and accountability that our school systems so desperately need.  Kress makes the argument nicely:

To summarize, I think schools/CMOs should report their numbers first by how many exiting 8th/entering 9th graders earn a high school degree and go to college and, secondly (when there are enough years of data), how many earn two- and four-year degrees.  As an example, I just received today this email from my friend April Goble, the superstar ED of KIPP Chicago:


What an amazing year!  Last Friday, marked the end of the 2010-2011 school year, and I am overwhelmed with pride at the many successes of the hardest working kids and teachers in Chicago.  This year was truly a milestone year for us, with the opening of KIPP Ascend Primary and the high school graduation of our founding class, the Class of 2011.


This month, 96% of KIPP Ascend's founding class graduated high school, and 88% of them have been accepted into one or more four-year colleges.  This means that 88% of our original class of KIPP Ascend students, tracking from the time they were in 8th grade at KIPP, are going to college.  In contrast, only 55% of Chicago Public high school students will graduate high school and only 35% will gain acceptance to college.  Congratulations to every college-bound KIPPster whose hard work and persistence enabled them to climb that steep mountain to college!  Now we will work to ensure that our students make it THROUGH college.


I am equally excited to celebrate the 8th grade promotion of the Class of 2015 to high school, and the ascension of the Class of 2023 from kindergarten to the 1st grade.     


Each of these successes wouldn't be possible without your continued support.  Please enjoy the photos and articles of these celebrations below.  We truly value your partnership, as together we prove that demographics need not define destiny.


Thank you for believing and investing in our KIPPsters, and please continue to do so!


April Goble                                                         

Executive Director                                                  

KIPP Chicago

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