Letter to Diane Ravitch from Ali Nagle
Ali Nagle, one of my favorite people and superstar teacher at KIPP TEAM in Newark, was one of 10 KIPP teachers nationally to win KIPP's Harriett Ball teacher award (see pics 4, 5 and 7 below). Her win reminds me to resend this letter she wrote to Diane Ravitch, which I originally sent around in May (http://edreform.blogspot.com/2011/05/letter-to-diane-ravitch.html):
Speaking of rebutting myths about charters, my friend Ali Nagle, an AMAZING teacher (and, of course, a TFA alum) at KIPP TEAM in Newark, sent a letter (full text below) to Diane Ravitch after reading her book, in which she powerfully and passionately demolishes Ravitch's critique of KIPP and other high-performing charters. Not surprisingly, Ravitch never replied… Here's an excerpt:
And to your point that we attract the best students in the poorest neighborhood, TEAM Academy enrolls fifth through eighth grade students who enter significantly behind in skills and knowledge. As the fifth grade reading teacher, my classroom is made up of 99 students from fourth grade classrooms all over Newark—some traditional public schools, some parochial schools, and even other charters. When students enter my class in August, we test their reading levels using the Fountas & Pinnell system (through DRAs and Teacher's College reading assessments). This year in August, 18 of my students were reading below a second grade level and overall 45% of my current students entered fifth grade reading at a third grade level or below. This is the reality at TEAM and the other KIPP middle school in Newark, Rise Academy. This is the reality for most high-performing KIPP schools across the country. My question for you is if we are getting the best students from the neighborhood, "leaving the public schools in the same neighborhood worse off because they have lost some of the top-performing students," then why do nearly half of our students come in reading two years below grade level? If students reading two years below grade level are "the best performing students in poor neighborhoods", then they desperately need a better education than what they have gotten in public schools, and the public schools that will now be "worse off" without them don't deserve to keep them in the first place.
Rather than accuse KIPP schools of creaming from the top and attracting only the most motivated parents, I wish you would highlight how hard many great charter schools work to make sure all families know that there are better options out there.