When Charters Fail To Make The Grade: The KIPP Edition

One of the stupidest education reforms has been the grading of schools on a letter grade. It takes all of the problems with assessment, and then simplifies them, making them worse. But in Texas, it seems to have put the much celebrated KIPP charter schools in an interesting, which is to say bad, place (boldface mine):

Reformers love A-F school ratings. They think that giving a school a single letter grade will inform parents to make the best ‘choice’ of where they should send their child. The idea is that these ratings will improve schools in two ways: 1) When a school gets an F rating, the staff will stop being so lazy and negligent in the future so they can get their rating up to passing, and 2) Parents will ‘vote with their feet’ to ‘escape’ the ‘failing’ school which will cause that school to get closed down for under enrollment….

In 2015 Texas passed something called HB 2804 which said that by 2018 all Texas schools and districts would get A-F ratings on several different categories and also a single letter grade overall. They recently did a ‘test run’ to show what all the schools and districts in Texas would get right now under this system….

Reformers always talk about expanding ‘high quality’ charters. And one of the most famous examples of such a high quality charter chain are the KIPP network of schools. There are about 200 KIPP schools around the country and surely there will be many more now that a very charter friendly president has been elected. KIPP schools are staffed by a large number of Teach For America teachers and alumni and was founded by two TFA alumni.

When I saw that Texas released the trial run of their new A-F system, I checked to see how the KIPP schools did on them, particularly on the ‘Student Progress’ domain. What I found, and you can double check this here, is that out of 37 KIPP schools in Texas that received a grade in this domain, 9 of them or 25%, received an ‘F’ in student progress

I thought that maybe this was one of those things where a lot of schools got an F in this domain so I looked at the 280 Houston Independent School District schools and found that only 34, or about 12.5%, got an F in ‘Student Progress.’ So the percent of ‘failing’ KIPP schools is double the number of ‘failing’ schools in the biggest district in Texas.

I wonder what the reformers would think of this? Would they say that the progress ratings are not accurate, thus disparaging the most powerful tool they have for closing schools and firing teachers? Or would they say that KIPP is not a ‘high quality’ option that deserves to be expanded? Likely they will just ignore it. Things like A-F ratings are good for labeling district schools as failures, not major charter networks.

Maybe they would argue that student characteristics affect student progress? Probably won’t argue that either…

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