KIPP and New Zealand: An American export?
- What does NZ have to learn from an overseas schooling model that discards 30% of the most disadvantaged children and 40% of African American boys?
- If KIPP is about ‘no excuses’, what’s your excuse for such high reported rates of student attrition?
- Would you want your own children to attend a school where they get punished them for the slightest misdemeanour, for example raising their eyebrows, or allows them to speak only when spoken to by the teacher?
- Why should other schools in the local community have to restore the self-belief and aspirations of the kids who drop out from KIPP curriculum boot camp?
- KIPP is regularly referred to by critics as ‘Kids in Prison Program’. Is this a fair description?
- Why should kids and families have to sign up to a strict behaviour contract to attend a publicly funded school?
- Why does KIPP expend so much effort trying to discredit the results of independent research that asks perfectly responsible questions about KIPP’s claims?
- Where do all the tens of millions of dollars of private funding raised from right wing private foundations go? Very little appears to be spent directly on the students.
- KIPP schools get more money overall than public schools. Isn’t this just an argument for better funded public schools?
- Despite their much higher student drop out rates, KIPP schools don’t reimburse the district or generally accept students during the year. They keep the money even when the kids leave. How is this fair?
- Isn’t education about a lot more than success on standardised tests in the basics and, if so, why aren’t KIPP kids allowed to proceed to the next grade with their friends unless they pass the grade tests?
- Independent researchers claim that when KIPP’s obscene attrition rates are included, as many disadvantaged kids, or more, from public schools go on to college as they do from KIPP schools.
An American critic of charter schools has warned of the dangers of setting up the schools here, saying lessons can be learned from failed education reforms in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Karran Harper Royal, an education activist, has drawn a parallel between the education “revival” faced by post-earthquake Christchurch and that of her home community of Gentilly in New Orleans. She’s convinced New Zealand should not open the door on charter schools, saying they have destabilised quality public education in New Orleans and the progress public schools were making before the hurricane. In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina ripped through her community, Mrs Harper Royal saw the closure of schools and the sweeping introduction of charter schools. The decisions were made when most of the locals were displaced. “They came about after the hurricane and were not mandated because no one was there.
“There were no public hearings, no choice,” Mrs Harper Royal says. She was open-minded at first about charter schools when she was asked by the Louisiana Department of Education to serve on the Recovery School District Advisory Council, hoping state control of schools would be a positive move. Eight years later she says she was wrong. The state used Katrina as an excuse to push charter schools, and today 70 per cent of New Orleans’ 40,000 children attend them. There were 65,000 children attending schools in New Orleans before the hurricane. Mrs Harper Royal has urged New Zealand not to go down the same track of targeting lower socio-economic communities and underachieving schools. She will speak at the Post Primary Teachers annual conference next week, with Education Minister Hekia Parata and Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg.
If 40% of lower-achieving Maori or Pacific boys dropped out of school by the end of Year 8 there would be questions asked in parliament and a commission of inquiry – and quite rightly so. KIPP prefers to weed out these kids and then bask in the warm glow of the successes of the students that remain. It’s the kids who drop out of KIPP who are the very children New Zealand charter schools are supposed to help. KIPP leaves them behind.
Another twist in the National-ACT charter school experiment comes with the revelation that a private foundation is apparently to sponsor a visit to New Zealand by the head of a controversial charter school management organisation – the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP). QPEC understands that the right wing USA-based Roberston Foundation is bringing Mike Feinberg, KIPP co-founder, to New Zealand to promote the establishment of charter schools in New Zealand through its local arm, the Aotearoa Foundation. Aotearoa Foundation and the Roberston Foundation were established by American Hedge Fund billionaire and honorary New Zealand knight Julian Roberston. The Robertson Foundation is now headed by former Auckland and Oxford University vice-chancellor, John Hood. Hood is also a trustee of the Aotearoa Foundation.
The Robertson Foundation is one of the new breed of so-called ‘philanthrocapitalists’, private sector investment funds and trusts that view charity not as altruistic giving, but as just another business investment opportunity to influence government policy and the delivery of public education. And, to do so by lobbying behind closed doors, completely outside the democratic process. In the USA, the Robertson Foundation donates several million dollars each year to the KIPP Foundation and other charter school management organisations. In New Zealand, Julian Robertson has also been associated with the establishment of the equally controversial Teach First New Zealand fast-track six-week teacher training scheme at Auckland University. A scoping study was jointly funded in 2010 by the Aotearoa Foundation and The Warehouse founder Stephen Tindall’s Tindall Foundation… The New Zealand public needs to know that the global corporate sharks are now circling our state school system looking for a quick killing.