- All KIPP schools are very small. According to Steve Mancini, public affairs director for KIPP schools, the average student-to-teacher ratio at KIPP is 16 to 1.
- All KIPP teachers are highly motivated and really want to teach at the schools where they work.
- KIPP students -- well, those that are not forced to repeat a grade or who are not "counseled out," i.e., encouraged to drop out of KIPP -- are all highly motivated and want to go to school.
- KIPP parents are all highly motivated and go to great lengths to support their kids at KIPP.
- KIPP enjoys lots of private financial support, including support from the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation (Wal-Mart).
- KIPP is widely celebrated in the media.
But KIPP enjoys ALL SIX.
In other words, if you have a small school with highly motivated teachers, students and parents that enjoys the benefits of private financial support and the accolades of the local and national press, you will be a great success.
Ergo, if all schools were small, had highly motivated teachers, students and parents, enjoyed the benefits of private financial support and the accolades of the local and national press, they would all be a great success.
But not all schools can do this. It simply is not possible, given the current paucity of funding and the current mindset that blames low-income people for their own dire straits. So why can't every school repeat KIPP's success?
If we can look at these factors -- (1) student, teacher, and parent motivation, (2) private financial support, (3) small class size, and (4) media celebration -- as goals and try to increase the likelihood of their occurring elsewhere with greater regularity, we might have a worthwhile project on our hands. But to consider KIPP a scalable, reproducible model is silly. Worse, because it attracts the conservative "if they can do it, anyone can" types, KIPP effectively derails substantive dialogue about how the factors that most contribute to its success can be reproduced in other schools.
For example, what policies can be created to increase student, parent, and teacher motivation? What factors decrease motivation? For low-income families without adequate healthcare, living in squalid conditions does not a motivated person make.
What policies can be created to decrease class size? What can be done to provide ongoing high-quality professional development and support to teachers so their desire and ability to teach is lifted up, not smashed down?
Let's have serious discussions about these questions. Let's not be distracted by talk of KIPP and its "magical solution," its hyped stats about its college matriculation rate, and its extraordinarily misleading claim that it helps ALL children learn. KIPP is not the cause of its success. Small class sizes, motivated teachers, motivated students, motivated parents, and tons of private financial support are.