Down in the states, they've created an educational program called "KIPP" (Knowledge is Power Program) and Margaret Wente wants you to know how wonderful it is.
She tells us that "Nearly 80 per cent of KIPP alumni - who are overwhelmingly black and Hispanic - go to college." Now I'll grant that getting 80% of a minority population in the United States in to post secondary education would be a wonderful achievement.
Unfortunately, KIPP does not come close to achieving this. What KIPP does is first weed out 40% of its population, preventing them from being "alumni" of KIPP. Of the 60% that remain, 80% go on to college or university. 80% of 60% is actually 48%. So it would be more accurate to say that "slightly less than half of KIPP students go to college or university".
On the good side, students are scoring well on standardizes tests. Margaret dedicates a large chunk of text to a set of claims in this regard. "Almost every KIPP school decisively outperforms its district", she says, failing to add the phrase "on standardized tests". Believe it or not, it's easy to have your school get good marks on standardized tests. You just drop the rest of the curriculum and do nothing but focus on the standardized tests. It's a very typical technique and it's ironically destroying education everywhere.
Now you might wonder why 40% of students drop out and a lot of the teachers "move on, too". That might have something to do with burnout. Students go to school for over 8 hours a day, are given homework every night, classes on alternating Saturdays and 3 weeks of school in the summer. Teachers are on call at all times of day, accessible to students by cellphone.
Of course you're going to do well on standardized tests. But you're also going to burn students out and make them hate learning. No wonder only half of them make it to college or university.
What is good about KIPP? Apparently the KIPP administrators have convinced the parents of their students that discipline is very important. They have created a culture of pro-educational behaviour that has been removed from a lot of other places in North America. If you can actually force students to pay attention, discipline those who don't and have parents who agree to that discipline, you can get a lot further in education. That cultural shift, more than the sweatshop mentality, is undoubtedly what is propelling KIPP students forward.
Yes, KIPP sounds like a wonderful, equalizing education system. But it isn't. It's just a sweatshop that makes children do well on standardized tests.