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Monday, February 16, 2009

Teachers at KIPP AMP in Brooklyn Want to Join the UFT, But the Administration Is Fighting Back

The KIPP Model may 'work' in terms of making children afraid of not working hard and the harsh punishments that follow, but teachers at KIPP's Crown Heights, Brooklyn, school say (to me) that they are tired of peers being thrown out without cause with a minute's notice. They want Union protection.

From a parent's perspective, the discipline at KIPP Charter Schools is out of control:

Parents Report Harassment and Abuse By Administrators at the KIPP Charter Schools

also relevant:
Mike Feinberg, Dave Levin, and The KIPP Academy: A Success Story That Public School Educrats Dont Want(my website,, 2004)

UFT goes to PERB for KIPP AMP teachers
Feb 13, 2009 3:58 PM

The UFT petitioned the New York State Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) on Feb. 13 to formally recognize the teaching staff at the KIPP AMP Academy in Brooklyn as a collective bargaining unit. The move comes after administrators at KIPP failed to recognize the teachers within the state’s 30-day deadline and in the midst of a campaign by school administrators to threaten and intimidate teachers and parents.

Sixteen of the 19 teachers at KIPP AMP have signed union authorization cards asking to be represented by the UFT. Their organizing committee notified the school’s two co-principals on Jan. 13 that they were seeking union representation to secure a stronger voice in their school and a more collaborative workplace.

“The UFT has repeatedly pledged to work cooperatively with KIPP, and we have sought meetings to discuss moving forward,” said UFT President Randi Weingarten. “Rather than meet with us, however, the administrators at the school have engaged in a series of threatening actions against the teaching staff. They also let the 30-day state deadline pass without recognizing the staff’s intentions. We are really disappointed that neither the initial thoughts expressed by management about working together nor the KIPP motto of team and family extend to the hardworking and dedicated teachers of the school.”

State law allows workers such as those at KIPP AMP to legally unionize because a majority of teachers have signed union check-off cards. Once employees go public with their intentions to organize, state law provides for a 30-day period in which the management of the company or organization can voluntarily recognize the desire of the workers to organize. Now that the 30-day period has ended, PERB can step in and recognize the UFT as the designated bargaining agent for the KIPP teachers and order KIPP to begin negotiating a collective bargaining agreement.

On Feb. 11, the union filed improper practice charges against school administrators for holding “captive audience” meetings with teachers in an effort to intimidate them and interfere with their unionization efforts. In those meetings, school officials pressured teachers into withdrawing their bid for a union and said their benefits and pensions were in jeopardy. A similar complaint was filed by the union on Feb. 3 after similar meetings were held with both teachers and students.

In addition, an effort by teachers and parents to form a PTA on Thursday night was met with stiff resistance by school administrators who first denied the group a room to meet, and then had an outside group enter and disrupt the meeting until it had to be abruptly ended.

“These are terrific teachers, and they couldn’t be more committed to their school community or their students,” said Weingarten. “They just want a voice and respect and support, and they don't understand why KIPP is refusing to acknowledge that. This is a real test about whether KIPP respects the people who have made their schools great.”

“We look forward to negotiating innovative provisions tailored to the KIPP schools and the needs of the kids and the staff,” continued Weingarten. “That really should be the next step, not litigation and delay.”

The UFT currently sponsors three unionized charter schools, the newest of which is a Bronx High School run in collaboration with Green Dot, a successful and labor-friendly charter school operator and educational reform organization based in Los Angeles. The UFT also represents educators at several other successful charters in New York City, including two of the other three KIPP schools.

Citing high turnover, Brooklyn KIPP teachers are unionizing
by Elizabeth Green, Gotham Schools

If I hadn’t spent the last several hours in a meeting, I would have conveyed this dramatic news sooner: Teachers at one of the country’s most prominent charter school networks, KIPP, have decided to buck their board members‘ skeptical attitudes towards teachers unions — and organize.

Fifteen of 20 teachers at KIPP AMP in Brooklyn, a middle school, today sent a letter to the school’s board of trustees declaring their intention to form a union with the United Federation of Teachers. The president of the union, Randi Weingarten, signed the letter.

In letters to fellow city teachers, the KIPP AMP teachers explain that they want to “create a more sustainable culture so that we can better serve our students and reduce teacher turnover.” They said they’re asking for a “basic contract” that sounds, in their short description, kind of like the slim, tenure-less Green Dot contract: Administrators would have to prove “just cause” before firing a teacher, and discipline would follow a graduate scale, including measures to support struggling teachers.

The union also announced today that teachers at a second KIPP charter school, KIPP Infinity, would like to enter collective bargaining talks. KIPP Infinity’s teachers were already represented by the union, in an agreement that guaranteed them health insurance and other benefits, but now want to negotiate a job contract. In a letter released today, UFT official Michael Mendel asked KIPP Infinity’s board for detailed information on the school’s employees and their salary and benefits details.

The two moves represents a dramatic victory for the UFT, which has been campaigning to bring charter school teachers into its fold for at least the last year. If other charter school teachers in New York City follow suit, the unionization effort could also mark a significant turning point for the charter school movement, which has often scorned unions.

Here’s how the KIPP AMP teachers explained their decision in a letter to the school’s two principals, arguing that their demands will help the school improve:

Teachers and professionals must have a voice in the creation and implementation of school policy. We must have our concerns as professionals recognized and addressed. We must be evaluated in a clear and transparent manner and given support when we need it. We must feel secure in our employment so that concerns as well as ideas can be voiced in a trusting environment.

KIPP AMP opened in 2005 and got a low A on its progress report.

I called KIPP co-founder Dave Levin but haven’t heard back from him yet today. I’ll keep updating this story today and tomorrow.

February 13, 2009
Charter School’s Deadline to Recognize Union Passes

A move to create a union at one of the city’s leading charter schools may turn into a protracted battle, as the deadline passed on Thursday for the school, KIPP AMP in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, to voluntarily recognize the union.

The United Federation of Teachers, which is seeking to represent the teachers, must now file for recognition with the state’s Public Employment Relations Board, which will most likely give the school’s administration several days to respond.

David Levin — a founder of the national network that operates the schools, the Knowledge Is Power Program, and the superintendent of its four New York City schools (another will open this summer) — said that the administration would “respect and follow the state process,” but did not specify what, if any, challenges it would raise with the labor board.

“For the past 15 years, it has been the ability of everyone to work together, and to do that with flexibility has been the key to our success,” Mr. Levin said in an interview on Thursday. “We were created as an alternative to the public schools, and we need to be committed to and maintain our work and focus on results.”

The city’s teachers’ union also filed a complaint with the state’s labor board on Thursday, claiming that the administration intimidated employees at KIPP AMP and used staff meetings to discourage them from forming a union.

According to the complaint, Mr. Levin attended a mandatory staff meeting and said that the teachers’ current retirement, maternity and private pension benefits would be “potentially in jeopardy” and “all of that goes away,” if they formed a union. At the meeting, Mr. Levin distributed a letter with instructions on how to revoke their support for a union, union officials said.

George Arzt, a spokesman for KIPP, said that Mr. Levin was simply responding to inquiries from teachers about their options under state law, and added that the same information was available on the Web site of the state’s labor board.

Union officials said that they have received signatures supporting a union from 16 of the school’s 20 teachers and that no teacher has revoked support since the meeting with Mr. Levin on Feb. 6.

While two of the KIPP schools are formally represented by the teachers’ union, neither school has its own union contract, although one is subject to the city’s contract under a quirk of state law. Teachers at New York City KIPP schools are generally paid about 20 percent more than teachers with similar credentials in traditional public schools, in exchange for working longer hours and a longer school year.

February 7, 2009
Teachers Say Union Faces Resistance From Brooklyn Charter School

With its stellar test scores and connection to a national network, the KIPP AMP charter school in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, presented a ripe opportunity for the city’s teachers’ union to prove that it, too, could embrace innovation that fuels rapid improvement for students.

The founders of the network, the Knowledge is Power Program, often paid teachers more than they would have earned under union contracts, and one of its four New York City schools was already unionized under a quirk of state law. When the United Federation of Teachers announced last month that it had collected enough signatures to unionize the charter school, Dave Levin, KIPP’s co-founder and New York superintendent, said he was willing to work with the union and was optimistic things would proceed smoothly.

But in the weeks since, several teachers said in interviews, the atmosphere at the school has grown increasingly tense, with administrators making veiled threats about the effect of creating a union. E-mail and text messages that would usually be returned at all hours have gone unanswered. And late last month, teachers said they were told by their students, school administrators pulled students into a private meeting and asked them to critique their teachers.

“The general tenor has been of increased distance, and administrators felt more inaccessible than they have ever been,” said Leila Chakravarty, a seventh-grade math teacher who helped collect signatures to form the union.

The union filed a complaint this week with the state Public Employment Relations Board saying that KIPP’s administration was intimidating the organizing teachers.

A spokesman for KIPP said that Mr. Levin declined a request for an interview. The co-principals at KIPP AMP, which was founded in 2005 and now has 275 students in fifth through eighth grades, did not respond to telephone messages. (The AMP in the school’s name stands for “Always Mentally Prepared.”)

Under state law, if the majority of a charter school’s teachers sign a petition supporting the union, as 15 of KIPP AMP’s 22 teachers have, management has 30 days to recognize the union or the matter goes to arbitration with the state; that deadline is Thursday. Union officials said that Mr. Levin met with the teachers on Friday, and also contacted Randi Weingarten, the union president, to arrange a meeting for next week.

Perhaps the standoff should not be a surprise. Charter schools, which are publicly financed but operate independently, were founded in opposition to teachers’ unions; many of the movement’s supporters view union contracts as a fundamental flaw in public education that keeps ineffective teachers on the job. And KIPP, like many charters, has hired teachers without traditional training and requires long hours and weekend work, usually for extra pay.

Teachers’ unions initially ignored charter schools or viewed them as the enemy, but as the charters grew in size and influence, the unions’ feelings warmed somewhat. Green Dot, a Los Angeles-based charter network, has unions at each of its schools, including one that opened with the teachers’ union’s cooperation last fall in the Bronx.

In New York, 18 of the state’s 115 charter schools are unionized, including two in Brooklyn operated by the teachers’ union. What happens to the unionization effort at KIPP AMP is being closely watched nationally as a test of whether two powerful forces in education will cooperate, coexist or devolve into protracted battles.

KIPP’s administration seemed to be caught off guard Jan. 13, when seven teachers wrote to the principals at the school and in the nonprofit network to inform them of their decision to organize. Ky Adderley, KIPP AMP’s founding principal, met with the seven and told them that he was disappointed, according to several teachers who were there.

“He said he had founded the school as a nonunion school and he had done so for a reason and that he was not pleased,” Ms. Chakravarty said. Forming a union, the teachers recalled Mr. Adderley saying, would mean staffing decisions would be out of his control, suggesting that state officials who approved the charter would be able to fire people at any time.

The teachers said they hoped both sides could come to an agreement. Several days later, they asked Mr. Levin to meet with them; he did not respond.

Then during the last week in January, while teachers were at a faculty meeting, the principals met with seventh- and eighth-grade students alone, a move the teachers said was unprecedented. Several students told their teachers that they had been encouraged to talk about “negative feelings and interactions” with them, those teachers said.

Mr. Adderley distributed notes on the meeting with the subject line “7th and 8th Grade feedback on Testing Environment.” The comments included “Teachers are very disrespectful. They always tell us sarcasm and mean words and expect us to have respect for them,” and “We need more reason to come to school, the classes are boring and there’s nothing to do. I miss how it used to be,” according to the memo.

Ms. Weingarten, who is also president of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents teachers at more than 70 charter schools nationwide, suspects pressure from financial backers underlies the tension.

“We had talked in the abstract about doing great things together, about creating a laboratory for reform with teacher support,” she said. “So I am deeply disappointed by these actions.”

Teachers at the school said that before the unionization drive, they had not had any major conflicts with administrators, and insisted they had no qualms about the intense schedule KIPP routinely requires. (Two teachers excused themselves during late evening interviews to take phone calls from students and parents.)

They say their main goals in forming a union are to establish clearer expectations for teacher performance and official procedures for how and why teachers are dismissed.

“We think it would be the best thing for us to formalize the system, so that we are clear for whoever comes along in two or five years,” said Emily Fernandez, who has taught fifth-grade reading for two years at the school. “The point is just to have clear voice in these kinds of decisions.”

School of Hard Choices
In the KIPP Academy Program, It's Motivation That's Fundamental

By Jay Mathews, Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 24, 2004; Page C01

When Mike Feinberg, then a recent University of Pennsylvania graduate, and Dave Levin, just out of Yale, met at a 1992 summer teacher training institute in Los Angeles, they were typical of young people signing up for the Teach for America program -- smart, idealistic, confident. That summer they spent as much time playing basketball as they did learning how to handle a classroom. Yet when they got into Levin's rotting gray Taurus, loaded with soft drinks and Doritos, and headed for their new jobs in Houston, they thought they had all the solutions to the problems of educating low-income kids, and even outlined a grand strategy while they drove through the Mojave Desert.

Then they started to teach, and realized they had no idea what they were doing.

Levin's class was in chaos. His tires were slashed in the teachers' parking lot. A student sent to the office for throwing a book at Levin's head returned smiling with a Tootsie Pop. Feinberg, recruited as a bilingual teacher at another elementary school, spoke Spanish so poorly he had to keep asking his students what they were saying, especially one word he kept hearing.

"What does chupa mean?" he finally asked.

"Mr. Feinberg, it means 'suck.' "

"Oh. Thank you."

Most such stories in America end right there. Young educators intending to be classroom heroes discover that they lack the skills and energy and patience. Then they do what their mothers always wanted and apply to grad school.

But this story is different. Levin and Feinberg, more than a decade later, have invented something very rare in American education: a way of teaching low-income children that actually works in 36 public middle schools, producing the largest and fastest learning gains around the country. Even in the District, where most of the educational news has been very bad, the school they established three years ago in Southeast is beating schools in middle-class neighborhoods, and is about to expand as a model for what the poorest Washington schools could do if they paid closer attention to each child's habits of living and learning.

Their method becomes clear during a visit to the KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) Academy New York, where Levin spends most of his time. One day during the most recent school year, he was standing in the aqua-green hallway of the academy's quarters on the fourth floor of a public school in a grimy, unreconstructed corner of the South Bronx, along with five frowning eighth-graders. While their classmates headed out for a day at Central Park, they had to stay behind because they lost points for misbehavior, missed homework and other failings in the incentive system that rules their days.

Levin is 34, tall and curly-haired. He leaned close to whisper words of encouragement into the ear of each disgruntled 13-year-old. He told them, as he had many times before, that they were smart and capable, but they had to focus on what is important. The school motto is "Be nice, work hard." Those who did that not only went on outings to Central Park but had other good things waiting for them.

That old-fashioned motivational blend of the bitter and the sweet has come from nowhere with no establishment support -- barely escaping strangulation at birth -- to capture the attention of school superintendents, policymakers, scholars and the president of the United States.

It is becoming the model that all other attempts to close the achievement gap between rich and poor students must measure themselves against. It is so successful that even affluent Montgomery County, which usually resists departures from its highly rated public school programs, is trying to get KIPP to put a school in one of its low-income neighborhoods.

And in the District, under the direction of Susan Schaeffler, a Feinberg and Levin protege, the public charter KIPP DC: KEY Academy has produced the highest math scores and nearly the highest reading scores in the city. Washington education leaders, such as D.C. Council member Kevin Chavous, embrace KIPP, although school system administrators have not been able so far to find the organization more space.

Schaeffler wants to open two more KIPP middle schools and a KIPP high school in the District in the next three years, in every case with low-income students just like those in the lowest-scoring schools. "I am getting a head start on college," said Shakiera Mosby, an eighth-grader -- or what the school calls a senior -- at the KEY Academy. Evoking the dream of higher education is a KIPP hallmark.

Feinberg, 35, and Levin say they might have given up on teaching that first year in Houston if their egos had not gotten in the way. They were so annoyed by their inability to make headway in their classrooms that they began to devote every waking hour to turning themselves into at least passable teachers. They started visiting students' homes in crowded apartments and little houses, in hopes the parents could help them with discipline.

And right across the hall, they met their savior: a classroom magician named Harriett Ball.
The Teacher

Ball's classes often exploded in songs and chants, and then just as quickly, when she said the word, were silent. Her test scores were very good. Levin spent every spare moment watching her work. After school, he would join Ball for happy hour drinks -- beer for Levin, soda for Ball -- at a little club near the school called King Leo's. They would also get together on weekends at her house or Levin's apartment, with Feinberg joining them. Ball, now a popular consultant to school districts, said they were "very, very hungry" for something that would make them good teachers.

They began to borrow her chants -- such as "Rolling the Sixes" -- using a rhythm irresistible to 10-year-olds:

"Six, 12, 18, 24, 30, 36. And the spider says, 42, 48, 54, 60, 42, 48, 54, 60, 66, 72. How do you do? How do you do?"

The two neophyte teachers kept visiting the homes of their mostly Hispanic and African American students. A child would open the door and then slam it in shock at seeing a teacher. After much whispering and laughter, the door would open again and parents would invite them in.

They would get home about 6 p.m. and religiously watch "Star Trek: The Next Generation" "because in the 25th century, everyone was literate," Feinberg said. "Everyone walked around with this little tricorder, and the 15-year-old was doing nuclear fusion. That was always our escape. Then we would eat dinner."

They would be up until 11 p.m. comparing notes and preparing lessons for the next morning. Gradually, they improved. Each is 6 feet 3, already hard to miss, and they became classroom dynamos, full of games and demands and rules and standards, sweetened with pizza parties, dramatic productions and a year-end trip to the AstroWorld theme park.

Levin became so confident of his progress at Bastian Elementary School that he defied a principal's order to exempt several of his low-scoring Hispanic students from state tests, a popular technique for getting the school's average scores up. Passing the test was the children's only chance to get into a good middle school, and he thought they could do it. When school administrators told the parents to sign a form exempting their children from the test anyway, they declined on instructions from that nice Mr. Levin, which got him on the principal's troublemaker list.

Levin was voted teacher of the year by his school's faculty. Ninety-six percent of his students passed either the math or reading test, and 70 percent passed both. But at the end of the 1993-94 school year he was fired for what his principal called insubordination. It was a bad omen because he and Feinberg were starting the Knowledge Is Power Program that summer for 50 fifth-graders stuffed into one classroom in Feinberg's school, Garcia Elementary.

From the very beginning, homework was crucial. They gave each student the telephone number of their apartment, and told them to call if they had any homework questions. Feinberg said to a student he dropped off at home: "I don't want to hear tomorrow that you didn't understand it. I want to hear from you tonight." They only had one phone line, so they took turns fielding calls, as many as 20 a night. There was no more time for "Star Trek."

They jumped on misbehavior immediately. "We are not drill sergeants, we are not babysitters and we are not behavior correctors," Levin shouted after an early hallway scuffle. "We are teachers, and we're busting our butts to prepare you for Miss Such-and-Such's class in that middle school so that when all hell is breaking loose, you'll be the one who's still learning."

And it worked. At the end of the first year of KIPP, a class in which about 53 percent of the students passed the state fourth-grade tests suddenly had a 96 percent passing rate in fifth-grade math and a 93 percent passing rate in fifth-grade English.

That meant little to the Garcia principal, who became increasingly impatient with what she saw as their disruption of her school. Levin said she didn't change her mind even when Levin, willing to try anything, asked her out on a date.
A Program on the Move

Levin thought his home town might work better for KIPP. Armed with the first-year scores, he persuaded the New York City school district to let him open the second KIPP school in the Bronx. But it had the same ugly beginning. His new principal verbally flayed him to show her staff she wasn't playing favorites, he recalls. To find more students, he had to sneak into a parents' meeting from which he had been barred, and whisper invitations to take a look at KIPP, before he was escorted out.

Back in Houston, Feinberg was being forced to move the original KIPP school every year, even when he was about to add a seventh grade to a thriving fifth- and sixth-grade operation, with a growing young staff and still-impressive test scores. There was no room anywhere for that, he was told. He would have to tell some kids to forget it.

Such resistance was typical of big-city school district administrators, who had little patience with innovators, particularly novices like Feinberg and Levin; rookies with big innovative ideas have a habit of disrupting comfortable routines and often fail to deliver. Feinberg's attempts to see Superintendent (and later U.S. Education Secretary) Roderick Paige were rebuffed. So at about 2 p.m. one sweltering April day he sat on the rear bumper of Paige's maroon Acura in the parking lot outside the ornate school district headquarters and graded papers until Paige, heading for home, showed up four hours later.

"Dr. Paige!" Feinberg said, using the excited voice that worked so well with fifth-graders. "I'm in a pickle. You've got to help me. They are trying to take away my babies!" The superintendent arranged a meeting the next day with the aide who had been the roadblock. Feinberg said she looked as if she wanted to fry him in oil, but he got the space he needed.

By 1999 Feinberg -- with fifth- through eighth-graders in trailers on a school parking lot -- and Levin -- with the same grade levels on the fourth floor of a public school surrounded by housing projects -- had the best performing middle schools in Houston and the Bronx, respectively. That led to a story on "60 Minutes," and a major investment by Doris and Donald Fisher, founders of the Gap clothing stores, who leapt to support an educational initiative that actually seemed to help disadvantaged kids. President Bush has since been to two of the schools, and Democratic and Republican legislators, including vice presidential nominee Sen. John Edwards, have endorsed KIPP.

One hundred percent of eighth-graders at KIPP Academy Houston passed the Texas state tests last year. KIPP Academy New York ranks in the top 10 percent of all New York city schools. Students at KIPP schools opened since 2001 averaged score increases last year of 39 percent in mathematics and 20 percent in reading. About 80 percent of KIPP students in 15 states and the District have family incomes low enough to qualify for federal lunch subsidies, and they are all of the hormone-addled middle school age that makes even teachers at wealthy private schools tremble. (KIPP is starting an elementary and a high school in Houston this year.)

Feinberg and Levin say they want discipline, attention and steady, measurable progress that supplants the distractions of their students' homes and neighborhoods. Their secret is what they call "the joy factor": excursions in Central Park, games, songs, trips to Disney World or Los Angeles, and music. The 180-piece orchestra at KIPP New York gives bewildered and frustrated preteens an incentive to go to school each morning. They must earn the right to play by being nice and working hard.

KIPP combines several methods -- up to 9 1/2-hour school days, required three-week summer school, regular Saturday sessions, close teacher cooperation, regular parental contacts, consistent methods of punishment and reward, and keen attention to test results -- that each have proved to be effective in isolation. It then tells young principals and mostly young staffers -- paid somewhat above regular public school salaries for their extra hours -- to make it work in ways that make sense to them.

At the end of each week, students receive up to $40 in virtual cash that can be redeemed for snacks and other favors at the student store, and also count toward day excursions like the trip to Central Park or what KIPP calls year-end "field lessons" to Washington, D.C., California, New England, Utah, Florida or Tennessee. Each grade is known by the year that its members will be going to college. Each classroom is named after the college that its teacher attended. Graduating KIPP eighth-graders are usually placed in private schools or magnet schools that can be counted on to maintain the same high standards. On average, a new federal study shows, charter schools are no better and in some cases worse than regular public schools, but KIPP's test scores show it to be a glaring exception to that general rule.

There is no active opposition to KIPP, although some skeptics say they want to see how the achievement gains hold up, and note that it will take many, many more such schools to make a dent in the problems of low-income neighborhoods. They also suggest that KIPP might be doing well because it attracts the most motivated parents, to which KIPP teachers reply that their students had the same parents when they were doing terribly in regular public schools. KIPP schools have many students with disabilities, and expulsions are rare, their enrollment figures show. KIPP accountants calculate that the longer hours and trips increase per-pupil costs by about 13 percent in their schools across the country. In some expensive cities like New York, however, KIPP is still spending less per student than regular public schools are.

Feinberg, married now to a former Teach for America teacher, has left his post at San Francisco headquarters to go back to Houston and be with kids again, supervising two KIPP middle schools and the new elementary and high school. Levin, still looking for the right woman, resisted attempts to move him to San Francisco and remains at KIPP New York, helping the new principal, Quinton Vance, while focusing on KIPP principal and teacher training and the development of KIPP curriculum materials.

The real work, they say, starts every summer with the new fifth-graders, and requires regular reinforcement. The New York fifth grade recently had an afternoon of miniature golf, and Levin remained behind with the dozen or so who did not earn the trip to plant the seeds of future achievement. "What are the choices you made that left you in this situation?" he asked them. "Are you going to be ready for the next trip five or six weeks from now? We will probably go to the movies, or whatever, but will you be ready to earn that?"

The sixth-graders had come back from their miniature golf excursion the day before. Levin watched them closely to gauge their mood. They were happy and energetic, 11-year-old batteries recharged by the joy factor. "They came back much more motivated for the academics," said Levin. "So it works."

From Gotham Schools:

The raw materials of KIPP teachers’ unionizing efforts
Posted By Elizabeth Green On January 13, 2009 @ 7:12 pm In Newsroom | 11 Comments

Per request [1], I’m uploading the letters the KIPP charter school teachers in Brooklyn wrote explaining their decision to form a union. A tiny, wonderful detail enclosed within: In their organizing efforts they apparently used the e-mail address

Read the letters here [2] (PDF). Here’s a visual for the PDF-shy of the e-mail the KIPP AMP teachers sent to other KIPP teachers in the city:

And the end of the e-mail, with that amazing gmail address they created:


URL to article:

URLs in this post:

[1] request:

[2] here:

What 'Yes, We Can' Should Mean for Our Schools
By Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin, Washington Post
Friday, January 9, 2009; A17


In 1994, we founded KIPP, the Knowledge Is Power Program, by starting one middle school in the South Bronx and one in Houston. Today, KIPP is a growing network of 66 public charter schools serving 17,000 children in 19 states and the District. Eighty percent of our alumni from those first two schools have now gone on to college. More than 90 percent of KIPP students are children of color, and 80 percent qualify for the federal free or reduced-price meal program.

At KIPP, we believe that "the actual proves the possible." Barack Obama's election embodies this credo.

As Obama and Education Secretary-designate Arne Duncan (pictured above) begin to shape the policies that will drive the new administration, we would like to offer five concrete thoughts from the field on how to channel Obama's "yes, we can" spirit into substantive education reform:

· First, Obama should use his ability to inspire Americans to set a goal for our educational system akin to putting a man on the moon. Much as President John F. Kennedy did with the space program in the 1960s, Obama could establish a paradigm-shifting goal -- ensuring that within 10 years every child in America will be on track to earning a college degree or completing a meaningful career training program. Achieving this goal would significantly enhance the opportunities our children will have over their lifetimes, especially in our new global economy.

· Second, perhaps the single greatest lever for raising expectations and achievement for all children in America would be the creation of national learning standards and assessments. With KIPP schools operating in 19 states, we have seen how the maze of state standards and tests keeps great teachers from sharing ideas, inhibits innovation, and prevents meaningful comparison of student, teacher and school performance. Rather than there being 50 different standards, Obama could unify the country around a common vision for the kind of teaching and learning we need to prepare our children for the future.

· Third, as president, Obama could help build enthusiasm and respect for all who enter the teaching profession. Obama could sound a clarion call about the crucial role that teachers play in the nation's economic and social well-being; he could raise awareness, alter public perceptions, and motivate countless people to become and remain teachers. Alternative programs for recruiting and training teachers, such as Teach for America, have already begun to generate tremendous interest in teaching among top college graduates. We need to build on this momentum to attract an ever-growing number of talented people to this important profession.

· Fourth, we should assess teachers on their demonstrated impact on student learning, not whether they hold a traditional teacher certifications. At KIPP, we have the ability to hire, fire and reward principals and teachers based on their students' progress and achievement. If we are going to hold all public schools accountable for their results -- and we should -- we need to grant this same power to all public schools. Otherwise, public schools will not meet the goal of providing a world-class education to every child.

· Finally, we urge Obama to follow through on his campaign pledge to double federal funding for public charter schools with proven results. Because of technicalities in state laws, successful charter schools looking to open new campuses are often ineligible for federal money set aside for new charter schools. Along with granting successful charter schools access to federal funds, we should provide these schools with the space to operate. If Obama includes funds for infrastructure projects in his economic stimulus package, we hope that charter schools will be given the same access to facilities funding as any other public schools.

Our students are full of hope for the future. They see in Barack Obama the embodiment of the opportunities and change they aspire to in their own lives. We believe that this new administration can shift the priorities and practices in our public schools so that the next generation of young people will build a better tomorrow for themselves and for us all.

Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin, both alumni of the Teach for America program, co-founded the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) in 1994. The Agenda is an occasional series on policy issues facing the Obama administration.

1 comment:

Latoya said...

Kipp staff & Teachers care about their students and build on their self esteem..
Public schools staff & teachers dont't
about a child's self esteem and teach them
only to pass a test when it's time to take
exams.The children don't learn anything.
The children who are special needs fall in
the cracks because Public System don't care
Especially the Doe who is runing the schools.
Teacher's aren't trained to teach or worked
with kids with specfic learning disabilities
Too teachers are inexperience & they need
additional training to educate the child as
a whole.Public schools need to make education
fun, so children can enjoy learning and feel
good about themselves.