Wednesday, May 18, 2011

New Dangers Parents Face

I've got nothing against charter schools in concept. And several that I've been in, notably Kipp Infinity have impressed me as OUTSTANDING -- really second to none.

But today, we get word of another kind of charter school: The Kingsbridge Innovative Design Charter School -- which had the catchy acronym KIDCS.

Kingsbridge is in the northwest Bronx. It is the poor and working class neighborhood right outside of the Bronx Zoo. The operator of KIDCS asked the state to let them open a k-5 school there because well, you know, poor kids are super vulnerable and lag behind middle class kids in learning. Besides, the local public school there was pretty bad: in third grade, only 35% of the kids were at grade level in English. KIDCS was going to do better.

So last year, 147 eager moms and dads enrolled their k-and first grade kids at KIDCS.-- and why not? The school marketing material promises the school will educate the "whole child" with hand on learning. And here's the new school's promise that just kills me: a pet in every classroom that the children can nurture.

Sweet, right? Imagine how excited a five year old who lives in a cramped apartment in the Bronx would have been when she was told she'd get to take care of a bunny in first grade. Imagine the look on that child's face. Now hold it in your mind as your read on:

The school opened in Sept-- ominously, ten days late. Then, the wheels fell off. Two principals quit, consultants were called in. To pay those fees, five of the eleven teachers got let go for budgetary reasons. The operators, let's think of them as befuddled and not malicious, couldn't make payroll. It turns out, they didn't even file the right forms to collect the federal money they were due. You can read all the sad details in this memo from the State Ed. Department.

Now, big surprise, the school will be closed. These kids have lost a critical year of instruction. They are further behind. Statistically, it is unlikely they will EVER catch up.

What happens to those kids? Does the city try to make it up to them? Are those families given a pass to send their kids to some high performing public school like the one my son attended? A voucher for some high end tutoring to help them catch up? A kind of "thanks for taking a chance on school choice, sorry we screwed your kid over" present? Nope. The idea is that the free market forces are unleashed on our schools -- good ones thrive, bad ones fail. In reality, those hard working parents who got their kids into KIDCS are now frantically trying to find public schools that will take their now lagging behind kids. Probably, they will got back to the crappy neighborhood public school. These are the families that "won the lottery." Now their hopes and dreams are dashed.

People: does this seem right to you? If you sign up to be the subject of a medical experiment, an ethics panel forces the researchers to restore you to health if the experimental drugs they are giving you makes you sick. No such protections exist in school choice. Those kids who went to KIDCS get nada.

Parents, be careful about selecting schools for your kids. It is a decision that has high stakes.

This is not a condemnation of charter schools. Or school choice. But this particular experiment in "school choice" leaves 147 kids condemned to school failure. No word on what will become of the classroom pets.


Anonymous a piece of paper said...

I do not know much about writing. but I understand a little doing. elementary school when I was a lot of my friends one by one dropped out of school because it has no cost. I was upset with the situation but I can not do much. and now as an adult I see the state of my friends who drop out of school so sad. they do not have jobs and become unemployed. I'm not a good friend for not trying to help them.

August 4, 2011 at 2:42 PM  

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