I grew up in Great Brook Valley, a highly rent-subsidized public housing project. Everyone was poor. Academic achievement was scarce. And, by my own observation, there is a generational repeater pattern.
Let’s forget why for now and instead talk about the exceptions.
KIPP schools target poor kids and get dramatically higher achievement than comparable schools in the same area serving a similar population.
Jay Matthews, author of Work Hard, Be Nice, a book about KIPP schools describes their success in this Washington Post article. (The article is about some challenges KIPP faces at two of its schools, but still the point is clear.)
In terms of academic achievement, both of these schools are exceptional. At the end of 2007, 80 percent of KIPP Fresno’s seventh-graders scored proficient or advanced in algebra, compared to only 17 percent of students in regular Fresno public schools. In English Language Arts, 81 percent of KIPP seventh-graders scored proficient or advanced while the regular students were at 29 percent.
At KIPP AMP at the end of 2007, 97 percent of KIPP sixth-graders met or exceeded standards in math and 77 percent met or exceeded standards in English Language Arts, compared to 46 percent and 40 percent, respectively, for regular public school students in that Bronx district.
These kind of results are prevalent at all KIPP schools. How do they do it?
KIPP describes its approach as “warm but strict.” Its practices include nine-hour school days, summer school, some Saturday school, heavy drilling and repetition, mnemonic chants, rote memorization, and focus on values. This sounds an awful lot like the Asian Tiger mom.
From a City Journal article titled Why KIPP Schools Work
they discovered the merits of extended class time and a rigorous, content-rich curriculum that holds low-income and minority students to high academic standards. . .
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell notes that KIPP students, like children in Asia, spend about 60 percent more “time on task” than students in traditional American public schools.
But it’s more than just memorization. It’s the values and traits of civilization.
New York Times columnist David Brooks has written extensively about how KIPP transmits to low-income minority students the “cultural capital”—how to speak effectively, how to look attentive, how to fill out a college application—that middle-class suburban kids take for granted. . .
KIPP doesn’t simply teach facts and figures but unapologetically seeks to instill values, build strength of character, and forge good habits of mind and behavior.
Still some say these techniques can’t work in public schools.
Others are schools that provide programming far in excess of that which might be contemplated in any public school serving a traditional school population in any city in America.
The Asian Tiger Mom argument is that Asian kids are successful because of long, deliberate practice and rigorous standards. KIPP schools are getting substantially higher academic achievement from poor kids by essentially using the same methods – and instilling cultural capital.
It strikes me that KIPP school performance, and its critics, reinforce Dr. Chua’s argument that western parents in general aren’t willing to put in the time. That we are guilty of low expectations.
In my view, we have established that academic achievement is a function of time on task and a focus on core skills. There is a clear production function leading to academic success – rigor. It may not be the only function, but it is proven.
So where are we in this discussion? Parenting in today’s world, where does the answer lie? I think we are creeping in. What do you think?
Among the remaining unexplored areas is resultant happiness. What produces happiness? Does academic success correlate to happiness? That’s a blog post for another day. In the meantime, let me know what you think?