How KIPP charter school handles special ed/IEP students

kipp girls

Leonie Haimson posted this in 2012 and I have linked to it several times over the last few years.

Because I seem to be on a roll about KIPP charter schools, I decided this is an appropriate time to post this on Seattle Ed.

“At KIPP, I would wake up sick, every single day”

At KIPP, I would wake up sick, every single day. Except on Sunday, ’cause that day I didn’t have to go to school.  All the students called KIPP the “Kids in Prison Program.”

A few months ago, Class Size Matters met with a former KIPP student who lives in the Bronx and her mother to hear about their experiences at the celebrated charter school. What follows are excerpts from this interview.  The girl’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.

Mom: Students who are accepted to KIPP and who have IEP’s [individualized education plans] do not get the correct services or help to be successful.  The school would rather make it difficult, leaving the parent frustrated and forcing her to remove her child. The principal always invited me to take my child out if I did not like the way she was being treated.

My response was always, “She has a right to be here just like any other child who went through the lottery system.  She will stay until she finishes.”  My reasons for her to continue were because the curriculum was good and I knew that she could benefit academically from the rigorous demands, but sometimes they went to the extreme and she suffered for it.

At the very first, I saw the way they were talking to some kids in the line as they’re going in. They’re like (shouting) “Oh you know you’re not supposed to come in here with those!” And I’m saying to myself, it doesn’t have to be like that – they were screaming at them. I said to myself, you know, I really have to find out about this school. So I decided that I was going to be very active.

Well, that’s where my problems started. Because then it became war. I wasn’t welcome there, and I noticed it. Because I used to pop up unexpectedly and I would hear these teachers really being mean! And they would say, “You can’t be here, you’re interrupting, they’re in class, they’re in session” And I said, “I have a right to be here.”

One day Celeste [her daughter] was sick. She was out for three days with a doctor’s note. When she returned the teacher tells her, “Oh, take the test, it won’t be counted.” Celeste brings me the test, because parents had to sign the exams. So I said to her, wait a minute, you were out – why did you take the test? And she said, “The teacher said it wasn’t going to be counted.” And I said, “Yea, it’s counted!” So I went to the school and I said to her teacher, “I understand you told Celeste that this test wasn’t going to be counted. She’s been out for three days, you should have given her a chance to study and make up the material.” And she said, “Well, she should have had notes…she is having difficulty in science.” I said, “She was told it wasn’t going to be counted. I think you should give her a make-up.” And she said, “Well I don’t give make-ups.”

So I told the principal that I think it’s unfair.  And she goes, “Well-” – here comes the double talk – “you know, Celeste is struggling.” And I said, “I know she is struggling and I don’t think you understand. She has a right to be here just like every other kid. And you guys, as educators need to understand that there are strategies to working with these kids.” But, you see, their strategy is “We’re not working with any difficult kid. We’re here to demand, and you perform.” That’s the attitude.

You know what happens to the “difficult kids”?  The parents take them out. And nobody hears about them again. But I’ll be damned if I was gonna take her out. You know why? Because every child has a right.

I knew there was something Celeste needed help with but I didn’t know what it was. So I said to her teacher, “Do you think you could proceed with recommending her for an evaluation and stuff?” I was thinking that maybe they provide the same services as the Dept. of Education.

They said, “Well we don’t do that; we don’t have any help for her. So I submitted an application to have her evaluated with the Dept. of Ed, downtown, and they realized that she did need the help.  She started having someone to come in for a half hour every day to work with her on math, English, and whatever other problems. He was a SETTS [special ed] teacher.  He confirmed everything that I thought was going on. He said to me, “I can’t believe what goes on in there.” And I said, “Like what?” And he said, “Well there’s a lot of corporeal punishment.”

Celeste:  When my mom first told me about KIPP I was happy because they have the orchestra, and I really like music and I love playing the instruments and all of that. Towards the end of that first year [5th grade] is when I started really feeling the impact of it. They give so much homework, and I’m there for so long. I wasn’t used to it. In elementary school you get a little bit of homework and you’re there for, like, 8 hours. But there you were there for 13 hours. You do five hours’ worth of homework. And then I really started disliking the school.

I had to sit like this. [demonstrates] It’s called S.L.A.N.T.: Sit straight. Listen. Ask a question. Nod your head. Track. Track is, if the teacher is going that way you have to… [demonstrates] follow… If you didn’t do that, they’ll yell at you: “You’re supposed to be looking at me!” [points to demerit sheet] “No SLANTing.” They’ll put that on there.

If I got into an argument with a teacher, I would have to stand outside the classroom on the black line, holding my notebook out. [Stands up and demonstrates, holding arms out] I would have to stand there until they decided to come out. For 20 minutes, 30 minutes, sometimes they’ll forget you’re out there and you’ll be there the whole period –an hour and forty minutes standing. if you have necklaces you have to tuck them away so they can’t see them – or else they’ll have you write four pages of a sentence about KIPP – “I must follow the rules of the KIPP Academy” or “I must not talk” for four pages.

They would have us stand on the black line for as many minutes as they felt was right for what I did. I would never get my homework during that hour when I was outside on the line. And I’d ask for the homework, they’d be like “I’ll give it to you later”. And the next day I would come in without homework and it goes directly on my paycheck [the demerit system].

My science teacher got mad once because I sneezed. He said “Get out of class!” And I said, “No, I won’t get out of class for sneezing” And he was like, “Yes, you are.” He called the principal and I still didn’t leave. So they were like “We’re going to call your mother. So let’s go.” And I was like, “Fine.” And I just walked out. Then the teacher wrote down everything, like ‘Not paying attention.’  He would write ‘Talking’ 5 times so I could get -5 points. He was saying I had a negative attitude.

I noticed that a lot of kids left.  In 5th grade, there were about 50 students. 6th grade, I came back and there were 30. 7th grade: 20. About 10 of them were held back and a lot of them left.

A lot of the teachers left too. When I got to 6th grade, the 5th grade teachers had all changed. By the time I got to 8th grade, there were only about four teachers left that I knew. And now it’s all new teachers. None of them are there that I went to school with.

The teachers said, “We want you to be the best you can be. No attitude.” But they’re the first ones to give you attitude. They’re hypocrites.  We used to have ‘Character Class’ on Fridays where they would tell you to be open-minded and stuff. But they weren’t open-minded. They were closed. If I needed help, they would say, ‘Oh, well you have to figure it out.’

Teachers would scream at us all the time. Sometimes for things we did, and sometimes for things we didn’t. A kid would raise his voice. Then the teacher would raise his voice. Kid would raise his voice higher and the teacher raised his voice higher.  Until it was a screaming match between the kid and the teacher. And then the principal comes in, and it’s three people all screaming at each other. It would give me such a headache!

At KIPP, I would wake up sick, every single day. Except on Sunday, ’cause that day I didn’t have to go to school.  All the students called KIPP the “Kids in Prison Program.”

And now that I’m in this [district high] school I’m relieved. I’m glad I didn’t go to KIPP high school. Now, I wake up and I want to go to school. I want to see my friends. I want to see my teachers. It’s more welcoming. You walk in there, it’s like “Hey! How are you doing?”

And here is one of the comments in response to the original post:

Anonymous said…

I was a teacher at a KIPP school for 1 /1/2 years. (Not in NYC) It was the most horrible experience of my life. The teachers and students are literally in school for 11 hours a day. You basically have no personal life as it is all about KIPP.

The school has a cult like mentality with chants, rituals, and an obsessive focus on “being nice, work hard, get into college”. I saw numerous teachers experience nervous breakdowns from the extreme pressure and harassment of administration. There was a 50% turnover for staff each year. They made me chaperone a week long trip to another city to visit colleges. I had to sleep in the same room as the students. (They do NOT pay anywhere near what would be expected from a district school.)

KIPP also made me go door to door in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city that I worked in to recruit students.

The most crazy thing I witnessed was at a KIPP summer seminar that had KIPP teachers from throughout the United States present. One of the main speakers asked the audience of KIPP teachers to stand up if they were first year teachers. About 30% of the audience stood up. Then they asked teachers with 2-5 years of experience to stand up. At that time 60% of the teachers stood up. Then they asked teachers with 5-10 years experience to stand up and 10% stood up. Then they asked teachers with more than 10 years of experience to stand up. At that time I WAS STANDING WITH 2 OTHER TEACHERS OUT OF AN AUDIENCE OF 500 TEACHERS!

Submitted by Dora Taylor

11 thoughts on “How KIPP charter school handles special ed/IEP students

  1. The Republican agenda is to put public lands in their cronies private hands. Then the school fails, parents realize they were taken it and they (the district) can’t go back, so they overcrowd what they have left, because public schools take everyone, no questions asked. Vicious.

  2. Well, check out this 2014 KIPP SUMMIT Convention video where Dave and KIPP Co-Founder Mike Feinberg answer a question about whether their own children will be attending KIPP schools (and experiencing NNN, of course):

    It’s the second video from the top, entitled, “A CONVERSATION WITH CO-FOUNDERS MIKE AND DAVE”. CLICK it (then expand to FULL-SCREEN, if you wish)…

    then go to about 49:05

    MIKE FEINBERG: “Gus and Abadit [Feinberg’s two children] are not going to go to a KIPP school…

    [begins rubbing his face],

    “… and that’s actually for–there are several reasons for that. I mean, you get into, for, you know, with a 10-thousand-kid waiting list, um, my kids have options, I don’t want to take away a seat from another …

    [more beard rubbing]

    ” … family that doesn’t have options, that’s, um, part of it, but at, with my parent hat, I want most for Gus and Abadit. I would put them in a bunch of our primary schools in a heartbeat, knowing what a great education they would get, how well they would get taken care of …

    [makes a strangling motion with his hands].

    “… It would be unfair, I think, to Gus and Abadit, cuz’ in a KIPP school, they wouldn’t be Gus and Abadit, they would be Feinberg’s kids, and I don’t want them–I want them to grow up, and being in a school, being Gus and Abadit, and not be a fishbowl parent.

    “And I’ve seen this happen with other leaders’ kids, where, um, ah, within five minutes of being put in timeout, the school is talking about the kid being in timeout. I just want them to have a chance to be Gus and Abadit and, uh, as I said, Gus, you know, he wants to be …

    [begins scratching his face],

    “… or wear a KIPP shirt, with, with pride, and he wants to be a KIPPster …

    [starts rubbing his hands together]

    “… he wants to come and tutor, and things like that, to find other ways to get him plugged in to the Team and Family… ”

    [looks over to Levin as to say, please, god, get me out of here!]


    Over at SCHOOLS MATTER, Jim Horn did an analysis of this awkward moment:

    JIM HORN: “Corporate cult leaders, Mike Feinberg and David Levin, are their own biggest fans, and to prove it, they gave themselves 80 minutes onstage at the recent million dollar summit in Houston to answer some puffball questions for the KIPPnotized KIPPsters in the auditorium.

    “Oops, someone got this embarrassing question through…

    ” … ”

    “Fortunately for Feinberg, no one at the million dollar summit asked to see that mythical waiting list with 10,000 kids on it. If that were anywhere near the truth, we may wonder why KIPPs like Memphis are having to pay back money for enrollment overestimates based on projections that never matched reality? Surely Feinberg could find one of those many under-enrolled KIPP schools where teachers are sent out regularly with their clipboards to beat the bushes like missionaries to find warm bodies to put in desks (or on the floor).

    “Notice, too, how Feinberg wants to protect the privacy of his children when they mess up at school, even if he is the co-designer of a system of KIPP paychecks that guarantee that every teacher of any KIPP child knows when he has been good or bad by checking the paycheck each KIPPster carries with him from class to class.

    “Remember, too, that public humiliation is standard operating procedure at KIPP, but protection from that is only important for Feinberg’s children and the children of the corporate whales the fund KIPP. I understand your quandary, Mikey.

    “Feinberg’s fumbling rhetoric and transparent body language cannot conceal the condescending corporate paternalism that is a defining characteristic of KIPP’s abusive corporate reform school testing camps. Despite the lame effort, how that paternalism shows through: Feinberg has choices for his kids, but he wants to make sure that the children of the poor have a single option once the testing machine has closed most of the urban public schools. Poor children need KIPP, rich kids don’t.

    “What happened to the advertised concept of choice for the poor?? Pure malarkey. The new paternalism demands that elites like Feinberg and Levin should decide what the poor must learn, and how they should learn it, and how they should prove that they do learn it.

    “In the end, passing tests is less important for that distant abstraction called college than it is for the Feinbergs and Levins of the world to know that these kids and their parents are towing the line that has been drawn for them by the Fisher family and the other coroporate overseers who pump hundreds of millions into these chain gangs for the poor.

    “Feinberg’s child, Gus, will have to find another way to become part of ‘Team and Family.’ He can wear his KIPP shirt (while inside the auditorium, for god’s sake), and he can maybe come tutor the poor kids and perhaps tell them some of the neat things he is learning out there in the world where children have choices.

    “Nah, forget that last part–the KIPPsters can’t afford to have any distractions–they have to prove their sponsors and handlers intentions are noble ones.”

    The first COMMENT to Horn’s piece nails it:

    Anonymous5:02 PM:

    “THANK YOU FOR POSTING THIS! As a former KIPP teacher, the world needs to see this video that shows how hypocritical KIPP really is. They brag about how ‘great’ their school is, but yet their own supreme leaders would not even allow their children to attend.

    “KIPP is a cult of the greatest magnitude. They have their own language, rituals, chants, and an overbearing sense of fear and intimidation. (This mentality applies to both students and staff) Turnover is massive at KIPP schools and the majority of teachers that I know who worked in a KIPP school had a horrible experience as well.

    “Support your local school and keep big business charter chains like KIPP out of the picture.”

  3. Reblogged this on Exceptional Delaware and commented:
    This is exactly why I never want KIPP getting a foothold in Delaware. If there are any charters in Delaware that practice this sort of behavior to ANY child, I want to know about it. This is a tragedy of epic proportions…

    1. In our great state of Washington, the reformers have chanted KIPP, KIPP, KIPP for years now. Charter schools are now legal in our state and I am very concerned we will see one pop up somewhere soon although I doubt it will be in Seattle. Word is out here.

      1. We have quite a few in Delaware for such a small state. Our biggest city, Wilmington, has well over half the charters in the state. Our legislators put a moratorium on them as they are sucking our local districts dry up there. We have enough issues with them, the last thing Delaware needs is something like KIPP coming to town!

      2. Well, we are learning from watching all the other states. This wave of corporate takeover began on the east coast and we watched it come this way.

        We have had some time to strengthen our resolve, do research and get the word out.

        It’s helping.

        We all have to keep up the good fight for the future of our children which is the future of our country.

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