This review is of the unabridged audio book version of "A Chance to Make History" by Wendy Kopp.
I was hoping to find inspiration in Wendy Kopp's book but instead found the entire book to be an advertisement for KIPP Charter Schools, and organization headed by the author's husband, Richard Barth. The book also functions as a propaganda tool for Wendy Kopp's "Teach for America" non-profit organization" which pays Kopp generously for her services, $265,585 in 2008 for example. Richard Barth was paid over $300,000 by KIPP the same year. So it appears the couple is not entirely driven by altruism in their pursuit of education excellence. KIPP schools are referenced and promoted hundreds of times through the book by Kopp.
Kopps' argument that KIPP schools are superior to regular public schools is correct. However, Kopp refuses to explain why and how the KIPP schools outperform regular public schools serving essentially the same communities. In her book she touts the outstanding improvements in test scores and graduation rates, but is reluctant to explain the results other than hard work, "heroic teaching", going above and beyond, and expecting greatness, etc. But a closer look reveals that KIPP schools, the kind Wendy Kopp says are superior to regular public schools, enjoy better funding, higher paid teachers, and retain superior students over time.
In truth the reason KIPP charter schools outperform regular public schools is that the teachers and the students are cherry picked through a process of attrition. A study published by Western Michigan University and jointly released by Columbia University in 2011 showed that KIPP schools receive greater amount of public funding and have higher drop out rates than do other public schools in the same communities they serve. While KIPP school leadership states that if a student finishes middle school at a KIPP school they have a 95% high school graduation rate, the study found, quote (Baltimore Sun) "But nationally, the report found, on average about 15 percent of students drop from KIPP cohorts every year, compared to 3 percent in public schools. Moreover, between grades 6 and 8, about 30 percent of KIPP students drop off of the rolls." That means that superior students are retained at KIPP schools and inferior students are dropping out. Furthermore the study found, quote (Baltimore Sun) "The report also concluded that KIPPs high outcomes, when compared to public schools, could be a result of serving significantly less special education students, and English language learners--two populations that are more prone to be less competitive academically and more expensive."
Although KIPP schools are said to have something special, it turns out the something special is more funding. Their teachers are paid more than regular public school teachers, and the KIPP schools also receive more federal dollars and more public funding overall than regular public schools. Quote (Baltimore Sun) "Researchers also found by using a federal dataset on school finance, that for the year 2007-2008, KIPP received more per-pupil public revenue ($12,731) than any other comparison group. "Charter schools don't generally receive more than public schools, but KIPP does," Miron said. "It's remarkable."
In addition to getting more federal and public funding, KIPP schools receive thousands of dollars in private funds per student.
KIPP schools have longer school years, and as Kopp states, longer school days. Teachers who don't share the vision of sacrificing mornings, evenings, and weekends for the mission are removed from the staff according to Kopp (she says most discover themselves to be inferior teachers and then voluntarily resign).
So in conclusion, through greater funding, and selective student and teacher detainment, and greater teacher pay, KIPP schools out perform regular public schools. However, the comparison of one of apples to oranges. Unfortunately, students who don't earn a place in a KIPP school by way of lottery, or by way of parental interest and follow through are left to attend schools without the many financial and selective culling advantages of KIPP schools.
Kopps' books is dishonest in that it shows only the superior performance of KIPP schools, without revealing the underlying advantages of how charter schools are allowed to construct an unfair advantage into their educational system. Since she and her husband have a huge financial interest in the promotion of the KIPP school myth, her book "A Chance to Make History" must be considered propaganda for so-called school reform that in reality is proving only that greater teacher pay, longer school hours, and selective culling of staff and students leads to better test results and graduation rates.