If it ain???t broke, why fix it?
KIPP Baltimore just can’t seem to catch a break. Last month, the high-flying charter-management organization scuffled with Baltimore City Schools over the renewal of its schools’ teacher contracts. (The quick back story: KIPP needed a waiver to operate outside the standard BPS teacher-pay scale, which peeved the union. Luckily, the two reached an agreement—ensuring that KIPP can remain in Charm City). This week, KIPP Baltimore, specifically its KIPP Ujima campus, begins to navigate another unnecessary intervention from the district. The middle school, which has been in operation nearly a decade, has been asked by city schools CEO (and bona fide reformer) Andrés Alonso to stop administering a placement exam it gives to all students who win the school’s admissions lottery, as the exam could be construed by parents as “elitist” or “off-putting.” The test doesn’t deny entry: Potential sixth-graders who score poorly are still able to enroll in KIPP Ujima, though they are asked to repeat fifth grade. Alonso’s request raises more than one red flag. Not only is the intrusion a blow to KIPP’s autonomy, the core of the charter-school ideal, it is also apt to force ill-prepared students into classrooms above their present capabilities. Gadfly thinks highly of Dr. Alonso—and respects the principle that charter schools should accept all comers. But he’s baffled and discomfited by this latest development.
“KIPP Ujima to discontinue placement tests,” by Erica L. Green, Baltimore Sun, April 5, 2011.
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