Inner-City Charter School Hits Home Run

They usually arrive several grades behind when they first enter this school. They're 98 per cent black. 89 per cent come from poverty. Their campus is in the heart of Oklahoma City's most-downtrodden area.

Yet they just blew away other Oklahoma students in their annual performance tests.

They're at the KIPP Academy, a charter middle school that's been fighting off a public school system whose bureaucracy and teachers' union wish it would go away. KIPP means "Knowledge Is Power Program". There are only 52 schools nationwide in the KIPP program. Their goal isn't just to lift up underprivileged kids to get a high school diploma. They're preparing them and pushing them toward college.

The KIPP College Preparatory School in northeast Oklahoma City scored a 2006 Academic Performance Index of 1,393 out of a possible 1,500. The number measures Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test scores, passage rates, student attendance and dropout rates. The average API score for all Oklahoma students is 1,180. The average score in Oklahoma City Public Schools is 1,006.

The only middle school in the state that scored higher (slightly) was one in an upper-middle-class area of Oklahoma City. The results impressed Principal Tracy McDaniel (photo at left), who was under pressure. This was his first eighth-grade class and he needed to prove they could perform well, just as his young students had been doing.

What's their secret? They expect more, require more and get more from the students, the parents, the teachers and everyone else.

KIPP doesn't rely on teachers with magically-unique personalities or Hollywood-movie rapport with students. It relies on discipline and effort. KIPP's school day is longer than in the public schools--7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., plus Saturday classes twice a month. The staff enforce discipline and require parents to back them up. Parents--like students--have to agree in writing to obey the rules of the school.

Principal McDaniel says, "KIPP is a school where you have to work hard. Nothing is easy . . . you have to be dedicated to everything you're doing."

Perhaps the most significant accomplishment was that all of the school's eighth-graders passed both the writing and the math tests. Every single student. By comparison, statewide just 72 percent of eighth-graders passed the math test. In the other Oklahoma City public schools, only 59 percent passed.

"We don't quit until they get into college,” McDaniel said. "Take excuses away from these people who say these kids can't learn,” he said.

aRead the April 21st Oklahoma City news account of the great performance by this charter school
aRead a Washington Post account from last fall about how this KIPP school overcame public school bureaucracy (and my own minor role in helping them).
aContact this school and congratulate them.
aRead the bio and more comments of principal Tracy McDaniel. © 2008. Blogger Template by Blogger Tutorial