The Corner

Catch the Mystery, Catch the Drift

The Knowledge Is Power Program is one of several “franchises” or charter-school networks that have shown consistent, superior performance in communities across the country. But why do these models succeed?

Sure, deregulation and charter-school legislation have paved the way for their creation, and conservatives are right to champion continued policy innovation to promote competition and entrepreneurship in education. But many new charter schools fail (the good news is that, unlike a failed district-run public school, the charters can go poof). Education researchers have been studying the charter-school successes and are dispelling some of the myths and mysteries surrounding these supposed “special cases.”

I’ll recommend two readings on the subject, one from the Hoover Institutition’s fine EducationNext journal and the other from the American Enterprise Institute.

First, in an excerpt from his new book Work Hard Be Nice, Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews writes about the founders of the KIPP program and how they have managed to replicate their successful model for teaching disadvantaged students. It’s a great, revealing read, particularly when you get to the account of how a stellar teacher showed a mediocre one how to get the job done.

Second, Steven Wilson has been studying KIPP and similar models to see not only what’s working but also what barriers may exist to scaling up these models to serve large numbers of students. In his AEI piece, Wilson spotlights the difficulty of finding sufficient numbers of young, energetic teachers committed to “no excuses” instruction. Solving the human capital problem, he concludes, is the key to turning these schools from promising outliers to commonplace successes.


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