The Abell Foundation
Not one of Baltimore's twenty-one traditional public middle schools met annual yearly progress requirements in 2006, but two charter schools--KIPP Ujima Village and The Crossroads School--did. This report from the Abell Foundation, which awards grants to improve education, healthcare, and other social services in Baltimore, examines how the two schools achieved this feat and suggests what the district can learn from their successes. Those familiar with KIPP will recognize many of the findings, which in many ways mirror the program's Five Pillars. First, the report lauds both schools' "clear and powerful vision[s]" and "high academic and conduct expectations," as embodied in the Commitment to Excellence at KIPP and the Parent/Student/Teacher Compact at Crossroads. Students also spend more time at these schools than they would at traditional public schools--the KIPP school day is 60 percent longer on average than a district school day; Crossroads' day is 20 percent longer. Principals at both schools are better trained and are given authority to make staffing and curriculum decisions. Finally, both schools focus heavily on outcomes, a commitment reflected by their strong reliance on assessments to gauge student progress. The report is refreshing because it doesn't simply recommend that failing middle schools adopt the successful practices identified in the report (although they should). Instead, Abell advises the district to "encourage successful current operators such as KIPP and Crossroads to open more schools" and to "add other operator-led schools targeting middle school students." Read the report here.