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.
Ujima to discontinue placement tests,” by Erica L. Green, Baltimore Sun, April 5, 2011.