Monday, September 28, 2009

The Kipp Approach

After Health Care, another one of President's Obama's big initiatives is Education reform. Once again Baltimore is a great example of the need for Education reform. With Baltimore City Public Schools among the worst in the Country it may surprise you to find out that a key to Education reform is right here in Baltimore.

I've done a few posts on School Construction and how to build new School Buildings while reducing excess Classroom Space at the same time but I haven't tackled the big Elephant sitting in the middle of the room or should I say classroom. The Elephant in this case is curriculum and access to "Magnet Schools" that far exceed those of their counterparts. Those who apply and are accepted into Magnet Schools are given a far more stimulating and satisfactory Education experience than those who don't and have a much better chance of completing High School and continuing their Education.

Now, is this fair? Just because you're born into a household that values Education more than others you have the opportunity to have a far greater Education experience than one who doesn't. Not only that, your Education is fun and you're far more willing to learn.

Now Education reform can go hand and hand with rebuilding new Schools. When Schools are closed and combined, their new School that opens in their place will have the overhauled curriculum. This will eventually spread Citywide and will return every student to their districted neighborhood School with all the benefits of a Magnet School. Obviously, Baltimore's neighborhoods where Schools are struggling the most will be the first to be rebuilt and reformed.

Now I'm sure you're wondering which Magnet Program will be implemented Citywide. Well, my idea for this post came when I was reading about the Kipp Ujima Elementary/Middle and Harmony Academy what it is they offer. Kipp Ujima Elementary/Middle runs in the old Greensring/ Dr. Roland N. Patterson Middle and Harmony Academy which opened this past School Year, operates in the old Malcolm X Elementary both in Park Heights.

Now what makes Kipp Ujima Elementary/Middle and Harmony Academy so good? Well I'll give you a crash course in their offerings. The two Schools operate under the same umbrella. Their School Day is 9.25 hours long, 6.25 hours for three weeks of the summer and three hours on select Saturdays throughout the year. I call this "The Kipp Approach" there is a large emphasis on Athletics and the team work exercise it builds. The Kipp Schools are the highest performing Schools in the City and are among the best in the State.

Now students who come from homes that value Education yet have not been accepted to one of the Kippp Schools will be delighted to receive the same Educational opportunities as those who do. This will be a life line thrown to them that they will eagerly catch. The transition from traditional Public Schools to a new School using The Kipp Approach will be great.

Now we come to the sector of Students the Kipp Approach will help the most in the long run but at the same time will be the most resistant to it. These Kids will be deemed "at risk" factors for an at risk child include; suspensions, arrests, drug use, drug use in the family, constantly packing up and moving, bouncing back and forth from different relatives, and gang activity.

These Students, in addition to the regular curriculum offered at their neighborhood "Kipp" School they will attend mandatory after School sessions that range from tutoring to emotional therapy to deal with their problems at home. The tutoring sessions, will insure that each Student finishes their Homework for the next day before they leave School. In fact, it will kept at School to insure it's turned in. This additional time after School coupled with a "no suspension" and dropping out only being allowed after a Student tuns 18 rather than 16 may impact some of these Students greatly and put them out of the "at risk" category. Of course, students who are a constant disruption to the class will be sent to a new Citywide School on North Avenue that deals more in depth with at risk Students.

Now, Students aren't born at risk, they're raised or in many cases not raised that way. So how do we deal with that? Well, with each and every one of these New Schools will be mandatory Head Start that every child must be enrolled in by age two and a half. Parents or Social Services may deem it necessary to enroll a child younger. Parents have the option of enrolling their child as early as six months old. With emphasizing the roll of Education at such a young age it will keep children off the streets which can turn good kids into criminals almost overnight. The less time they spend there and the more time at School, the better. Think of the streets as a drug and the Schools as a detox plan.

Finally, perhaps the greatest reward of Education Reform is a High School Diploma. What happens after High School? Well, for rich kids it's College. In Baltimore, Graduates of City Schools aren't always that lucky. Well, it's time that changed. The Kipp Ujima Schools as it stands now only accept College Bound Students. So with every School eventually taking the Kipp approach it stands to reason that all Baltimore City Students are now College Bound. So once the flat hats are thrown up in the air in celebration, Students whose Family income is below $50,000 will receive a full scholarship to any in State School they're accepted into with an allowance to those who choose to continue their Education out of State.

With such sweeping Education reform the question is where to Start? First, we'll start in the neighborhood that currently houses the two Kipp Schools: Park Heights. Then it's off to Cherry Hill (this includes Westport, Lakeland, Morrell Park, and Violetville) then the neighborhoods of Old West Baltimore; Harlem Park, Sandtown, Druid Heights, and Upton. Although not part of Old West Baltimore, Lockerman Bundy, Franklin Square, and Bentalou Elementaries will be included in this phase. Next, it's East Baltimore, this should be quite simple because Oliver, Oldtown, Middle East, Jonestown, and Broadway East have had a high number of School Closures already. Then we go to Barclay, East Baltimore Midway, and Coldstream Homestead Montebello. Next it's Rosemont, Walbrook Junction, and Edmondson Village. These are the areas of the City where there are the highest number of at risk Students, the Test Scores are the lowest, the drop out rate the highest, and the School Buildings are in the worst shape.

At a much slower pace the rest of Baltimore will receive the Kipp Approach but the neighborhoods listed need it the most. How much will this cost? A lot but everybody says "Children are our Future" and also that future generations will be worse off than their Parents. It's time troubled School Systems look to the approach I'm proposing for Baltimore and that approach is the Kipp Approach.

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