Ready or not …


On my recent visit to KIPP NYC College Prep High School, I received one of their newsletters.  In it I found this graph demonstrating how their students rank in ‘college readiness’ compared to other Black, Latino, and NYC students in general.  According to this ‘college readiness’ metric, 72% of the KIPP students were ready for college compared to just 13% of Black students, 15% of Latino students and 22% of students in New York City.  Not only that, but they accomplished this with their oldest students who are just in 11th grade.

Now, I wrote about how the teaching there was decent but not spectacular.  I also mentioned that the students were struggling there, despite being the ones who had made it through all those years of KIPP middle schools.  I should also here, in KIPPs defense, mention that the very best KIPP middle school students often get scholarships to exclusive private schools so the students at the KIPP high school do not necessarily represent the strongest students, academically, from their middle schools.

Still, I wouldn’t have guessed that 72% of the students were ‘college ready.’  Different states define ‘college ready’ in different ways.  Louisiana, for instance, uses the ACT.  On the KIPP newsletter, they explain what ‘college ready’ entails.

The New York Department of Education has defined that a student is “college-ready” if s/he earns at least a 75% on their English Regents and at least an 80% on their math Regents exam.

I checked, and this is accurate.  Now I will admit that getting a 75% on the English Regents and an 80% on the math Regents is better than not getting these grades, but this is hardly a criteria that I would call “college ready.”

There are three different math Regents:  Integrated Algebra, Geometry, and Algebra II / Trigonometry.  According to this metric, if a student gets an 80 on the Integrated Algebra, a test that many 8th graders take, they are half way to being college ready.  I’m a math teacher in New York, and I’m always baffled when the ‘scaling sheet’ comes out that converts the raw score from 0 to 87 points into a score between 0 and 100.  For the August 2012 test, the scaling chart says that a raw score of 51 translates into an 80.  But 51/87 is  just 59%.  I’m not sure about the English test, but a 75% doesn’t sound that impressive.

KIPP has support services to help their students while they are in college.  So far the statistics are that 35% of KIPP graduates go on to graduate college.  This is said to be over four times the expected 8% college completion rate for low-income students.  Since KIPP has a pretty high attrition, and I’m not sure if this 35% includes all the kids who started with them as 5th graders, I’m not sure how to interpret this statistic.  Also, it isn’t clear that the students they had would have necessarily only had 8% graduating college had they not gone to KIPP.

I guess the point is that like other words that have gotten new definitions in education like ‘reform’, ‘accountability’, ‘value’, ‘choice’, ‘graduation rate’, ‘high performing’, ‘failing’ and a whole bunch of others, we can add ‘college ready’ as an expression that really doesn’t mean what it implies.

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3 Responses to Ready or not …

  1. Jack says:

    Case-in-point: AUDUBON MIDDLE SCHOOL

    Dr. DeWayne Davis, the principal at LAUSD’s Audubon Middle school, wrote Dr. Diane Ravitch a letter which Diane posted on her site. In this letter, Dr. Davis condemned the “midyear dump” of students from the nearby charter schools. Every year, just after winter break, there are about 168 or so kids that have left those charter schools—either kicked out or “counseled out”. I can’t recall the exact figures, but he said about 162 of those are FBB (Far Below Basic)—kids who score low because of being innately “slower”, non-cooperative, “Special Ed”, newcomers to the country who are brand new to English, those students just plain not willing to work hard, from distressed home lives, foster care, homeless, etc.

    Davis tells about the great difficulties that teachers have in their efforts to absorb these charter cast-off’s into their classes. For the next month or two—or for even the remainder of the school year—teachers and the pre-existing students
    report varying states of chaos as a result of the nearby charter schools engaging in this despicable “midyear dump”.

    Of course, think of the effect this has on Audubon’s
    scores—they go DOWN—and on the nearby charter schools—they go UP.

    I heard from a teacher that the pro-charter School Board members came down on Dr. Davis like a ton of bricks for “airing dirty laundry” to Dr. Ravitch.

    Here’s the quote that got likely him into trouble:


    “It is ridiculous that they (charter operators) can pick and choose kids and pretend that they are raising scores when, in fact, they are just purging nonperforming students at an alarming rate. That is how they are raising their scores, not by improving the performance of students.

    “Such a large number of FBB students will handicap the growth that the Audubon staff initiated this year, and further, will negatively impact the school’s overall scores as we continue to receive a recurring tide of low-performing students.”

    One teacher activist explained this phenomenon with the following analogy:

    “It’s like you have two oncology (cancer treatment) practices:

    Oncology Practice A
    Oncology Practice B.

    “Oncology Practice A only accepts patients with Stage 1 cancers, carefully screening out those with Stages 2, 3, or 4 cancers. They send the latter down the street to Oncology Practice B. If one of the latter happens to sneak by this screening process, they likewise are immediately referred down the street to Oncology Practice B.

    “Meanwhile, Oncology Practice B, by law, MUST ACCEPT ALL PATIENTS who show up in their waiting room, and are banned from doing what Oncology Practice A is doing—again, being selective at the outset to only accept the Stage 1 cancer patients, and doing a later screening out to maintain that their patients are exclusively Stage 1.

    “Well, low and behold, as things play out, the ‘data’ shows that Oncology Practice A has higher cure rates and higher remissions, while Oncology Practice B has a greater percentage of patients who are relapsing, having to undergo multiple surgeries, enduring extra rounds of chemotherapy, etc., and of course, dying.

    “Proponents of Oncology Practice A then claim, ‘Look at all that’s wrong with all Oncology Practice B. Their patients are suffering, not being cured, and even dying. And then look at how wonderfully we’re doing here over at Oncology Practice A’.”

  2. Your point about top kids being siphoned off to private schools is an important one, and not just with respect to charter schools.

    The specialized test schools have recently come under fire. A current stat talks about how few black students made it into Stuyvesant. Certainly the number is far lower than when I was a student at Stuy but since then, private schools have upped their “affirmative action” campaigns and made an effort to enroll more high performing black and latino students.

    Why isn’t anyone looking at this fact? Is it that fewer black and latino students are making it into Stuy because of middle school prep or are the top candidates removed from the pool by the private schools?

  3. Meg says:

    My understanding is that any charter (or public or private, for that matter) school that has college services or alumni services offer those students only to students that graduate. So if a student were to leave in 9th or 11th or 6th grade they likely would not be included in any statistics about KIPP college graduates.

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