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Topic: KIPP 5th Graders on the floor for a week
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
KIPP 5th Graders on the floor for a week
Posted: Dec 19, 2013 5:19 PM
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From Schools Matter, Sunday, December 15, 2913.See
Schools Matter

This space explores issues in public education policy, and it
advocates for a commitment to and a re-examination of the democratic
purposes of schools. If there is some urgency in the message, it is
due to the current reform efforts that are based on a radical
re-invention of education, now spearheaded by a psychometric
blitzkrieg of "metastasizing testing" aimed at dismantling a public
education system that took almost 200 years to build. JH August, 2005

Posted by Jim Horn.

One Hundred KIPP 5th Graders in a Single Classroom on the Floor for a
Week Until They "Earned" Their Desks

Last updated 12/15/13:

The Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) is the largest corporate
charter school chain in the U. S, with 141 schools and 50,000
students in 20 states. KIPP was launched in 1994 by David Levin and
Michael Feinberg, two former Ivy-Leaguers and Teach for America (TFA)
corps members assigned to teach in Houston, where the first KIPP
school was created. Since 2000 when KIPP students performed a skit
at the Republican National Convention, KIPP has become the poster
school model for "no excuses" education, and today it receives
hundreds of millions in donations from corporations, corporate
foundations, and venture philanthro-capitalists.

KIPP spends a great deal of money promoting its brand of total
compliance segregated charter schools as the tough love, no excuses
solution for schooling in urban communities disabled by poverty and
the lack of hope. KIPP and its billionaire supporters contend that we
cannot wait for an end to poverty to properly educate the children of
the poor. No one I know would disagree with this premise, but
everyone I know disagrees with KIPP's conception of what "properly
educate" means.

Apparently, KIPP sees no irony in requiring the poorest urban
children who have received the least in life to earn everything at
KIPP, from paychecks for good behavior and working hard, to the KIPP
shirt, and, at some KIPPs, even the desks that children must earn
their right to sit in for 8 to 10 hours a day.

You may ask yourself what your reaction would be if your fifth-grader
came home every day for the first four days of school to tell you
that she sat on the floor without a desk.

Or if you don't have children, what do you think Michelle Obama would
say her children came home telling her that they were not good enough
to have a desk, or they had not proven that they could follow
directions well enough, or sit quietly long enough, or walk a line
straight enough, or track the teacher intently enough, or raise their
hands quickly enough, or wait long enough to go to the bathroom, or
that they had not worked hard enough?

Do you think Michelle Obama would encourage her husband, the
President of the United States, to have his education people pour
hundreds of millions of dollars into the support of this kind of

One of the KIPP teachers I interviewed for my forthcoming book on
KIPP teaching had told me about students losing their desks as a form
of punishment. He said that most of the one hour session devoted on
late Friday afternoons for "team and family time" would "dissolve
into the students sitting on the floor and writing lines, a hundred
times, I will not disrespect our time with team and family, because
maybe they didn't transition in a straight enough line to team and
family. Maybe they were talking too much."

Another teacher told me about how desks were taken away at her KIPP
school as a form of punishment for small or large offenses: "So at
any given time you could go into a classroom and see from one to ten
kids sitting in the back room or the whole class on the floor."

Humiliating and awful and borderline abusive, indeed.

But I had heard nothing like the following account that tells of how
during the first week of school 100 fifth-graders were packed into a
single classroom without desks, where they sat the entire class time
Monday through Thursday learning to earn the right to sit in a desk.
It was only on Friday that the students were separated into three
groups and sent to classrooms with desks. From the verbatim

Card ID: 1262

TEACHER: One thing I did want to tell you was, we started school the
middle of July. And they did something totally illegal. And I knew
then that I didn't want to work there anymore. For the fifth graders
coming into the school for the first time, they sat a hundred fifth
graders on the floor of one class in rows for a week, a hundred fifth
graders in one classroom for a week until they could follow
directions. And at that point, I said, why am I here? . . . .

INTERVIEWER: Let's get back to the fifth graders sitting on the
floor. [Crosstalk]. This was during the, what is sometimes referred
to as the KIPP-notizing that happens during the first summer for
fifth graders?


INTERVIEWER: And what do these children do all day if they were
sitting on the floor?

TEACHER: They would sit there and do homework on the floor. They
would fill in forms and pass them. And they had to all do it
correctly, otherwise, they'd do it again and again and again. And so
what we would do, by Thursday, all the teachers would vote in site,
should we let them go into desks? In front of them, we had to vote.
You know? And I voted yes, put them in desks. You know? It's like
treating like animals. They weren't animals. They were children. And
so by Friday, I think they figured, well, a week is long enough. You
know? And so we all voted, yeah, let them go in the desks. And that's
how they decided to go in the desks.

INTERVIEWER: Did all the teachers have to vote yes before they were
given desks?

TEACHER: Yeah. Yeah. But we were encouraged to vote yes. Is that a
KIPP thing to do? I don't know. But you wouldn't do that ever in a
public school.

INTERVIEWER: I'm sure you wouldn't. I've heard of children sitting on
the floor, but I haven't heard of a hundred in a single [crosstalk]

TEACHER: It was a hundred. It was all the fifth graders in a classroom, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: And this is like a classroom designed for 30 desks?

TEACHER: Yes. They were stuffed in. They were stuffed in.

INTERVIEWER: How many teachers were in this room during this time?

TEACHER: Five. I think five teachers were there. And the principal
would walk in every once and awhile.

INTERVIEWER: OK. So let me ask you this question. If I had been with
you, either on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, what would I
have seen happening during one of those days?

TEACHER: With me or with students or teachers?

INTERVIEWER: Well, if I had been in the classroom on one of those
days, what would I have seen happening?

TEACHER: At first the kids, well, they have to do the flag salute of
course. And then they have to take attendance. And the only time they
stood up was during the flag salute and going out for recess, which
they did go out for recess. Kids were trying to follow directions. I
don't think the directions were given for a fifth grader to quite
understand, even though one teacher was really, really good. I don't
know. By Friday, they were frustrated. The kids were frustrated. You
know? And maybe they were making them worried about being a part of
the school that they wouldn't pass, because we had a lot of kids who
hadn't passed in the public school so they went to KIPP. And so maybe
they were worrying them to make sure that they would follow
directions. And so they were worried. I think the kids were worried.

INTERVIEWER: They were worried that they weren't going to get in or
that they were going to have to stay there?

TEACHER: They were worried that they couldn't ever follow directions.
It was a mind game. I've seen this. It's terrible what they did. It
was [Crosstalk] what they did.

INTERVIEWER: What did they do?

TEACHER: Say that again.

INTERVIEWER: What did they do?

TEACHER: They did what they could. And even by Friday, they weren't
all following directions, but they said, go sit in a chair. We'll
give you desks.

INTERVIEWER: So when all these children were sitting there, they were
sitting there at all times unless they were going to recess or going
to lunch?

TEACHER: Right. And those were only, I think those were only minimum
days also. So it wasn't like eight hours. It was, like, four hours.

INTERVIEWER: OK. So they were there for half day.

TEACHER: Yeah, they were there for half day. You know? I don't think
they had PE, but they did have lunch and they did have recess.

INTERVIEWER: OK. So they were just on the floor for four hours. So
when the children got their desks, were they sent into different
classrooms so that they could [crosstalk]?

TEACHER: Yes, they were, three different classrooms, yes.

INTERVIEWER: And what was the reaction among students and among teachers?

TEACHER: Once they went to classroom?

INTERVIEWER: Yeah, once they got their desks.

TEACHER: They were a lot happier, because they had their own place to
put their backpack. They had their own places to put books. They had
their own place to put stuff. You know? They had their own space. And
they needed that. They needed their own space. They needed to feel
comfortable being an individual, not just being a classmate.

The question here that must be asked is what will it take to get the
attention of those charged with the safety and welfare of children in
order to bring an end to these horrors. This is not the first time
such educational atrocities at KIPP have been documented. The most
prominently-ignored series of incidents occurred in 2009 in Fresno
(go here and read posts from the bottom up).

How long will we turn our backs on this kind of abuse? How long will
we allow and support and celebrate this form of behavioral
sterilization for poor children while ignoring and finding excuses
for doing nothing about poverty? Will it take Amnesty International
to intervene in these human rights abuses at America's apartheid
corporate schools for the poor?
Posted by Jim Horn.
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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