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KIPP Co-Founder Outlines Steps to Closing Achievement Gap

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Michael Feinberg, a co-founder of the Knowledge is Power Program network of charter schools, addressed the crowd this morning at the Arizona State University/GSV Advisors Education Innovation Summit here in sunny Scottsdale, Ariz., saying that the way to close the achievement gap for students was to provide "great teaching and more of it."

Overall, 31 percent of students graduate from college, said Feinberg, but breaking that number down by socioeconomic status provides an even graver picture for low-income students. While 82 percent of students from families in the top income quartile graduate from college, only eight percent of students from the bottom income quartile graduate from college, said Feinberg.

Of the students who attend KIPP schools, which target low-income students, about 45 percent graduate from college in 4 years, said Feinberg. That number, while a vast improvement from the 8 percent of low-income students who graduate on time, still indicates a gap between low-income and high-income students in college graduation rates that KIPP schools are working to close, he said.

And it's not technology and tools that will transform schools, said Feinberg, but better teaching. Given a choice between a classroom with a mediocre teacher with lots of technology and equipment and a classroom with a master teacher but no technology or equipment, most people will choose to enroll their children in the classroom with the master teacher, he said.

He called charter schools and school choice "a game changer."

"We have a government monopoly in too many places where you're told which school to go to," he said. Students from middle- and upper-class families have more flexibility in choosing which schools they go to (either private school or moving into a district with a better track record) while low-income students are often stuck in the districts they are born into, he said. Charter schools open that model up so that students and parents can choose to enroll in schools that are run by an entirely different organization, he said.

Feinberg also pointed to strong school leadership from principals, high expectations, and a strong focus on results as ways to help improve education and graduate more students from colleges.

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