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Be Nice??

benicecookieThat’s what the union wants KIPP to be – Nice. In the opinion of the American Federation of Teachers, “nice” means giving them what they want, regardless of whether it’s good for kids. Through its NYC affiliate, the AFT has launched a campaign to pressure the leadership of KIPP AMP Academy‘s Brooklyn campus to accept the union as the leader of its teachers. KIPP hasn’t moved to recognize the union, so its leaders are striking back.

Be Nice, they say in a new PR campaign. It’s a clever turn of phrase on the motto of the Knowledge is Power Program, the nationwide network that has re-educated thousands of children nationwide who had been failed miserably by conventional public schools. But they are missing something. “Work Hard” is how the motto begins. “Work Hard, Be Nice.” The two phrases go together. Deliberately. That’s what the teachers who now want a break signed up to do – Work Hard. We wonder -is it nice to take a job in a school that you know requires long hours and arduous work, and then go behind the backs of your leadership and fellow teachers and ask a militant national union to come in and rob children of the first opportunity they’ve ever had to learn?

As in most of the charter schools that came before and since KIPP, success comes precisely because of their independence from onerous contracts and the flexibility afforded by the charter to be able to design programs without top down interference. KIPP sets an ambitious path for staff and students – 7:30 to 5:30 every weekday, Saturday work and summer requirements. That’s one key reason their students perform exceptionally well, despite their disadvantages, the same disadvantages that other

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At Odds

takeoverAndy Rotherham (via Eduwonk) has some fun dissecting today’s New York Times article on the unionization process within two Brooklyn-based KIPP charter schools (“Teachers at 2 Charter Schools Plan to Join Union, Despite Notion of Incompatibility“):

First, Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform says that “A union contract is actually at odds with a charter school.”  “Actually” is the wrong word there.  The more accurate way to say that would be, “could be.”  Why?  Well one example is the unionized and highly sucessful Green Dot Public Schools, another is KIPP Bronx, which has been unionized for some time.  And there are others, good and bad.  What matters is what’s in the contract not unionization per se.

Beyond the quote as printed, what I actually said was that unions and the charter CONCEPT are at odds. Green Dot (Andy’s example) created its own contract, one that works within its model (though results in NYC will be interesting). What KIPP schools are experiencing is the equivalent of a takeover, even disguised as a restructuring, where management will no longer be able to set the tone or culture of their schools. That might work for some teachers who believe their work conditions are the most important aspect of their school, but this move puts students second. This thinking is what brought us the system failure that, to date, un-co-opted charter schools have sought to correct.

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Unionization = Student Achievement?

knowledge

Knowledge is power, KIPP’s moniker, might need to be more aptly applied to the parent company’s involvement and understanding of local school issues. The knowledge of what was afoot in two more of their NYC schools to convince teachers there to unionize may have helped them avert the rising mediocrity that will no doubt color this otherwise No Excuses school model. One wonders what campaign was hatched to convince so many KIPPsters that a regulatory environment would be preferable to the freedom they now enjoy.

Union leaders in NYC blogging yesterday provide some clues:

In a letter delivered to co-principals Jeff Li and Melissa Perry this morning, the teachers said that they had decided to unionize in order to secure teacher voice and respect for the work of teachers in their school. We want “to ensure that the each day,” they wrote.

The letter stressed that the decision to organize was directly connected to the teachers’ commitment to their students. “ strong and committed staff,” the teachers wrote, “is the first step to student achievement.” Unionization, the teachers believe, will help create the conditions for recruiting and retaining such a staff.

“We organized to make sure teachers had a voice, and could speak their minds on educational matters without fearing for their job,” says KIPP AMP teacher Luisa Bonifacio.

“For us,” KIPP AMP teacher Emily Fernandez explains, “unionization is ultimately all about student achievement, and the ability of teachers to best serve students at this crucial middle school time in their education.”

Mutual respect and validation?

Unionization is all about student

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