Sunday, June 12, 2011

Another Look at KIPP

A pro-KIPP commenter on E.D. Kain's blog recommended these two videos:

First up, "Harvard Ed School Visits KIPP":

In this one, Howard Gardner is impressed by how "engaged" the kids are.  He apparently doesn't know that the kids have been specifically trained to track the teacher with their eyes and sit up straight.  He also comments on the "flatness" of the class, and that there is no provision for fast or slow learners.  

In the conversation with a teacher, everyone takes it for granted that "doing your homework" is the measure of a good student, without asking the basic question:  what is the homework, and is it worth doing?

Next up:  Harriet Ball Teaching Children.  Harriet Ball was a big influence on the founders of KIPP.


In this one, the content bothers me.  The whole point of the metric system is that it's founded on base 10, and the Latin prefixes (centi, milli, etc.) tell you how to put it all together.  She doesn't cover that here (to be fair, maybe she taught it somewhere else.)  I don't see how it's helpful to tell kids that "a milliliter is an eyedropper full."  No it isn't -- a milliliter is a precise measurement.  

I'm not against using raps in teaching.  It could be a minimally painful way to memorize.  But if you take raps as your basic teaching tool, you will be stuck teaching only the kind of factoids that fit in a rap.  This is a problem with Whole Brain Teaching too.  There's no room for sustained thought. 


  1. Nevermind her teaching, I CAN'T UNDERSTAND HER at all. I literally DO NOT understand her. I watched it twice and I can get a few words here and there. *shrug* I would fail her classes and be a discipline problem to boot because I DON'T DO RAP. Horrid stuff, that.

  2. I don't always understand her either. I've watched this several times and I still don't get what she says after "a meter is ..."

    This goes back to our earlier discussion of dialects.

  3. On further reflection, she's got the definition of kilometer wrong. She says "a kilometer -- to Mickey D's, about 8 miles away." That's flat-out wrong. A kilometer is about 0.6 miles.

    And how depressing is it to use McDonald's as your landmark?

  4. In the U.S., we don't use the metric system in our daily lives. We only encounter the metric system in the context of science.

    So it's really not helpful to give these very imprecise equivalents. A centimeter is not "a nail bed" -- it's a precise measurement which you read off a ruler that's been marked for it.

  5. There's no room for sustained thought.

    That seems to be the point. Baby jack boots

  6. I can make out most of what she's saying. I think the kids in the class know what she's saying. This is her version of "School House Rock." And it sounds like she says McDonald's is 8 blocks away. McDonald's might be a landmark that all of these kids know. It's a normal part of most Americans lives.

  7. Oh, I think you're right! 8 blocks is better than 8 miles, but it's still not precise.

    Since you got that one, what does she say after "how long is a meter?" Thanks.

  8. I can't make out the "millimeter" example either.

  9. I'm pretty sure they are saying "my new nail growth"

  10. OK, I'll buy that for "millimeter". For extra credit, what are they saying for "meter"?

  11. I think it's important to remember that she was catering the lesson to her students. She found a way to reach them, and teach them, in a way that was engaging.

    It makes me a bit uncomfortable to see everyone saying how they "can't understand her" or "I don't do rap". You might not understand her or do rap, but her students performed well with her so she was clearly doing something right. Unlike the WBT weirdos, this was a natural teaching method born out of genuine responsiveness to the population of students she was teaching.

    I'm not sure why all the comments about not being able to understand her squick me out, but it feel a bit culturally insensitive and unfair to her and her teaching methods.