KIPP Gaston plans to start a kindergarten through fourth grade elementary school with the introduction of kindergarten students at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year.

School officials say when the elementary school is fully integrated, KIPP will boast 1,100 students between the grades of kindergarten and 12th.

That number would put KIPP’s enrollment totals on par with the Weldon City Schools district, which according to the UNC Center for Civil Rights, enrolled 1,015 students for the 2009-10 school year.

The charter school opened its middle school (KIPP Gaston College Preparatory) in 2001 with 80 students and has grown into a valuable educational option the entire Roanoke Valley can take pride in.

However, a growing KIPP Gaston will inevitably be a drain on surrounding school districts that aren’t exactly flush with inflated student totals.

Halifax County alone has three public school districts, and declining student numbers in Northampton County will surely force the consolidation of the county’s two public high schools into one, most likely for the 2012-13 school year.

Though real concerns, none of those problems are KIPP problems.

Tammi Sutton, executive director of KIPP Gaston, outlined her thinking clearly for The Daily Herald last week, saying KIPP students come from more than six school districts across the region.

“Enrollment at neighboring schools should not be dramatically affected,” she said. “By creating an additional school of choice for families, we hope to strengthen the opportunities available for underserved students in our shared community.”

Strengthen the opportunities is something KIPP has already done. According to KIPP leaders, the school is one of the highest performing public schools in North Carolina and was named one of America’s Best High Schools by the Washington Post for 2011.

Instead of seeing KIPP as a threat, neighboring school districts should adopt the mantra of Halifax’s Charmaine Smallwood, who expressed her opinion during the unification forum in Roanoke Rapids Thursday.

“The school systems — Halifax County Schools, Roanoke Rapids Graded School District and Weldon City Schools — tend to blame their low enrollment on GCP,” she said. “You don’t need to blame them, but compete with them.”

In this case, healthy competition could make Roanoke Valley students the ultimate winners.

Stephen Hemelt, managing editor

(2) comments

Jim Horn
Jim Horn

Reasons public schools cannot compete with KIPP:
KIPP has access to thousands of dollars per child of corporate foundation dollars above what public schools receive per student;
KIPP likes to remind parents and children that KIPP is a school of choice, which means that there is total compliance or else. Public schools must educate all comers, regardless;
KIPP does not accept students mid-year and KIPP does not replace many of the lower performers and recalcitrant students who don't fit the KIPP demands, which drives up their scores. Public schools have neither of these luxuries;
KIPP enrolls fewer ELL students and special needs students, which is another luxury public schools cannot afford;
KIPP has a behavioral and psychological regimen that creates a total compliance atmosphere where nothing distracts from year-round test prep in reading and math. Many public schools would find KIPP's treatment of children unacceptable;
KIPP's ten-hour days, Saturday school, and 2 weeks in summer for KIPP-notizing amounts to 50-60 percent more time spent in KIPP schools than the regular public schools;
KIPP attracts parents who want KIPP's test-achievement lockdown environment, whereas public school parents are looking for more humane learning environments where they may have a voice in their child's educational experiences.
KIPP has a multimillion dollar public relations and research machine to crank out their propaganda messages to reporters who are more than willing to paint public schools in a bad light.
KIPP can hire and fire at a moment's notice, thus assuring a totally compliant workforce that puts the KIPP brand name based on higher test scores ahead of the individual needs of children.

So compete with KIPP for test scores? Not likely. In the meantime, KIPP's chain gang approach becomes more attractive to more desperate public school administrators trying to "compete," hoping against hope that they can emulate the test score success of KIPP. This is the real danger facing parents and children who did not choose to send their children to penal pedagogy testing factories.


The other schools in Roanoke Rapids and Halifax County cannot compete with KIPP unless we can implement the same guidelines/rules. We cannot hold parents to rules about behavior and expectations of their children. If we could, I think we could compete. I don't think we should be upset with KIPP, but look at what they are doing and try to implement it into our schools. Many of our schools have NO discipline measures. Teachers waste much time trying to handle these children. Not only that, some of the parents are ridiculous....the most vocal ones get what they want. We need to have administration running the schools,not parents. At KIPP, the parents must follow the rules of the school....and guess what??? It works!!! They get resuts. We are too busy have "special parents" demanding and getting their way. All of us know who they are! Just check out their children's classmates from year to year. It is amazing to see how many of them stay with the same group year after year, when NO requesting is allowed!!! Just depends on who you are and who you know. Does KIPP do that??? If our administration were to take charge, maybe we could compete. Teachers could just teach then.

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