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KIPP Moving In Colton Complex

February 7, 2011

Kids at KIPP chant, "Read, Baby, Read." Photo credit:

There is a chain link fence that wraps around a school in the Marigny on St. Claude just a few blocks from my house. Charles J. Colton Middle School has sat quietly for years with its windows open and doors boarded. It’s a huge brick building that’s been mostly empty since late August 2005. That storm? Katrina? Might not have heard of it.

FEMA’s $1.8 billion for schools is the hot topic, and the location of Colton is prime. The word on the street is the Colton Complex is going to be a KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) school. I just read this article on about a neighborhood group that is opposing a KIPP school going in that particular building since there are 2 other KIPP schools nearby.

If you don’t know what KIPP schools are, and are living under a rock unconcerned about the future of the nation’s children who are consistently underachieving in our open enrollment (read: public) schools, I would highly recommend taking a weekend and reading “Word Hard. Be Nice.” by Jay Matthews (um, for starters). The book retells the story of the KIPP founders who started as Teach For America teachers in Houston. After receiving significant funding from high profile investors (ever heard of The GAP?), KIPP now has close to 100 schools across the nation. KIPP Schools have a long school day, Saturday school, strict guidelines, and students who are making up a couple grade levels every year, doing well on standardized exams. Their focus is on achievement, future, college, in a demographic of mostly free or reduced-lunch families. KIPP is considered a cult by some, and a life saver by others.

I’m on the KIPP band-wagon, especially in a city like New Orleans. Before Katrina, over 70% of schools were considered failing. Since Katrina, the take over by the Recovery School District, and charterization of almost 70% of the schools in the city, including the addition of 7 KIPP schools on 4 campuses, the city’s education system is seeing vast improvement. There is still much to do, though. Based on this story and the resulting comments, it seems as if the building is the least of neighborhood problems.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. rita permalink
    February 7, 2011 8:03 pm

    new to me..i’ll pass this on to david. thanks!

  2. February 8, 2011 1:58 am

    my rock doesn’t have KIPP, GAP or KATRINA under it. my rock is dumb. since you’ve obviously already read it, can i borrow your copy of WHBN for a duration equaling your Zen borrow?

    • February 8, 2011 9:43 am

      I borrowed my copy from my roommate. I’ve only had Zen for 5+ years. It’s what binds us.

  3. February 16, 2011 4:15 pm

    As a New Orleans native and resident with a child living 2 blocks from this school, I’d like to chime in. The Times-Picayune portrayed us as being anti-KIPP which is largely not the case. I, for one, have been a fan of KIPP, which has revolutionized they way we educate at risk youths. I think KIPP needs to be an option in this city. I object to KIPP being the ONLY option for those living downtown.

    This is about choice – the main driver of the charter movement. Ironically, we’re getting locked out of true choice because KIPP is the only operator of our nearby schools except for ARISE Academy which is currently phasing out Drew. There is little faith in this fledgling school, however, since no school performance scores have been posted despite having been operating for 3 years. This does not look so well for this new charter down St. Claude.

    Similarly, our nearest elementary school, KIPP McDonogh 15 School for the Creative Arts, has posted SPS declines every year since 2007. KIPP Mc15 is listed as 1 star school which, I’m pretty sure, translates to an F according to the newly adopted way to rank schools by the LA DOE.

    I don’t want to send my child to an F school. I want to send my child to an A school. And there are currently no A school options downtown.

    That is why many of us from the Faubourg St Roch, 7th ward, Faubourg Marigny, and Bywater are banding together to demand real school choice. The school at Colton, thanks to a community of engaged parents of all backgrounds, could be a unifier of our neighborhoods. In a city marred by divisions, the school at Colton could be where parents continue to come together in the common cause of ensuring our children receive a top-flight education. We want it right here, in the neighborhood where Plessy challenged scgregation more than 100 years ago.

    Unfortunately, the spokespeople for KIPP in NOLA have not adequately included us in helping us realize our dream. They were promised Colton in a back room deal and never intended to include us until we raised a fuss. They have refused to make this school a true neighborhood school by assigning a catchment area ensuring that those who live nearby will be guaranteed a certain percentage of spaces. Therefore, my child may not have a shot at being admitted at the proposed KIPP anyway.

    The highest performing schools in the city with the longest waitlists and most difficult entrance requirements remain clustered uptown. Now, there’s a neighborhood with impressive public school choice from arts-based curriculum, language immersion, to Montessori! But I live and love my home downtown. How dare Mr. LaRoche say in the article you site that I should move and be “renting uptown.” We need school choice! Downtown deserves better!

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