Program forces students to make commitment


An educational program that has been working at schools in high-poverty areas throughout the country, may be able to help students in Craig.

According to Moffat County Board of Education member, John Kincaid, the "No Excuses" program has been effectively working at schools in low-income areas in both Houston, Texas and the Bronx in New York.

"These schools, although they are in poverty-stricken neighborhoods, continue to turn out substantial numbers of students who are offered scholarships to some of the nation's top prep schools," Kincaid said. "If they are able to do it in these neighborhoods that historically don't have a strong reputation for education, I don't see why we can't apply some of the principles here in Moffat County."

The two schools in the Bronx and Houston that incorporate the No Excuses program, are both members of the KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) Academy. The KIPP Academy is a high-performance school with a nine-and-a-half hour school day, school on Saturday, and more than two hours of homework every night.

Students and parents are both required to sign a contract with the Academy, agreeing to abide by the rules and uphold the Academy's standards.

The No Excuses program focuses on five different facets of learning that all high-performing, high-poverty schools have in common:

n Parental accountability That the mission of the school must extend into the home.

n Teachers What school districts should look for, where they are found, and how they should be hired or fired.

n Testing Diagnosis is not necessarily discrimination.

n Basic skills Some of the ways that progressive information has hurt low-income children the most.

n Dollars and sense What principal's spend their money on and why.

The KIPP program has been featured on "60 Minutes", and has also been used as a model for other educational programs around the country.

Although teachers put in more time working at a KIPP school than they do at a public institution, the KIPP Academy has little trouble finding good teachers.

In the "60 Minutes" interview with Mike Wallace, KIPP Academy science teacher Josh Zoia, said that many public school teachers come to KIPP specifically for the demands that are placed on both the teachers and students.

"We put in 60, 70, 80 hour week's here," he said. "I was doing that in my old school and it wasn't working. I was driving myself crazy. Here you put those hours in, and look what happens."

At the next school board meeting on May 21, Kincaid plans to begin discussion on the successes that both the KIPP Academy and the No Excuses programs have had, and some of the ways it can be applied in a more rural setting.

And although Moffat County may no see school children making their way to school on Saturday mornings anytime soon, that doesn't mean that certain principles cannot be applied here, Kincaid said.

"These kids are not screened, they all come from low-income families," he said. "If we can borrow some of the ideas that are making these schools the success that they are, we can build the best educational foundation possible for the kids here in Moffat County."

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