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Commentary: Celebrate teachers, don't bash reform

KIPP Colorado board chair Shepard Nevel argues it’s possible to celebrate teachers and reform organizations like KIPP at the same time.

Teacher Appreciation Week runs from May 7 – 11, and there is much to appreciate.

While most of us have our personal stories of teachers who positively impacted our lives (for me, the list includes Mrs. Feller in 6th grade at North Beach Elementary School in Miami, Florida), a common theme resonates powerfully among the public: Good teachers matter, and they matter a lot.

The richly-deserved applause and love that embraced 99-year-old retired (and still very active) teacher Marie Greenwood at the recent DPS Foundation gala is one stirring illustration. As Stanford University researcher Eric Hanushek has noted, “the quality of the teachers in our schools is paramount: No other measured aspect of schools is nearly as important in determining student achievement.”

There is ample room for consensus in celebrating hardworking and effective teachers. So it is in this spirit that I share and applaud the call to celebrate teachers in the opening paragraph of Mary Nanniga’s recent guest commentary in EdNews (May 7, How to show appreciation to teachers); while taking exception to the other paragraphs in her commentary, which offer unwarranted criticism of important and positive elements of education reform in Colorado.

In taking on high-performing charter schools, Ms. Nanniga inaccurately states that “KIPP even returns kids to their home school if they don’t toe the line.” The facts indicate otherwise. KIPP Sunshine Peak Academy has had a student attrition rate under 6 percent for the last three years. That number includes all reasons a student might leave, including mobility.

The talented and dedicated teachers at KIPP Colorado work with every student and family to help them remain a part of our school community, even in the rare case that the early adjustment to a longer day or year takes some extra support. We find that students rise to the expectations schools, teachers, and parents have of them and at KIPP we’re committed to serving all of the kids who come to us.

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