The San Francisco-based KIPP Foundation, which has established charter middle schools in the District and several other cities, wants to start one of the first independent charter schools in Anne Arundel County, according to KIPP and county officials.
Plans for a KIPP Harbor Academy in central Annapolis are among three preliminary charter school proposals being considered by Anne Arundel school officials. Charter schools use tax dollars but are exempt from many of the rules that govern hiring, enrollment and curriculum in regular public schools.
The District has about 40 charter schools, one of the largest number in the country, but Washington area suburban school boards have resisted charters, saying their regular schools can do just as good a job. In Maryland, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) has pushed through changes in the law to make it easier to create such schools, which Ehrlich called "part of the wave of the future."
Anne Arundel Superintendent Eric J. Smith embraces the idea as well. Smith said giving parents a choice between traditional schools and charter schools helps increase interest in education. "It awakens something in people, and it helps," he said.
Smith plans to visit the KIPP Ujima Village Academy in Baltimore on Tuesday, joined by some school board members and the heads of the county's teachers and principals unions.
Anne Arundel schools spokesman Jonathan Brice said the two other groups proposing charters are the Chesapeake Lighthouse Foundation, which wants to start a math-science school in northern Anne Arundel, and the Light School, whose plans Brice was unfamiliar with. He said he had no contact information on the two groups, and they could not be immediately located.
KIPP stands for Knowledge Is Power Program. The first KIPP school was started in Houston in 1994 by two young inner-city elementary school teachers, Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin. There are now 36 KIPP middle schools, plus an elementary school and a high school, in the country. More than 80 percent of their students are from low-income families.
The KIPP school in Baltimore opened in 2002, beginning like other KIPP schools with a fifth grade and adding a grade each year to become a fifth-through-eighth-grade school by next year. This year, 90.7 percent of its sixth-graders this year performed at advanced or proficient levels on the Maryland School Assessment tests, outscoring the next highest school in the city by almost 18 percentile points, KIPP officials said. Its sixth-grade reading scores were the sixth highest in Baltimore.
Jallon Brown, 30, designated by KIPP to be the principal of a new school in Annapolis, said the school would follow the KIPP model -- 91/2-hour school days, a required three-week summer school, regular Saturday sessions, close teacher cooperation and consistent methods of punishment and reward leading to end-of-school-year "field lessons" in distant cities.
She said she hoped the first fifth-grade summer session could begin next July.
Brown said the idea for a KIPP school came from Anne Arundel community leaders, who contacted Feinberg. Some education experts say that the KIPP results are impressive but that they want to see whether they hold up over time and as the organization grows.