Eduwonk jumped all over a letter to the editor in the Washington Post which was critical of an article praising KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program), an organization that runs charter schools in many cities including the District of Columbia. The focus of the letter is that the involvement of parents in the KIPP schools accounts for the success of the students and this is not a model that can be replicated in all schools. While the writer doesn’t do a good job of presenting his argument, he does make a good point, one that doesn’t deserve derision.

One of the major factors behind almost every successful student is a parent who is interested and involved in that student’s education. Certainly it’s not the only factor – a good teacher in the classroom is at least of equal importance. However, I think just about any educator will tell you that it’s difficult to overcome a lack of support from the home. There are examples of schools that succeed in spite of parent indifference, but I would maintain that the staff in those schools are acting as surrogate parents.

KIPP, like many charter and private schools, include a degree of parent involvement as a requirement of admission. I don’t agree with the letter that this model can’t be replicated. To make it happen would require a major change in the way that public schools are run, and you’ll probably still find some parents who refuse to participant. But getting more parents directly involved in their children’s education would be the fastest way to improve a school.