KIPP Ujima Academy (Baltimore, MD)

…The school says it will close June 30 if it cannot reach a long-term deal with the Baltimore Teachers Union over pay or garner enough support for legislation in Annapolis that would allow teachers to set their own working conditions.

KIPP's model requires a longer-than-typical 9 1/2-hour school day, which has caused tensions with the union, in order to achieve its results: some of the highest test scores in the state and a 100 percent college-acceptance rate…

Unlike many of its counterparts around the nation, Baltimore's KIPP schools are bound by the teachers union contract regarding pay, which has earned the state criticism for having a restrictive charter school law. Therefore, KIPP has had to compensate teachers for the extended days — a demand that the school says is costing an additional $400,000 to $500,000 a year.

KIPP is also negotiating with the school system in hopes of getting a long-term lease for the building Ujima now occupies. It is willing to take on debt to fix up the building, which is in poor condition, but only if it can get a long-term agreement….

Marietta English, president of the Baltimore Teachers Union, said the union is willing to negotiate with KIPP, as it does with several charter schools in Baltimore that want to implement individual models that may conflict with the union's contract.

"What we have is the most innovative contract in the country — and we're expecting student achievement to rise in all of our schools, and I would hope KIPP is going to be a part of that," English said. "But, at the same token — I think it's unfair to expect teachers to work a 91/2-hour day and not pay them for that time."

The school put the district on notice last winter that it would leave Baltimore if a long-term agreement could not be reached. KIPP had threatened to pull out of the district last year when the school and the union were at odds over the union's contract. The two parties then agreed that KIPP teachers would receive 20.5 percent more in pay — making them among the highest-paid teachers in the district. That agreement ends June 30…
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One of the most sought-after public charter schools in Baltimore has stopped administering an entrance placement exam after city schools CEO Andrés Alonso expressed concern that the practice — the only one of its kind in the city — could discourage some applicants.

The test at Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) Ujima Academy in Northwest Baltimore, Alonso said, could deter families of lower-performing students from seeking enrollment.

Since 2003, a year after opening in Baltimore, the school has used a diagnostic exam to determine whether students seeking to enter sixth grade were performing at comparable reading and math levels as KIPP Ujima's fifth-grade classes. If potential sixth-graders did not pass the test, they could enroll, but would have to repeat fifth grade.

Alonso said he became aware of the test last year and asked the school to stop administering it after reading a description of it. Until it agreed to stop the practice, KIPP Ujima's website said the test was a way to determine whether a "student has the skills necessary to succeed" at the school…

KIPP Ujima agreed to stop administering the placement test that would have been given early this year, realizing that it could be misinterpreted as a way of attracting only high-performing students, said Jason Botel, executive director of KIPP Baltimore. The school primarily serves students who are below grade level and are from low-income neighborhoods…

The school used to advertise that sixth-grade students who passed the test would be accepted, while those who did not would be entered into a lottery to vie to repeat the fifth grade…

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