You're probably aware of the fact that there's a big parliamentary election taking place today in the U.K. Education reform is a hot issue amongst the leading candidates from the Labour, Conservative, and Liberal Democrat parties. And the Tories (the familiar name for the Conservatives) are getting their ideas from the American charter school network Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP).
According to a post on The Washington Post's The Answer Sheet blog, written by an education editor at The Times of London, 93 percent of Britain's students attend state-funded schools.
The issues may sound familiar. There are lots of worries about how to raise children’s scores in the standardized tests, how to improve literacy, whether to demand that aspiring teachers have higher qualifications and whether smaller class sizes are the answer.
The Tories' plan include the creation of independent state funded schools by teachers, parents, or any other groups. It's classic "school choice"—based on a similar system in Sweden, which has taken some criticism for segregating students with assertive parents from those whose parents don't move as quickly.
The Conservatives will also allow certain schools to institute longer school days and teach classes on Saturdays to keep their students competitive with the rest of the country. These measures, according to a piece in The Guardian, were taken directly from KIPP schools.
In a speech delivered last November, Michael Gove, the man who would become education secretary if the Tories take over, gushed about KIPP's achievements:
The Knowledge is Power Program charter schools in America, which President Obama supports, insist on a longer school day to ensure children achieve more. Schools must be able to organize their timetables to be able to offer more children from disadvantaged backgrounds these opportunities and, therefore, they need the flexibility to reward teachers appropriately. The KIPP schools in the States have taken children from the poorest backgrounds and set them on course for success in college.