The Los Angeles Times article on January 18th about The Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) Academy of Opportunity in South Los Angeles is an example of the importance of social capital within families in order to help children succeed in school. The Academy of Opportunity is a charter school, funded by billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, which features a rigorous curriculum. Elementary school and junior high students have ten-hour school days, heavy workloads, wear uniforms, and go to class during the summer and on weekends.
Academy of Opportunity students’ test scores have risen dramatically, and many see this as evidence that this type of school is a proven formula that can be applied to all inner-city schools. Critics, however, say the test scores are not surprising given the high levels of parental involvement. For instance, parents are required to sign a form promising to take their children to school, check their homework, and confer with teachers.
According to one critic, “It’s not a model for urban schools; it’s a model for families in urban areas with parents who are supportive and want more for their children.” I agree that this type of school could be effective for students coming from a family characterized by Coleman as having low human capital (poor and uneducated) and high social capital (strong relations between children and parents). It does not seem like a formula that can be applied across the board to all urban schools, as it would not meet the needs of, what Coleman calls, “deficient families.” Students with an absence of social capital within their family would not have the crucial parental support needed in order to stick with and excel in such a demanding educational environment.
-RACHEL OGDEN, ED261