I don’t have much hope for the president’s SOTU, but it could get interesting if he focuses on education and especially on charter schools. If he does so, the Knowledge is Power Program –“KIPP”– would be a great example of innovation to praise. Washington Post education writer Jay Mathews’ fine book from last year, Work Hard, Be Nice, is the fascinating and highly readable story of KIPP, and I interviewed Mathews yesterday about the continued growth of KIPP. (That transcript is here. The transcript of my original interview with Mathews on KIPP from early 2009 is here.)
Bill Gates has read Mathews’ book and has picked up on the KIPP success. The Department of Education is charter-friendly according to Mathews, even as some teachers’ unions begin to oppose its spread. A SOTU endorsement of this sort of reform generally and KIPP specifically would provide some common ground between the president and both sides of the chamber. Very few members of Congress from either party are going to oppose charter schools that transform the lowest performing students from the most challenged circumstances into enthusiastic, successful learners.